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The University applies strict working restrictions on students, which continue for graduates even after submission of thesis for examination.

Working hours

A Tier 4 visa allows you to work for a maximum of 20 hours per week during term-time. This is a maximum of 20 hours in any one week and cannot be averaged over a longer period.  A 'week' is defined by the Home Office as a period of 7 days beginning with a Monday. This also includes both paid and unpaid work. The University imposes greater working restrictions, as outlined above, and you will need to adhere to these.

A Tier 4 visa allows you work full-time during official vacation periods. Term and vacation dates differ depending on the level of study you are undertaking so it is important you check these before undertaking full-time work. This includes a full-time internship or placement unless it is part of your course. Please note that the term and vacation dates used by undergraduates do not apply to graduate students. Masters students should consult their Faculty or Department for further details regarding official vacation periods. The academic year for graduate research students is continuous throughout the year, from 1 October to 30 September. It is therefore not possible, for example, for a graduate research student to undertake full-time work during the summer period. Whilst breaks for holidays are permitted, at times agreed with your supervisor, these are not periods that would permit full-time work. Whether you can work after submission of your thesis for examination varies depending on the stage of the process as outlined in Working and Studying.

Type of work

Students on Tier 4 visas can do most kinds of work, but you must not:

  • be self-employed
  • engage in business activity
  • take a permanent full-time job
  • be employed as a professional sportsperson including as a sports coach
  • be employed as an entertainer
  • work as a doctor or dentist in training, unless you are on the foundation programme.

Self-employment

A Tier 4 visa does not allow self-employment. This means in order to undertake work you should be given a formal document by the employer such as a 'contract of employment' or a 'worker's agreement' or some other written statement confirming your employment status. This includes where you will be undertaking work for one or more of the Colleges, or for the University.  Please note you may find that other students (who are not on a Tier 4 visa) may not need to have the same documentation in place.

Self-employment includes activities such as freelance writing, private tutoring or selling goods or services directly to an end customer. If tax will not be deducted automatically from your wages, it is likely the work being offered is on a self-employed basis. If you are unsure, it is very important you check your employment status prior to starting work.

Engaging in Business Activity

If you applied for your Tier 4 immigration permission on or after 6 April 2016, you must not engage in business activity. The Home Office defines this as working for a business in a capacity other than an employee in which you have a financial or other significant beneficial interest. You would not be permitted, for example, to set up a business that is trading or has a trading presence, be employed by a company in which you hold shares of 10% or more or work for a company where you hold a statutory role, such as a director. This is not an exhaustive list but provides examples of the types of circumstances in which you would be considered to be engaged in business activity.

Undertaking an internship / work placement

A Tier 4 visa would permit you to undertake an internship in the following circumstances:

Undergraduate students are able to undertake an internship during the official University vacation periods. The employer will need evidence of the academic calendar as confirmation of the vacation dates when you are permitted to work full-time. Acceptable evidence would be a printout of the academic calendar from the University’s website. Medical students undertake work placements as part of their course and the International Student Team provides details of these placements to the Home Office at the beginning of the relevant academic year.

Masters students are able to undertake an internship during the official vacation periods. These dates will vary depending on the course so you should consult your Faculty and Department for further details regarding the official vacation periods. A small number of Masters courses include the option of a short internship as part of the course. If this applies to your course it will be included in the course handbook. As an embedded part of the course, this is permitted on a Tier 4 visa but the International Student Team will need to provide the internship details to the Home Office in advance so it is important that you keep your Faculty or Department informed of any changes.

The academic year for graduate research students is continuous throughout the year. This means it is only possible to undertake an internship on a Tier 4 visa if it is considered to be contributing to your PhD research and approved under the leave to work away procedures. Whilst breaks for holidays are permitted, at times agreed with your supervisor, these periods are not to be used for full-time work. If you wish to intermit in order to undertake an internship, it will not be possible for the University to continue to sponsor you under Tier 4 during that time and the internship could not be undertaken on your Tier 4 visa. Unless you have switched to an alternative visa that permits study, you would be required to apply for a new Tier 4 visa to resume your studies after the intermission period ends. Whether you can undertake an internship after submission of your thesis for examination varies depending on the stage of the process as outlined in Working and Studying.

Working after studies

Once you have completed your course and whilst your visa remains valid, the Home Office allows you to work full-time, within the following limits.

  • You cannot fill a full-time permanent vacancy (other than on a recognised Foundation Programme);
  • You cannot be self-employed;
  • You cannot be employed as a doctor in training (except on a recognised Foundation Programme) or as a professional sportsperson, coach or entertainer.

For PhD students, course completion means receiving the official notification of unconditional approval of degree.

For Masters and undergraduate students, course completion means either receiving official notification of approval of your degree OR the course end date as stated on your CAS as long as you have completed all required assessment by this date, whichever is earlier. 

If you need any clarification about the working conditions on a Tier 4 visa, contact the International Student Team for further advice.

You may also wish to consider opportunities for switching to a work-related visa.