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 Student visa can work (paid or unpaid) in the UK during their studies. Those on a Standard visitor visa are prohibited from working, including on a work placement or work experience.
To work in the UK, Student visa holders 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, Student 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 Student 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.
For further information on working in the UK during your studies, please see the UK Council for International Student Affairs website.
Any EU, EEA, or Swiss citizen that holds pre-settled or settled status can work without restriction in the UK.
All students, including those on a Standard visitor visa and a Student 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 Standard visitor visa, or you will have to count the hours against your allotted working hours per week if you are on a Student visa.
EU, EEA or Swiss nationals with Pre-settled/Settled status are able to live and work in the UK without restriction.
All other students on a Student visa 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 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.
Doctorate Extension Scheme visa holders are not eligible to apply for the new Graduate route visa.
Skilled Worker Route
A Skilled Worker visa allows you to come to or stay in the UK to do an eligible job with an approved employer - the Careers Centre has a list of companies. In most cases, the job must meet minimum requirements like, 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 the Skilled Worker route
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 Student visa holders 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 Student visa to the Start-up scheme 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 Student visa 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.
Youth Mobility Scheme visa (T5)
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. You can only apply from your home country. Find out if your country qualifies under the Youth Mobility Scheme (T5).
Temporary Worker Scheme
The 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 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 Student visa can continue to work full-time during this period unless the viva outcome is ‘revise and resubmit’.
- Students on a Student visa can only work for up to 20 hours a week in accordance with the restrictions of their Student visa.
The Graduate route is a new working visa route for any student who will graduate from Summer 2021 onwards. Most successful applicants can stay for 2 years, PhD graduates for 3 years. Only current student visa dependants can apply for dependant permission under the Graduate route.
- Applications will open at 09:00 on Thursday 1 July 2021.
- This visa application will cost £700 and you will need to pay the full (non-student) IHS fee, £624 per year of visa duration.
- When you apply you must have a valid Student visa and you must know the CAS number you used to get that visa.
- You can only apply from within the UK. If you have been distance learning due to Covid-19, the deadline for returning to the UK now depends on when your course started and how long it was:
Course started at any time and was more than 12 months
Any time that you spend outside the UK distance learning between 24 January 2020 and 27 September 2021 will not prevent you meeting the "Study in the UK" requirement, but the rules say you must have held student visa permission throughout such an absence (this requirement is being checked with the Home Office).
Neither the Rules nor the guidance give any specific deadline by which you need to enter or return to the UK to apply under the Graduate route. It appears that you can return and apply anytime while you still have Student permission (this requirement is also being checked with the Home Office).
Course started in 2020 and was 12 months or less
If you have been distance learning in your home country for the whole course so far, you need to come to the UK under the Student route on or before 21 June 2021.
If you came to the UK under your current Student route permission but then you switched to distance learning from home, you will need to come back to the UK on or before the end date of your course.
Course started in 2021 and was 12 months or less
If you have been distance learning in your home country for the whole course so far, you need to come to the UK under the Student route on or before 27 September 2021.
If you came to the UK under your current Student route permission but then you switched to distance learning, you need to come back to the UK on or before the end date of your course.