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Working while studying

We're here to help you navigate the sometimes confusing rules surrounding working in the UK with a visa.

Before looking for work, you need to check that you have permission to work in the UK. Working without permission can have serious consequences.

Check your permissions

The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) also give detailed guidance on working in the UK while studying.

Apply for a National Insurance number

Once you start looking for a job, you can apply for a National Insurance (NI) number.

This is your personal reference number for the UK's benefits and tax credits system.

You must have an NI number before you can start working in the UK. Your NI number ensures your NI contributions and tax are recorded against your name.

You can find your number in:

  • Your payslip
  • Your P60
  • Letters about your tax, pension or benefits
  • The National Insurance section of your personal tax account

Apply for your NI number

Important information

Middlesex University does not provide ‘work letters’ to confirm how many hours you are allowed to work. It is your responsibility to ensure you do not breach the conditions of your Student route (formerly tier 4) visa.

You can request a ‘student status letter’ from UniHelp which will contain all necessary information to help your potential employer make a decision regarding your work hours.

If your employer has any questions about your work conditions, they need to contact the Home Office.

If you undertake any work that is not allowed or work more hours than you should, you will be considered in breach of your immigration conditions and this can have very serious consequences. If you are concerned that you may have broken the rules please contact International Student Advice team.

Employment during your studies

As a Student route (formerly tie 4) student, your visa comes with a number of conditions relating to working in the UK such as the type of work you can do and the number of hours.

You can find the permitted work hours written on your vignette (visa in your passport) or Biometric Residence Permit card and it is your responsibility to ensure you do not breach the conditions of your visa.

Please read carefully the employment restrictions that apply to Student route visas. You must not:

  • fill a full-time permanent vacancy
  • be self-employed or engaged in a business activity
  • be employed as a doctor or dentist in training (unless on a recognised Foundation Programme)
  • be employed as a professional sportsperson or entertainer

Home Office definitions

Engagement in a business activity” is defined in the Student route Policy Guidance (paragraphs 306, 307, 308 and 309) as ‘working for a business in which you have a financial or other significant beneficial interest in a capacity other than as an employee’.

Below are several example of what the Home Office considers as engaging in a business activity. This is not an exhaustive list:

  • Setting up a business as a sole trader or under a partnership arrangement and that business is either trading or establishing a trading presence
  • Being employed by a company in which you hold shares or 10% or more (including where the shares are held in trust for you)
  • Or working for a company where you also hold a statutory role, such as a director.

Working for more than one employer

As a Student route visa student, you can have multiple contracts. However, during term-time, you must not work any more than 20 hours paid or unpaid work each week.

This means 20 hours in total rather than 20 hours per employer.

Volunteering and voluntary work

There is a legal distinction between volunteering and paid or unpaid work. However, the definitions are complex so to avoid any implication we recommend that volunteering should be considered in the same way as part-time work.

You should not volunteer more than 20 hours in any seven-day period.

In cases where you undertake volunteering and paid work during term time, this should not exceed total of 20 hours between them.

Important dates

The number of hours you are allowed to work will depend on a number of factors such as the time of the year or what course you study.

Please note the term times and holidays for this academic year as you are able to work full-time during vacation periods such as Christmas or Easter.

Your course and visas

Undergraduate students (including exchange students)

Where you are following a course of degree level study or above, the following work is allowed:

  • Part-time during term-time (no more than 20 hours per week which is defined by the Home Office as Monday to Sunday)
  • Full-time during vacations

If you have pending assessments over summer, you are not entitled to work full-time and only allowed 20 hours per week until the outcome of any outstanding assessment is reflected on your student account and confirmation to progress to next academic year.

Foundation Year and Pre-sessional students

Where you are following a course of study below degree level, the following work is allowed:

  • Part-time during term time (no more than 10 hours per week which is defined by the Home Office as Monday to Sunday)
  • Full-time during vacations
  • Postgraduate taught students

    For master's students, the University term dates are irrelevant and you are in term time until all elements of the programme have been completed and the programme has officially ended.

    This means that you are only entitled to work part-time (up to 20 hours per week) until the course end date has passed.

    Please note that the dissertation period until official programme end date stated on the CAS is not vacation. You are still expected to be academically engaged with writing your dissertation at this point.

    Any full-time work completed during the dissertation period without permission is a breach of Student route visa conditions.

    It is not possible to bring forward the course end date, even in the case that all elements of the course are completed and dissertation submitted before the official end date.

    The only exceptions to the above are the official dates when the University is closed, such as Christmas and Easter.

  • Postgraduate research students

    Term dates do not apply to Postgraduate research students.

    You are only entitled to work part-time (up to 20 hours per week) until your course end date has passed.

    This will be from the date that your degree is officially awarded and not from the thesis submission date or viva date.

    The only exceptions are the official dates when the University closes, such as Christmas and Easter or during a period of Annual Leave taken as a 'vacation' (this is limited to 28 days per year).

    You will receive a letter confirming the dates of your annual leave and this should be presented to your potential employer.

    After the official course end date, you are able to work full-time, provided that it is not a permanent position.

Work placements

Student route (formerly tier 4) visa students, are able to undertake work placements as part of the course if the work placement is:

  • an integral part of the course
  • assessed as part of the course
  • no more than 50% of the length of the programme. Unless it is a statutory (legal) requirement for the course to contain a specific period of work placement which exceeds this limit (Applies to degree level courses or above)
  • not classed as an interruption of studies

Before you can start your work placement, the university must inform the Home Office of your intended work placement. Once this has been submitted and approved, you will be able to work full-time and maintain your Student route visa.

You cannot begin your work placement until this process is completed. If you do, you and your employer will be in breach of the responsibilities and the Home Office can take action against you and them.

Information for employers

Middlesex University does not provide ‘work letters’ to confirm how many hours a student is allowed to work. It is the responsibility of an employer to ensure correct allocation of working hours.

Please refer to Right to Work guidance published by the Home Office.

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