Working in the UK while you study at university

Working while you study is a great way to develop work-based skills,earn extra money and further enhance your experience in the UK.

If you plan to work while you study at Kingston University, you must check the permissions set out in your visa, as the right to work will depend on the type of visa you have been granted. Take a look at your passport visa sticker or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) – if it doesn't prohibit work, you are allowed to take up employment as described by the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA).

Make sure you fully understand the conditions of your visa. Breaching the rules could have serious consequences for your immigration status and could affect your right to study in the UK.

On this page you will find general guidance and information about employers, income tax and National Insurance, plus answers to frequently asked questions about working while you study. If you need further support, please get in touch.

EU, EEA and Swiss students - Guidance notes

EU Settlement Scheme

If you have been granted pre-settled or settled status and are currently living in the UK, you are allowed to work while you study – there has been no change to the working rights and status of EU citizens and their family members who have pre-settled or settled status under the scheme.

You can find up-to-date information on residing and working in the UK on the GOV.UK website.

The deadline to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme ended for most people on the 30 June 2021. Find out if you can still apply.

I don't have pre-settled or settled status

EU, EEA and Swiss students who do not have pre-settled or settled status are subject to the same immigration rules regarding working during studies as international students.

To be able to work (up to 20 hours a week during term time and full time during official vacation periods) you must:

  • have a Student Route visa.
  • be an EU, EEA or Swiss national who were not eligible to apply for EU settlement and who will be coming to study at Kingston University after 1 July 2021 on a full time degree level course of more than 6 months (RQF level 6 (and equivalents)) or above, sponsored by a higher education provider with a track record of compliance.

International students - Guidance notes

Employers, income tax and National Insurance

Income tax and National Insurance

You will have to pay income tax if you earn more than a specified personal allowance in any tax year. You can find out more about personal allowances and income tax rates from HM Revenue & Customs.

Employees and employers both pay National Insurance contributions, which help to fund contributory benefits, for example, the state pension and jobseeker's allowance.

Your home country's tax authorities might expect you to file a tax return there, or to pay tax on your UK earnings. You should contact the relevant government department in your home country to check the rules about this.

The Low Incomes Tax Reform Group has produced a Tax Guide for Students, with a special section for International students. HM Revenue & Customs also has information about tax aimed at students.

National Insurance number

Your National Insurance number (NINo) is a unique personal number which is used to record your National Insurance contributions. You do not need to have a NINo before starting work, but you must obtain one when you get a job.

You apply for a NINo by calling tel: 0800 141 2075 to make an appointment. Ask what documents you will need to bring to the appointment. You usually need to take your passport, payslips or a letter from your employer confirming that you will be working for them.

Your appointment will take place at your nearest Jobcentre Plus office, or Social Security office in Northern Ireland.

Find more information about National Insurance numbers and how to obtain one.

Permission to work checks

Your employer can check with the Home Office that you are allowed to work by contacting its Business helpdesk: guide for employers and sponsors and the Penalties for employing illegal workers.

What employers need to see

Employers have a legal obligation to check that you are allowed to work in the UK, so you must be able to provide evidence of this, usually by showing them your current passport and/or your current biometric residence permit.

If your current entry clearance sticker is in a passport that has now expired, you need to apply to transfer your leave into your new passport by making a Transfer of Conditions application.

Although you can travel using your old and new passports, employers cannot accept an entry clearance sticker in an expired passport, even if your period of leave has not yet expired. For full details of the documents employers can accept, see the Home Office's guide to Right to work checks: an employer's guide.

You might not have your passport or biometric residence permit if, for example, it is with the Home Office because you have applied to extend your immigration permission in the UK.

If you made your immigration application before your previous student immigration permission ended, you still have the right to work under the usual student conditions. However, a new employer must see evidence that you are currently in the UK with student immigration permission before allowing you to start work.

The same can apply to your existing employer, who should have noted when your immigration permission ended and now wants to be sure that you still have the right to work.

Since 29 February 2008, employers have been obliged to check your entitlement to work at least once a year. This does not apply if you start your job on or after 16 May 2014, but employers must check again when your immigration permission is about to expire.

In these cases, your employer must receive confirmation from the Employer Checking Service of the Home Office.

From 16 May 2014, you are no longer able to provide a combination of other documents which prove you are allowed to work, or to continue working, in the UK.

Term and vacation dates

From 16 May 2014, you must also provide your employer with information about the term and vacation dates for your course so that it is clear to your employer and to the Home Office when you are allowed to work more than 10 or 20 hours a week. This information must be in one of the following formats:

  • undergraduate students – a printout from your institution's website showing the term and vacation dates for your course or a letter from your faculty student office confirming these dates;
  • postgraduate students – a copy letter or email that your institution has sent to you confirming your term and vacation dates; or a letter from your institution to your employer confirming these dates.

More information

The Home Office has published guidance about the checks that employers must make and where they should go to check a person's entitlement to work.

Employer obligations

UK employers have a number of legal duties towards their employees. These include:

  • anti-discrimination measures;
  • health and safety requirements;
  • the obligation to pay the minimum wage;
  • the obligation to comply with laws relating to maximum working hours and breaks; and
  • the duty to pay National Insurance contributions and to provide wage slips.

