Working in the UK

International Students

Unless your visa states any other restrictions or prohibitions, then you can work:

  • Part time during the University semesters up to a MAXIMUM of 20 hours per week.
  • Full time during University vacations or as part of an official work placement included in your course.

Your permission to work and any associated restrictions can be found on your Biometric Residence Permit.

EU/EEA Students

Students from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia or Slovenia no longer need to register under the Worker Registration Scheme. Students from these countries can now work in the UK without needing permission.

From 1 January 2014, Bulgarian and Romanian nationals no longer need authorisation from the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) before working in the UK. Evidence of permission to work in the form of an accession worker card or registration certificate is now not required.

All other EEA or Swiss nationals are entitled to work in the UK without restrictions.

If you are permitted to work in the UK this will be stated on your Visa along with the number of hours that you are permitted to work per week (the number of hours is not cumulative) during term time. For some students the restriction upon the hours per week you can work is not applicable during the University’s official vacation time. Keele University Calendar defines term / semester dates along with the University vacation dates.

If you are a postgraduate (Taught or Research) student who is researching and / or writing up your dissertation / thesis during the University’s vacation dates, you are still restricted to the number of hours of work permitted as stated on your Visa.

Postgraduate Research Students who are on an agreed period of annual leave from their Research Institute / Faculty Research Office may, in some circumstance work full time. However this is not advised as you should use this time to rest from your studies. Please note that if you are on a period of a short term absence where the University is not cancelling Tier 4 sponsorship (for example Postgraduate Research students who have an approved short term absence of 28 days or less), you are still bound by the Tier 4 working rules and cannot work full time.

It is your responsibility to abide by these restrictions. If you are found to be breaking the immigration rules the UK Home Office will take action against you, your employer and you will be terminated by the University.

If you wish to undertake work whilst you are studying you must not undertake any work that his not allowed, detailed on the following tab. In the majority of cases unless a student’s visa states any other restrictions or prohibitions, in most cases a student on a Tier 4 Visa sponsored by the University can only work (paid or unpaid):

  • Part-time during the University semesters (term time) up to a MAXIMUM of 20 hours per week. However an employer can choose to give you less hours or impose a lower limit, this is to protect you from working in breach.
  • Full-time as part of an official work placement included in your course or for;
  1. Undergraduate Students - during University vacations (The Summer vacation starts the first week (Monday) after the end of Semester Two of an academic year and ends the week before the start of Semester One of the following academic year.)
  2. Postgraduate Students - when the University is closed or when you are on a formal vacation period from your studies (for which you will have to evidence and ensure that your adhere to your course Student Handbook and/or Code of Practice).

Please note that you must not be undertaking any work that is not allowed and that the UK Home Office considers volunteering paid and unpaid as work. 

The University’s key dates, including University closure dates can be found online here www.keele.ac.uk/keydates

Students on Short Term Study Visas or the Electronic Visa Wavier are not allowed to undertake any work of any type, as this is a breach of their immigration conditions. Students will only be supported by the University for a Tier 4 Visa if their course of study (length or context) require it. Students who are only eligible for a Short Term Study Visa or an Electronic Visa Wavier will not be sponsored under Tier 4 to facilitate work that is a not mandatory part of their course.

If a student visa allows for work, including the hours that are allowed, if permitted this is stated on the Visa. A student’s work can not include;

  • employment as a doctor in training (except on a recognised foundation programme);
  • employment as a professional sportsperson (including a sports coach);
  • employment as an entertainer;
  • being self-employed or engaging in business activity (detailed below); or
  • being employed and fill a full-time, permanent vacancy (except on a recognised foundation programme or as a students’ union sabbatical officer).

Self-employment and /or engaging in business activity

Students cannot be self-employed or engage in business activity. Everyone in the UK undertaking self-employed work must be registered with HMRC; students must check HMRC guidance to see if they need to be registered as self-employed.

