International Student Support

Working in the UK during your studies

The International Student Support team can help you with any immigration-related aspects of working in the UK during your studies. If you would like some guidance about how to find part-time work while you are studying, please contact the Careers and Employability Centre in the Library.

I am an EEA national. Can I work while I study in the UK?

Most nationals of EEA member states are allowed to work without seeking permission from UK Visas and Immigration. If you are an EEA student and want to check that you can work in the UK, please refer to the UKCISA website. There are currently special rules in place for Croatian nationals.

I am a Tier 4 visa holder. Can I work in the UK?

Tier 4 visa holders are allowed to work according to the restriction on your visa. If your stamp has a 'restriction' it means you can work but only under the following conditions:

  • you can work in your spare time while studying but this should not exceed the number of hours stated on your visa in termtime, degree level students should have a 20 hour restriction (see below for termtime definitions by type of student). Students studying below degree level with the Sussex Centre for Language Studies should have been given 10 hours per week. 
  • you should always check your work condition on your visa and if you think you have been given an incorrect condition please email us at  
  • the working week - 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.
  • withdrawal from study - you should not work if you withdraw from your studies, either temporarily or permanently. This is because your permission to work depends on you following a course of study that has work rights attached to it. This is confirmed in the Home Office guidance for employers on page 28. 
  • Resits - 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. 

The University’s term-time and vacation periods can be found here, However, what constitutes termtime will vary depending on your current student status and the level of course you are studying:

Undergraduates students with a valid Tier 4 (General) Student visa are permitted to work up to 20 hours per week during termtime, and full time during vacation times, including the time between the end of your course (when the summer assessment period ends in their final year of study) and the end of your student visa.

Postgraduate Taught Students (Masters) are permitted to work full-time hours during the official Christmas vacation (16th December 2017 - 7 January 2018) and Easter vacation (24 March  to 8th April 2018) and when their course officially ends (normally the end date on your CAS - 30th September in most cases). Contact the Student Systems and Records Office to request a work letter for your employer by emailing Emilie Harris

PhD students  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 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.

PhD students can contact the Research Student Administration Office to request a work letter for your employer,

You must 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 your restricted 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

Please read the full University guidance on  'Working while studying'.

Tier 4 visa holders are not able to:

  • be self-employed or engage in business activity (freelance work is not allowed)
  • be employed as a professional sportsperson or sports coach
  • be employed as an entertainer
  • take a permanent full-time job
  • work during any period of overstay

For further advice about working and your visa please contact an International Student Adviser by email . If you inform us of a breach of your visa conditions we are obliged as a Tier 4 Sponsor to let UKVI know of the breach.

How do I get a National Insurance number?

After you have an offer of employment, you must obtain a National Insurance number from the Department for Work and Pensions. This is an unique number which you will need to give your employer in order for them to be able to pay you and record your National Insurance contributions. To obtain a National Insurance number.  You must apply to get a National Insurance number  so that you can be paid and receive National Insurance contributions.

I have a Student Visitor Visa - am I allowed to do any work?

If you have entered the UK on a Student Visitor Visa you are not allowed to work. If you will be studying in the UK for less than six months and want to work, you should apply for Tier 4 General Student entry clearance at the British Embassy or High Commission in your country before travelling to the UK, since this allows you to do part-time work under the conditions outlined above.

Can I do a work placement as part of my course?

The rules on work placements vary according to when you applied for your Tier 4 visa. Please find full information on work placements during your course on the UKCISA website. 

Employer's responsibilities

An employer has a legal responsibility to ensure that all employees are officially permitted to work for them and penalties are severe for both you and an employer should the law be broken. Therefore all employees, regardless of nationality, should expect an employer to ask to see documents that establish their right to work in the UK prior to being offered a job. Usual examples of required documents include your passport, residence permit and/or your Biometric Residence Permit. If you have a passport sticker or identity card that does not prohibit work, you are allowed to take employment as described above without getting any further approval or permission.

If your employer asks you to prove you can work, for details of how to prove this to your employer, see Working during your studies.

International Student Support

T +44 (0)1273 67 8422