Frequently asked questions

Below you will find answers to some of the frequently asked questions about the regulations that apply to visa students wanting to work in the UK.

Will my work conditions change if the visa rules change?

Not immediately. New rules do not affect you if you already have immigration permission to work in the UK. You have to comply with the rules that were in force when you applied for that permission.

However, if you need to make an immigration application to stay longer, the new rules will apply to you from the date when you are granted the new permission to stay.

Can I pay for my studies through work?

You should be able to pay your tuition fees and living costs without having to work in the UK.

However, if you need to make an immigration application in the UK, and you are working lawfully within the restrictions described above, you can use your UK earnings to show that you can meet the maintenance requirements.

You should not rely on money from work in the UK because:

  • it can be difficult to find work;
  • it is unlikely that you will earn enough to cover all your costs;
  • you might lose your job;
  • you might have problems with your studies if you spend too much time working.

Can I take a gap year and work full time?

No. If you want to defer your studies for a year, you should leave the UK and come back when your studies start again.

You can work full time only in your vacations, or when you have finished your studies, or if you are doing a work placement or an internship.

How many hours can I work?

If you are permitted to work, your working hours will be stated on your visa stamp in your passport, or your Biometrics Residence Permit, (BRP) if you have one. Please check what these hours are for you and never exceed the number of hours you are permitted to work in any one week as this could have serious implications on your visa.

Up to 20 hours a week

Students studying at Kingston University are permitted to work up to 20 hours a week during term time and full time during official vacation periods if they:

  • have a Student Route visa
  • are on degree level courses, (RQF level 6 (and equivalents))

Up to 10 hours a week

Students studying at Kingston University are permitted to work up to 10 hours a week during term time and full time during official vacation periods if they:

  • study a stand-alone foundation course, which is below degree level
  • study a pre-sessional English course only
  • are a Study Group (KULISC) students studying an international foundation year course

Please note

If you are permitted to work up to 10 hours or 20 hours a week during term time, please note the following:

  • it is very important that you do not exceed the hours stated on your Biometrics Residence Permit (BRP) in any week as this could have serious implications on your student visa and could potentially impact your studies
  • the 10 or 20 hours includes both paid and unpaid work
  • the working week as defined by the Home Office runs from Monday through to Sunday
  • if you take unpaid employment (voluntary work) as well as paid work, the total number of hours per week must not exceed 10/20 hours, whichever is applicable to your visa conditions.
  • students who are volunteering do not have a contract, you must not be a substitute for an employee, and you must not be doing unpaid work
  • students undertaking an approved work placement that is an integral and assessed part of their course can work any number of hours on their placement. Students are also permitted to work an additional 20 hours a week in another part-time job while working on their approved work placement that is part of their course

What kinds of work can I do?

You can do most kinds of work as described by the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA), if your visa allows.

Pleas note, you must not:

  • be self-employed, freelance or engage in any business activity
  • be employed as a professional sportsperson including as a sports coach (apart from students on approved work placements who were granted a student visa on or after 1 October 2019 to study a degree level course at a higher education provider)
  • be employed as an entertainer (apart from an exception for students studying degree level dance, drama and music courses on a work placement)
  • take a permanent full-time job
  • be a doctor or dentist in training unless you are on the foundation programme.

Can I volunteer or do unpaid work?

If your visa allows, you will be able to volunteer while you study in the UK but you must not do unpaid work. Students who are volunteering do not have a contract and must not be a substitute for an employee.

Student Route visa

You can volunteer if you have a Student Route visa.

Please note: You must not exceed 10 or 20 working hours per week (whichever is applicable to your visa) if you combine paid and voluntary/unpaid work, as this could affect your visa and have serious consequences on your immigration status and your right to study in the UK.

Standard Visitor visa

You are permitted to volunteer for a registered charity for up to 30 days, if you are in the UK on a Standard Visitor visa.

Please note: You must not undertake voluntary/unpaid work on a contract. Make sure you understand the difference between volunteering and voluntary/unpaid work. Breaching the conditions of your visa could have serious consequences on your immigration status and could affect your right to study in the UK.

How many hours can I work on a course work placement?

If you are undertaking an approved work placement that is an integral and assessed part of your course, you can work:

  • any number of hours on your work placement
  • an additional 20 hours a week in another part-time job

More information on Work Placements can be found on the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) website.

Can I work on a Standard Visitor visa?

No, you will not be permitted to work in the UK if you are studying on a Standard Visitor visa on courses of up to 6 months or undertaking a period of research.

Students on a Standard Visitor visa may volunteer provided it is for a registered charity and is no longer than 30 days in total.

Can I apply for tax credits and welfare benefits?

If the entry clearance or residence permit in your passport or your biometric residence card states that you are subject to the condition "No recourse to public funds" or "No public funds", you must not apply for tax credits, or other welfare benefits that are included in the definition of "public funds" as this would be a breach of your immigration conditions.

The only exception is if your country has an agreement or reciprocal arrangements with the UK, details of which are in the Home Office guidance for its caseworkers on public funds.

Contact us

If you have any queries or need further support, please get in touch with the Visa and Immigration team – we are here to help.