For example students cannot be a Delivery Driver as these are categorised as ‘self-employed’, however the current Court decision the Uber should treat its drivers as part-time employees, not self-employed means at a Tier 4 Visa holder could do it (subject to their specific Visa conditions and an appropriate driving & private hire licence, insurance etc.

This is based upon the current legislation and is subject to change depending upon the ongoing court cases. We would recommend that for a student on a Tier 4 Visa that they do not work in the ‘gig economy’ (jobs such as Delivery, DPD, MyHermes, etc – Not an exhaustive list) as for the most part, unless specifically stated in law (or court judgements) are usually self-employment.

Self-employment also covers activities such as; Direct sales and party plans including Amway, Avon, Tupperware, Thermomix, etc. as well as paid babysitting and dog-walking etc. all of which a student on a Tier 4 Visa cannot do.

A student will be considered to be engaging in business activity where they are working for a business in a capacity other than an employee in which the student has a financial or other significant beneficial interest. This would include the following:

  • 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 the student holds shares of 10% or more (including where the shares are held in a trust for the student); or
  • working for a company where they also hold a statutory role, such as a director.

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list but provides examples of the types of circumstance in which a student will be engaged in business activity.

For example a student on a Tier 4 Visa can sell on eBay, Amazon etc as long as you are not ‘trading’. Trading is not selling your old course text books online as you are selling “unwanted items occasionally or you don’t plan to make a profit”. However one of the specific examples of “trading” is if a student on a Tier 4 Visa sells or make items for profit, or if they “sell online, at car boot sales or through classified adverts on a regular basis”. The UK Government information says “If you start working for yourself, you’re classed as a sole trader. This means you’re self-employed - even if you haven’t yet told HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).”

A student on a Tier 4 Visa cannot run a business at all while they are in the UK, this includes setting up an Online business (e-commerce). The UK Immigration Rules give no exceptions for online businesses or for businesses where all the clients are outside the UK.

Shares, trading in currencies (& cryptocurrencies)

Tier 4 students can buy and own shares, but if they own more than 10% of the shares in the company (including if they are held in trust for you) a student cannot work for the company. In addition, any dividend income from shares a Tier 4 student owns is subject to income tax rules.

However, (taking into account the above), Tier 4 students cannot regularly buy and sell stocks, shares or currency (including cryptocurrencies and mining for them) in order to make money; as this would be considered as a business activity.

Entertainers (employment as one)

The UKVI have confirmed that while the Tier 4 Policy and Guidance does not provide specific definitions of ‘entertainer’ as these are considered on a case-by-case basis, the description given by the National Careers Service gives a non-exhaustive description:

Entertainers perform for audiences in stage, cabaret or comedy shows; [For example]

  • singing
  • stand-up comedy
  • playing music (instrument and/or DJing)
  • tribute acts
  • magic children’s
  • entertainment

Therefore if a student receives a salary or other regular income from activities such as those listed above (or similar), they would be classed as an ‘entertainer’. Students on a Tier 4 Visa are not able to work as an entertainer as this is a breach of their Visa conditions and is a Criminal Offence of Illegal working.

Publishing written work

For tier 4 students, if you publish (including self-publishing on sites such as Amazon) with the aim of receiving money for their written or vision work then this can be seen as a business activity and cannot be done under the Tier 4 work conditions.

However it is still possible to publish work as a leisure activity, as long as there is no money exchanged.

This does not include academic scholarly work such as publishing articles as these are related to your course of study or research.

Students whose course requires them to undertake a work placement will have this stated on their CAS along with the percentage that they are allowed to do. The UK Home Office (UKVI) require work placements to be an integral assessed part of your course, usually credit bearing. Therefore time spent on a work placement does not intrude on the maximum hours per week you are permitted to work outside of your course, as stated on your visa.

Students who wish to add in a work experience or placement module to their course may be able to do so if the work placement / experience does not increase the length of time you will need to spend on your course in the UK. If you wish to add a work experience or placement module please contact both the Electives Office and Immigration Compliance (by emailing visa@keele.ac.uk) to see if this is possible.

