Working in the UK during your studies

Working In The UK During Your Studies

Am I Allowed To Work?

For immigration purposes, international students from outside the EU/EEA must show that they can pay their fees and living expenses without working and without claiming public funds (benefits).

Most international students are allowed, however, to supplement their funds by working part-time while they study.  If you have a Tier 4 (General) Student visa, you are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week during term-time, and up to full-time during holidays (further information below). If you have a Short Term Study visa, however, you are not allowed to work at all, and this includes voluntary work.

Although legally you can work up to 20 hours, the University strongly advises that students work no more than 15 hours per week, as extra work may adversely affect your studies.

If you are studying a programme which contains a work placement element then you can do this full-time on a Tier 4 visa.  The University is still required to monitor your attendance on this part of your programme.

Tier 4 Work Restrictions

If you are a Tier 4 student studying at degree level, you are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week during term-time, and full-time during vacations.  The 20 hour limit applies to both voluntary and paid work.  You should also be aware of the following Tier 4 work prohibitions:

  • You cannot be self-employed.
  • You cannot fill a full-time permanent vacancy.
  • You must not be employed as an entertainer or professional sports person (including coach).

The vacation period in which you can work full-time is defined differently, depending on the level at which you are studying:

  • Undergraduate Students – the 20 hour work limit applies during the standard University term dates.  As well as during the vacation periods, you can work full-time from the end of your last term at the University until the time your visa expires.
  • Postgraduate Taught (Masters) Students – the 20 hour work limit applies during the standard University term dates.  If you are studying on a standard 12 month Masters programme, the 20 hour limit also applies during the summer vacation period, when you are writing your dissertation.  Full-time work is then permitted from the time you submit your dissertation until the date your visa expires. 
  • Postgraduate Research Students – the 20 hour limit applies throughout your programme.  Full-time work is only permitted after the final submission of your thesis (ie after any required revisions and corrections have been completed and approved, and your thesis has been finally submitted).

When you start a new job, your employer will ask you for a letter from the University confirming your term dates.  You can obtain this letter from the Student Information Desk. 

If you are uncertain whether you are allowed to work, or would just like to check the rules, you can email

I Am An EEA citizen.  Am I Allowed To Work?

Most students from the EU/EEA can work freely without further permission, but students from a few countries are subject to further regulations.  For further information on this topic please refer to the UKCISA information sheet


How Do I Find A Part-Time Job?

Career Zone in the Forum and The Exchange at the Penryn Campus can help you find a part-time job and enhance your employability.  The service is open between 9am and 5pm weekdays.  They can also help you get your National Insurance number, and assist with any issues once you find a job.


Do I Have To Pay Tax?  What Is National Insurance?

It depends on how much money you earn.  If you earn over a certain amount you will need to pay tax on your earnings but students working part-time are unlikely to earn enough to have to pay tax.  You can also claim tax back if you have paid it and haven’t earned over your tax personal allowance.

All employees pay National Insurance contributions to fund public services such as the National Health Service (NHS).  A National Insurance Number (NIN) is a number unique to you which enables your employer to pay your National Insurance contributions.  No one else can use this number.

You do not need a National Insurance number to start work but you will need to obtain one once you have started a job.  Your employer will give you a temporary number while you wait for your permanent number

The Career Zone website has detailed information about tax and how to apply for your National Insurance number.


For information about working in the UK after your studies please click here.