Academic Registry

Working while Studying

Guidance for Tier 4 Students on working during term time and vacation periods

If you are a student on Tier 4 visa, you are entitled to work during your studies, but you must abide by the restrictions on your visa.  The following information is about visa restrictions on working, but if you are seeking employment at the University of Sussex, you must additionally follow any guidance provided by the University's Human Resources department.

If you have a Tier 4 student visa for degree level study

Your Tier 4 visa sticker or your Biometric Residence Permit card should indicate that you have restricted work permission, normally to 20 hours per week or 10 hours per week during term time. For example it will state on your card:

  • Work limited 20 hrs p/w term time
  • Work 20 hrs max in term time
  • Work limit as in PBS rules 20hrs p/w

 or (for courses below degree level)

  • Work limit 10 hrs p/w term time

If you have a Tier 4 visa but it does not appear to have this limited permission, for example it states ‘no work', contact an International Student Adviser immigration@sussex.ac.uk to find out if this should be changed.

Implications of working in breach of conditions

As with other immigration conditions attached to your visa, it is a criminal offence to breach your work condition, which the Home Office take very seriously. Working over the 10 or 20 hours per week when that limit applies, or doing prohibited work could lead to your removal from the UK or refusal of future immigration applications and/or a time bar on returning to the UK. An employer who gives you work which breaches the conditions of your visa, or who does not properly check your right to work may be committing an offence. 

Working a maximum of 10 or 20 hours per week

Students on Tier 4 visas can work a maximum of 10 or 20 hours per week during term time.  The Home Office defines a ‘week’ as meaning a period of 7 days beginning with a Monday. Note that this is a maximum so during term time (or for research students during any period) you must not exceed 10 or 20 hours in any week even if you work fewer hours in other weeks.  You must include all of your employment, including unpaid work, if you are working in more than one job. All work that you do in the UK must be included, even if your employer is based outside of the UK. ‘On-call’ hours where you are not actively engaged in work but where you have to be in a particular place that counts as employment under UK working time regulations, count towards the 10 or 20 hour limit.

Periods during your course when your hours of work are unrestricted

If you are an undergraduate, a masters student or a Sussex Centre for Languages (SCLS) student, you are allowed to work more than 10 or 20 hours per week outside of University full term time in vacation periods. Term time and vacation periods can be found on our Term Dates web page http://www.sussex.ac.uk/aboutus/keydates. However, if your course formally requires you to be engaged in full-time study during what would otherwise be vacation, for example preparing for and taking an exam shortly after the end of term, or writing a dissertation to be completed during a university vacation, you should treat the 10 or 20 hour a week employment restriction as applying to this period.

If you are a postgraduate research student you are not allowed to exceed 20 hours a week while you are studying, except during periods of annual leave (the University's policy on annual leave for postgraduate research students is provided in the Handbook and Regulations for Doctoral Researchers http://www.sussex.ac.uk/rsao/regulations). Once the viva takes place:

• If you pass unconditionally, you have no further study commitments. You are permitted to work over the 20 hours per week permitted and you can carry on working until your visa expires, or you leave the UK for any reason (there may be complications re-entering the UK on your Tier 4 visa after your studies have ended); 

• If you have corrections, you are not permitted to work over the 20 hours per week permitted until the corrections are submitted, normally within 6 months. After corrections have been submitted you can work over 20 hours until your visa expires, or you leave the UK for any reason (there may be complications re-entering the UK on your Tier 4 visa after your studies have ended);

• If you are required to revise and resubmit your thesis, you will be registered for another year and you must not work over the 20 hours per week permitted until you have resubmitted your thesis and the Research Student Administration Office have confirmed that you have no further academic commitments.  In some cases a second viva will be necessary, and you should then follow the advice above for passing unconditionally or corrections.

Resits for taught students

If you are a Sussex Centre for Languages (SCLS) student, an undergraduate or a postgraduate taught student and you are informed that you have resits, your working hours will no longer be unrestricted, as you will need to study for your resit or resubmission.  Once you have sat your resit exam or submitted your revised assessments, your working hours will once more be unrestricted. 

Working before the start of your course and after completion

The Home Office have confirmed that you may work unrestricted hours between your visa validity start date and the start of your course.

After you have completed your course, including all work to hand in and assessments, you are allowed to work full-time while your Tier 4 visa is still valid. If you are eligible to apply for a further visa and you make this application before the expiry of your current visa, your Tier 4 work conditions will continue while the application is pending. However, some types of work visa applications make provision for your work permission associated with that visa type to start before the visa is granted. This applies in certain circumstances if you have applied for Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur, Tier 2 or the Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme – you should check the provisions for the relevant visa type.

