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Working in the UK

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

You need to establish if you are eligible to work in the UK during your studies. This will depend on what country you come from and the conditions of your visa (where applicable). See our guidance for:

Employers, income tax, National Insurance

Finding work

You can find advertisements for jobs in your local newspapers, in shops, on notice boards around your university or college, in the careers service or the  students' union. There are many job search websites and job agencies.

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 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.

Employers checking permission to work

If you have a passport sticker or biometric residence permit (BRP) that does not prohibit work, you are allowed to take employment as described on the UK Council for International Student Affairs webpages What kind of work can I do? and How many hours a week can I work? without getting any further approval or permission.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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". 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.

For details of which benefits are public funds, see Public funds.

Contact us

Student Immigration Advisory Service
Tel: +44 (0)20 8417 7313