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Working in the UK

Working in the UK

Most Student/Tier 4 visa holders are allowed to supplement their funds or gain work experience by working part-time while they study, as long as you ensure you meet the restrictions and conditions outlined below. Be sure to check your visa to make sure that the work limit during term time indicated below is what you have actually been granted.

Visitor / Short Term Study visas

 Students on a Visitor or a Short-term study visa cannot do any kind of work, work placement or work experience during their studies in the UK. For details of permitted activities under the Visitor visa route, please see the Immigration Rules.

Student visa work restrictions - hours

Students at different study levels will be allowed to work different hours depending on the University term dates, or the stage you are at in your studies. The following limits apply to both voluntary and paid work:

Study Level

Term time work

Vacation work

After course ends

Undergraduate students

20 hours per week limit during standard University term dates

Full time work permitted outside of standard University term dates

Full-time work permitted after your last term at the University ends, until the date your visa expires. 

Postgraduate Taught (Masters) students

20 hours per week limit during 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 permitted after your last term at the University ends, until the date your visa expires.

Postgraduate Research students

20 hour per week limit applies throughout your programme

20 hour limit applies throughout your programme

Full-time work is only permitted after the final submission of your thesis (after any required revisions and corrections have been completed and approved, and your thesis has been finally submitted).

Part-time students

Work is prohibited

Work is prohibited

Work is prohibited

INTO students (except for Graduate Diploma)

10 hour per week limit during INTO term dates Full-time work permitted outside of INTO term dates

Full-time work permitted after your INTO term ends, until the date your visa expires.

Student visa work restrictions - types of work

All students should be aware of the following Student/Tier 4 visa work prohibitions:

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

Work placements

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


Self-employment is not permitted on a Student/Tier 4 visa. Further information on what constitutes self-employment can be found on the website. Engaging in business activity is defined by UKVI as ‘working for a business where you have a financial or significant beneficial interest in a capacity other than as an employee’. An example of this would be setting up a business as a sole trader, but please check page 101 of the Student Policy Guidance for further information.

UKCISA has also written a detailed blog about this, which explains that trading online to make a profit, income from owning property, appearing on TV talent shows and even paid babysitting is viewed as self-employment, and is therefore not permitted. If you are unsure, please contact us before starting any employment.

Volunteering and voluntary work

The restrictions on working hours explained above do not apply to Volunteering but they do apply to Voluntary work. If you want to volunteer to gain experience you need to be clear on whether you are Volunteering or doing Voluntary work. You should always check with the organisation which offers you a volunteering opportunity whether it can be regarded as unpaid employment.

The difference between unpaid employment (voluntary work) and volunteering is explained on page 102 of the Student Policy Guidance.  But as an overview:

  • Voluntary work is where the role involves specific tasks at specific times and the voluntary worker has contractual obligations. Voluntary work is unpaid employment and will count towards your maximum number of hours of work a week.
  • Volunteers do not have a contract and are not paid, though reasonable travel and living costs can be reimbursed. Volunteers usually help a charity, voluntary organisation or public sector organisation. Volunteering does not count towards your working hour allowance.

Letter confirming term dates

When you start a new job, your employer will ask you for a letter from the University confirming your term dates. You can print a Right to Work letter through the self service option in your student record in iExeter

Right to Work share code

Your employer will ask for a share code to prove your right to work. Most students will be able to generate a share code using their passport or BRP card by following the instructions on the webpage here. Once you have your code, you will need to give this and your date of birth to your employer. They will be able to use this to check the work conditions on your visa, e.g. number of hours per week, any restrictions on type of work. The share code is valid for 30 days.

In some cases, students will be unable to generate a share code for example if their BRP card is no longer valid or they have an outstanding visa application. In these cases, your employer can use the employer checking service here.

Although legally you can work up to 20 hours, the University strongly advises that undergraduate and taught postgraduate students work no more than 15 hours per week during term time, as extra work may adversely affect your studies. Postgraduate research students should be aware of the advisory limits on the number of hours of work they undertake, outlined in the University’s Employment of postgraduate students: Code of Good Practice.