student visa to work permit in uk

Planning a trip to UK? Thinking about moving there? Our dedicated team at Touriago is always happy to be of assistance with any questions you have regarding student visas, work permits, and anything else that has to do with travelling the world.

Student Visa is the most common visa issued to foreign students who wishes to study in UK. It allows them to come to UK with their dependents and stay here as long as they study. It also gives them work permit with restricted working hours in a particular period. After completion of studies, they can also switch to Work Visa under Tier-II. When the student is ready for higher education in UK and have applied for admission, they have to first apply for the visa. In this way, applying for a Student Visa makes sense as it will not only help them to apply for higher education and become competitive but also enables him to look out for better prospects of life in Britain. These are some other benefits that comes along with a Student Visa:

As you start working in the UK, it is good to know what kind of visa you need to work in the country. The visa will, among other things, tell you how much you can earn in the UK, and for how long you can remain working in it. Student visas are an authorization granted by a country’s government that permits you to enter and study in a foreign country.

The UK is one of the most popular destinations in Europe for students and young professionals. Its education system is one of the best in the world and boasts some of the largest universities in Europe. The UK also offers a range of unique opportunities for students to work while they study, which can help them gain professional experience and develop their skills.

In order to take advantage of these programs, you will need to apply for a student visa or permit before you arrive in the UK. This guide will explain how to obtain a student visa or permit in order to work while studying abroad

Student Visas to Work Permits in the UK

UK Work Permit Application Process

If you are a foreign national and you want to work in the United Kingdom, you will need to apply for a work permit. This is because the UK is not part of the European Union (EU). If you are an EU citizen, however, you can work in any EU country without needing a work permit.

To be eligible for a work permit, you must have completed at least one year of study at a university or college located in the UK. You must also have been accepted into a course of study that lasts at least one year. After completing your first year of study and being accepted into your second year of study, you can apply for a Tier 4 visa from outside the UK. You will need to provide evidence that you have been accepted into this program before applying for an entry clearance visa (also known as a student visa).

Once you arrive in the UK with your entry clearance visa and student ID card, you will need to apply for permission from the Home Office if you want to stay longer than six months during any calendar year (or 12 months during two consecutive calendar years). This permission is known as ‘leave to remain’ but it’s not guaranteed.

Working hours

Students should ensure they are aware of the University’s working restrictions which are generally stricter than the number of hours you can work on a student visa. The following is therefore provided for information.  

A student visa issued for full-time degree level studies allows you to work for a maximum of 20 hours per week during term-time. This is a maximum of 20 hours in total in any one week, including paid or unpaid work and for one or more organisation. The 20 hours cannot be averaged over a longer period.  A ‘week’ is defined by the Home Office as a period of 7 days beginning with a Monday. This also includes both paid and unpaid work. The University imposes greater working restrictions, as outlined above, and you will need to adhere to these.

A student visa issued for full-time degree level studies allows you work full-time during official vacation periods. Term and vacation dates differ depending on the level of study you are undertaking so it is important you check these before undertaking full-time work. This includes a full-time internship or placement unless it is part of your course. Please note that the term and vacation dates used by undergraduates do not apply to postgraduate students. Masters students should consult their Faculty or Department for further details regarding official vacation periods. The academic year for postgraduate research students is continuous throughout the year, from 1 October to 30 September. It is therefore not possible, for example, for a postgraduate research student to undertake full-time work during the summer period. Whilst breaks for holidays are permitted, at times agreed with your supervisor, these are not periods that would permit full-time work. Whether you can work after submission of your thesis for examination varies depending on the stage of the process as outlined in the information below. 

Type of work

Students on a student visa can do most kinds of work, but you must not:

  • be self-employed;
  • engage in business activity;
  • filling a full-time permanent vacancy;
  • work as a professional sportsperson including as a sports coach, paid or unpaid, as defined by the Home Office on pages 94-95 of the Student route guidance;
  • work as an entertainer, paid or unpaid;
  • work as a doctor or dentist in training, unless you are on the foundation programme.

These restrictions apply throughout your time on a student visa. 


A student visa does not allow self-employment. This means in order to undertake work you should be given a formal document by the employer such as a ‘contract of employment’ or a ‘worker’s agreement’ or some other written statement confirming your employment status. This includes where you will be undertaking work for one or more of the Colleges, or for the University. Please note you may find that other students (who are not on a student visa) may not need to have the same documentation in place.

Self-employment normally includes activities such as freelance writing or publishing, private tutoring or selling goods or services directly to an end customer, for example as a consultant. If you are not on the employer or agency’s employee payroll, it is likely the work being offered is on a self-employed basis. If you are unsure, it is important you check your employment status prior to starting work.