If your CAS did not state that you have a work placement and believe that it should, or you are considering to undertake a work placement you must contact the Immigration Compliance Team immediately by emailing visa@keele.ac.uk 

A Tier 4 Visa cannot be used solely for the purpose of working in the UK. This means that if you want to do a work placement at the end or after your course you would need to find a different UK Immigration Category to work in the UK. This is usually Tier 2 or Tier 5.

Please note that if you add a work placement to your course once you have been granted your Visa, you will be required to apply for a new Visa to include the work placement if the addition of a placement increases the length of time you will be in the UK. If this is the case you will need to leave the UK and apply for a new visa from your home country at your own additional cost. This will need to be done before you enrol & register on the new course which include a work placement. 

Undergraduate students

Tier 4 students studying at undergraduate level are generally permitted to work up to a maximum of 20 hours per week during term time and full time in vacations.

If you work for the University, we will offer up to a maximum of 18 hours per week, during restricted weeks.  The schedule of restricted weeks is available for download below, you should note that the 18 hour working restriction applies during both the Christmas and Easter vacations and the 2 weeks before Semester 1 and the 2 weeks following Semester 2.  The University’s working week starts on Monday and finishes on Sunday.

If you work for more than one employer, you cannot work for more than 20 hours per week in total during term time.  It is your responsibility to comply with this restriction.

You may work full-time as part of an official work placement included in your course, this will be stated on your certificate of sponsorship (CAS).  If you need to clarify this, please contact Immigration Compliance on visa@keele.ac.uk.


Taught postgraduate students

Tier 4 students studying a taught postgraduate course are generally permitted to work up to a maximum of 20 hours per week all year.  This is because you are deemed to be writing up during University vacation periods.

If you work for the University, we will offer up to a maximum of 18 hours per week, all year. The University’s working week starts on Monday and finishes on Sunday.

Postgraduate students follow a course timetable which differs from the publicised term dates and therefore you will need to obtain evidence of your specific course of study.  You may request this through Student and Academic Services, please visit https://servicedesk.keele.ac.uk/tas/public/login/form.

 If you work for more than one employer, you cannot work for more than 20 hours per week in total, all year.  It is your responsibility to comply with this restriction.


Research postgraduate students

PhD/MPhil students are entitled to a maximum of 4 weeks vacation per year and Tier 4 students studying at this level are considered to be in term time all year, unless you have written permission from your supervisor to take a period of annual leave. 

If you work for the University, we will offer up to a maximum of 18 hours per week, all year.  The University wishes you to use periods of leave from your studies for rest and will not offer you increased hours during any vacation periods. The University’s working week starts on Monday and finishes on Sunday.

Postgraduate students follow a course timetable which differs from the publicised term dates and therefore you will need to obtain evidence of your specific course of study.  You may request this through Student and Academic Services, please visit https://servicedesk.keele.ac.uk/tas/public/login/form.

If you work for more than one employer, you cannot work for more than 20 hours per week in total, all year.  It is your responsibility to comply with this restriction.

This information has been complied in conjunction with Human Resources at Keele University.

Any student found in breaching (breaking / violating) their immigration permission, including breach of their working conditions are committing a criminal offence and will be terminated by the University under University Regulation A1 and reported to the UK Home Office (UKVI). Under current UK legislation illegal working (breach of working conditions) can carry a fine of up to £20,000 (per breach) for both the student and the employer as well as a possible prison sentence along with possible deportation and a ban on re-entering the UK.

Students found to have worked in breach can be charged and prosecuted for illegal working. This is because Section 34 of the Immigration Action 2016 inserted section 24B into the Immigration Act 1971 creating a new criminal offence of illegal working; this covers all type of work including employment, self-employment, internships, apprenticeships and placements (not an exhaustive list). Illegal working is considered a lifestyle offence under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, meaning that any funds which have been obtained though illegal working can be recovered by the UK Home Office from students, employers and anyone (person / organisation) who received a payment from these.