Working in the UK
If you plan to work in the UK, either during or after your studies, you should become familiar with the rules of your visa.
Only students on a Tier 4 (General) student visa can work (paid or unpaid) in the UK during their studies. Those on a short-term study visa are prohibited from working, including on a work placement or work experience.
In order to work in the UK, Tier 4 students must apply for a National Insurance number. You may already have a National Insurance number printed on the back of your biometric residence permit; you don’t need to apply for a National Insurance number if you already have one.
Normally, Tier 4 visa holders are able to work (paid, unpaid, and voluntary) 10 or 20 hours per week during term time, and full hours during University vacation periods. Your visa or biometrics card will detail the amount of hours you are permitted to work, along with any restrictions.
There are certain kinds of work you cannot do on a Tier 4 visa:
- self-employment and business activity
- work as a professional sportsperson, including as a sports coach
- a permanent full-time job
- doctor or dentist in training, unless you are on the International Foundation programme.
EU, EEA and Switzerland
Students from the EU, EEA or Switzerland (except for Croatia) don’t need to apply for permission to work in the UK during their studies, and there is no limit on the number of work hours or the type of work they can undertake. Find out about working in the UK as a Croatian national.
For further information on working in the UK during your studies, please see the UK Council for International Student Affairs website.
All students, including those on a short-term study visa and a Tier 4 visa, are able to volunteer. However, you should be aware that unpaid or voluntary work is not considered volunteering, and counts as ‘work’.
The difference between unpaid work and volunteering is that unpaid workers usually have contractual obligations to perform the work (for example, to attend at particular times and carry out specific tasks), and the employer is contractually required to provide the work. The worker is usually paid in kind.
Students who are volunteering do not have a contract. They must not be a substitute for an employee, and they must not be doing unpaid work (for example, receiving payment in kind). Volunteers usually help a charity or voluntary or public sector organisation.
You should always check with the organisation offering you a volunteering opportunity whether it could be regarded as unpaid employment. If it is, you will not be able to do the work if you are on a short-term visa, or you will have to count the hours against your allotted working hours per week if you are on a Tier 4 visa.
At the moment EU, EEA or Swiss nationals are able to live and work in the UK without restriction.
International students may wish to explore some of the schemes and visa options below.
Under many of these schemes, your spouse/civil partner, unmarried or same-sex partner, and children can apply to stay in the UK with you or join you here from abroad.
Doctorate Extension Scheme
The Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme allows doctorate students to spend one year undertaking employment or self-employment in the UK after completion of their studies. You can apply for the Doctorate Extension Scheme up to 60 days before your course end date (submission date).
Current students can find out more about applying for the Doctorate Extension Scheme.
Tier 2 (Employment)
Tier 2 is the main route if you would like to work in the UK after your studies. You must be sponsored by an employer who has a Tier 2 sponsor license - the Careers Centre has a list of companies. In most cases, the job must meet a minimum skill and wage level, and in some cases the employer has to check the job cannot be filled by a UK resident. Find out more details about employment under Tier 2.
The Start-up scheme is aimed at people who wish to establish a new and viable business in the UK, and who have a business plan endorsed by an authorised endorsing body (ie. the University of St Andrews). All Tier 4 students sponsored by the University of St Andrews (including those on the Doctorate Extension Scheme, and Student Union Sabbatical Officers) can apply for the Start-up scheme. You can switch from Tier 4 to this visa from within the UK. Holders of DES leave can apply for this scheme only if they have never set up a business in the UK. Find out more about the Start-up scheme.
The Innovator scheme is for people who have access to £50,000 to invest in their business idea, and an endorsement from an authorised body. You cannot apply in the UK to switch from Tier 4 to the innovator scheme. Graduates with a business idea may be able to switch within the UK to the Start-up scheme instead, then into the Innovator scheme later. Find out more about the Innovator scheme.
Student Union Sabbatical Officer
You can stay in the UK if you have been elected to a full-time salaried post as a sabbatical officer at an education establishment where you are registered as a student. Find out more about staying in the UK as a sabbatical officer.
Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme
Under the Youth Mobility Scheme, you can work in the UK for up to two years if you are a national of a qualifying country. Find out if your country qualifies under the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme.
Tier 5 Temporary Worker
The Tier 5 Temporary Worker scheme allows you to undertake specific types of work in the UK for a period of one or two years. Find out more about the Tier 5 Temporary Worker Scheme.
The UK ancestry route allows eligible persons to take employment and to set up a business. You can only apply if you are a Commonwealth citizen aged 17 or over and you can prove you have a grandparent who was born in the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, or the Republic of Ireland (but only if your grandparent was born there before 31 March 1922). Find out more about the UK ancestry route.
For PhD students, the period between submitting your thesis for examination and official notification of viva outcome is considered to be 'vacation' period, and you can work full time.
The period between official notification of the viva outcome and unconditional approval of degree, which includes time working on corrections if applicable, is considered a return to full-time study. Working during this time can only be undertaken as follows:
- Students who are not studying on a Tier 4 visa can continue to work full-time during this period unless the viva outcome is ‘revise and resubmit’.
- Students on a Tier 4 visa can only work for up to 20 hours a week in accordance with the restrictions of their Tier 4 visa.
The Home Office has announced its intention to introduce a new 'Graduate route' to be launched in the summer of 2021. This proposed new immigration route will enable international students to apply for a two-year post-study work visa. Full details have not yet been confirmed but this webpage outlines the information currently available. For up-to-date information, see the UK Council for International Student Affairs website.
- The visa will enable international graduates to stay in the UK for two years to work, or look for work, in any sector and at any level.
- Students who successfully complete a course at undergraduate level or above from the summer of 2021 will be able to apply for the route. Those who graduate and whose Tier 4 visa expires before the route is introduced will not be eligible.
- A new visa application will need to be made. A sponsor will not be required. There will be an application fee and applicants will pay the Immigration Health Surcharge.
- Students who have successfully completed a degree at undergraduate or postgraduate level in any subject area and who have a valid Tier 4 visa will be eligible to apply after the route is launched.
- It will be possible to switch from the Graduate visa into the skilled work route subject to meeting the requirements.