Engaging in Business Activity

Your student visa does not permit you to engage in business activity. The Home Office defines this as working for a business in which you have a financial or other significant beneficial interest in a capacity other than as an employee. The Home Office provides some examples of the types of circumstances in which you would be considered to be engaging in business activity: setting up a business that is trading or has a trading presence; being employed by a company in which you hold shares of 10% or more; or working for a company where you hold a statutory role, such as a director. However, this is not an exhaustive list. If you are unsure whether this restriction would apply in particular circumstances, you should seek further guidance from the International Student Office prior to undertaking the activity.

Undertaking an internship / work placement

A student visa would only permit you to undertake an internship in the following circumstances:

Undergraduate students are able to undertake an internship during the official University vacation periods. The employer will need evidence of the academic calendar as confirmation of the vacation dates when you are permitted to work full-time. Acceptable evidence would be a printout of the academic calendar from the University’s website. Medical students undertake work placements as part of their course and the International Student Office provides details of these placements to the Home Office at the beginning of the relevant academic year.

Masters students are able to undertake an internship during the official vacation periods. These dates will vary depending on the course so you should consult your Faculty and Department for further details regarding the official vacation periods. A small number of Masters courses include the option of a short internship as part of the course. If this applies to your course it will be included in the course handbook. As an embedded part of the course, this is permitted on a student visa but the International Student Office will need to provide the internship details to the Home Office in advance so it is important that you keep your Faculty or Department informed of the details and any subsequent changes. 

Information for PhD students is outlined on our ‘PhD – Internships and visa considerations’ webpage. 


You can volunteer on your student visa but the Home Office makes a distinction between volunteering and voluntary work. Voluntary work is considered unpaid employment and is therefore restricted on a student visa, along with any other paid work, to 20 hours a week during term-time (note the University’s working restrictions are greater and information on defining term-time is outlined under ‘Working hours’ above). Even if the opportunity is advertised as ‘volunteering’, it could still be considered voluntary work.

The Home Office advises taking the following into consideration to help determine if it is voluntary work or volunteering:  

• Voluntary workers will usually have contractual obligations to perform the work (e.g. to attend at particular times and carry out specific tasks) with the employer being contractually required to provide the work – the contract does not have to be written. The worker is usually remunerated 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 – i.e. receiving payment in kind (although they are sometimes reimbursed for reasonable travel and subsistence expenses). 

It is advisable to check with the organisation offering the volunteering opportunity whether it would be regarded as unpaid employment.

For PhD students – working after submission of thesis for examination

After you submit your thesis for examination, the number of hours you can work on a student visa will depend on the stage of the process:

  • The period between submission of thesis for examination and official notification of viva outcome is considered to be ‘vacation’ 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 and submission of the hardbound thesis, is considered a return to full-time study. You can only work for up to 20 hours a week unless the viva outcome is ‘revise and resubmit’ in which case the University’s 10 hour working restriction applies.

The restrictions on the type of work you can undertake on a student visa, as outlined above, continue to apply. 

Working after studies

After your course has ended and whilst your visa remains valid, the Home Office allows you to work full-time. The restrictions on the type of work, as outlined above, continue to apply. 

For PhD students, the end of the course is official notification of unconditional approval of degree.

For Masters and undergraduate students, the end of the course is either receiving official notification of approval of your degree OR the course end date as stated on your CAS as long as you have completed all required assessment for your course by this date, whichever is earlier. For students studying on an MPhil by Research examined by thesis and oral, when you can work full-time depends on the stage of the examination process and you are advised to contact the International Student Office for further guidance.

If you need any clarification about the working conditions on a student visa, contact the International Student Office for further advice.

You may also wish to consider switching to the Graduate visa after successful completion of your course.

The University is no longer accepting new applications for endorsement under the Start-up route following the launch of the Graduate visa.

University’s responsibilities

In accordance with sponsor licence requirements, the University must notify the Home Office if it becomes aware a student is breaking the conditions of their student visa. This includes working in breach of visa conditions. Such cases would be referred to the Head of the International Student Office.  


It allows you to carry on working in the UK after your studies are finished. You can also claim housing benefit and some other benefits that are intended for people coming to the UK for a limited time. If you study at a college in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, this does not apply to you and you do not need a work permit.

The next time you are considering your options, you need to speak with an expert consultant who will listen to your needs, guide you through the legal process and start preparing your application as soon as possible. Be sure that the consultant is with Touriago.

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