Undergraduates will have completed their degree when the summer assessment period ends in their final year of study.  For Masters students, it is when their course ends (according to the CAS, normally 30th September). Research students will have completed their degree when they receive confirmation from the Research Student Administation Office that they have no further academic commitments. Before this point, you will only be able to work for more than 20 hours per week if your supervisor can confirm you are on vacation – see the section above, ‘periods during your course when your hours of work are unrestricted’.

Am I allowed to do a work placement?

You would be allowed to do a work placement that has been planned and arranged as a part of your course. Other work experience placements or short internships would need to come under your permission to work during vacation if they were more than 20 hours per week.

What would happen to my work permission if I suspended study or withdrew from my course?

The Home Office has stated that your work permission depends on you being a current student so it ceases if you suspend or leave your course and you are not allowed to work at all.

Can I work as a Student Union Sabbatical Officer?

If you are elected to a student union sabbatical position during your course you are allowed to work full time in this post on your Tier 4 visa. Please inform the University’s Compliance Manager A.Robertson@sussex.ac.uk because the University as your sponsor is required to notify the Home Office. If your period of office does not fall entirely within the validity of your current visa, you can extend your Tier 4 visa to cover it, and complete your course if necessary. UKCISA has helpful information on the visa implications of becoming a Sabbatical Officer.

Work that you are not allowed to do

You are not allowed to be self-employed, which includes running a business, consultancy or free-lance work. You are not allowed to be a sports coach, a professional sports person or an entertainer, unless you are studying music and this is a professional performance arranged as part of your course.

You are not allowed to fill a full-time permanent vacancy. This means that if you are going to be working full time for a period for example during vacation, your employer will need to give you a short, time limited contract.

Checks that an employer will need to carry out before you start work

If you want to work for the University, we have a process for helping Tier 4 students to do this.  Please email HRCompliance@sussex.ac.uk for more information.

Your employer must check that you are allowed to do the amount and type of work that they are offering. They will need to see and record your passport and your Biometric Residence Permit card/visa. Employers cannot accept a visa affixed in an expired passport as evidence of your right to work. Your employer should ask you to provide evidence of your term and vacation dates to clarify when you may work more than 10 or 20 hours per week. This could be in the form of:

  • a printout from the University’s website showing these dates
  • a copy of a letter to you or an original letter direct to the employer from the University confirming the dates you are on vacation

To find out more about your employer’s responsibilities, visit the UKCISA website.

Obtaining a National Insurance Number and paying tax

You must apply for a National Insurance Number (NINo) if you start working in the UK (including any form of teaching at Oxford). A NINo is an individual account number used for recording National Insurance and tax contributions from your pay. If you are thinking about starting work you can apply for a NINo before you get a job. To apply for a NINo, call 0845 600 0643. You will be told when and where to attend an appointment, and which documents to bring.

You will be liable for UK income tax on employment earnings above the specified personal allowance set each year. Your employer will deduct this from your wages and show the amount on your wage slip. If you pay too much tax, you will be able to claim a refund.

If you have a visa as a Short-Term Student or were given permission on arrival to enter the UK as a Visitor

Visitors are completely prohibited from working in the UK, either paid or unpaid. Short-Term Students are normally permitted to volunteer.  If you are interested in volunteering you should contact an International Student Advisor to check you are eligible at immigration@sussex.ac.uk

Dependants’ permission to work

A family member over 18 who is eligible for and has obtained a visa as your Tier 4 dependant will be able to work without an hours limit or be self employed in the UK. Family members are not allowed to work as a doctor or dentist in training if their visa or BRP lists this restriction (subject to exceptions), or as a sportsperson/coach.

The University’s term-time and vacation periods are published on the Term Dates web page http://www.sussex.ac.uk/aboutus/keydates.

Taught undergraduate students should contact their School Office for further guidance http://www.sussex.ac.uk/schoolsandservices/schools/

Taught postgraduate students should contact the Student Systems and Records Office for further guidance – please contact Emily Sloyan at E.Sloyan@sussex.ac.uk

Postgraduate research students should contact the Research Student Administration Office – please email researchstudentoffice@sussex.ac.uk

For advice about immigration and visas please contact an International Student Adviser: Joanne Chee, James Gordon or Claudine Grant at immigration@sussex.ac.uk

You must also provide your employer with information about the term and vacation dates for your course so that it is clear to your employer and to UKVI when you are allowed to work more than 10 or 20 hours a week. Sussex students can use one of the following formats, if they have been obtained from one of the above offices:

  • a letter or email that your institution has sent to you confirming your term and vacation dates
  • a letter from your institution to your employer confirming these dates