Employing students on Tier 4 visas

  • Employing students on Tier 4 visas
  • Employing students on Tier 4 visas

    A Tier 4 visa is a visa that non-EEA nationals can apply for in order to study in the UK. It usually also allows them to work but with restrictions which both the individual and you as a manager must comply with.

  • Any restrictions will be made clear on their immigration documents which must always be checked.

    In general*, a Tier 4 student studying a degree-level programme (or one on a Study Abroad Programme) is permitted to work for a maximum of 20 hours a week during term-time and full-time during vacation periods.

    They are also not allowed to:

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

    *Note that students on a Tier 4 (Child) visa, who are 16 and over, and students studying a programme lower than foundation degree level, can both work for a maximum of 10 hours a week during term-time (and full-time during vacation periods). It is rare for the University to employ students with these restrictions so please be alert when checking.

    • Undergraduate Tier 4 Students may work full-time during official University vacation periods (Christmas and Summer). You as the hiring manager should check the published semester dates for details and keep a screenshot as evidence that you have done so;
    • Postgraduate Taught/Masters students can work full-time at Christmas but cannot work full-time during the summer as this is classed as semester time while working on their dissertation. They can work full-time once they have finished all of their taught components and have submitted all assessed work including their final dissertation. See ‘Can I employ Tier 4 students full-time after their studies?’ for details. You as the hiring manager should check the published semester dates for details and keep a screenshot as evidence that you have done so;
    • PhD students - no Research Degree student on a Tier 4 visa may work more than 20 hours at any time during the course of the programme through to conferment of the degree. University student regulations state that before that time, the student is still considered to be studying a course and therefore the strict 20 hour per week limit would apply.
    After Tier 4 students have completed their studies (i.e after the official course end date for their programme), they can work full time until their visa expires (this can be up to four months after they have completed). This full-time work must be on a temporary or rolling contract and not a permanent position. However you should be aware if you are engaging any student prior to their degree being conferred, that they may be required to re-submit coursework or their thesis or retake exams. In this period of 'academic extension' they would no longer be able to work full-time.

    Human Resources will issue a contract of employment and within the terms of that contract it will state that hourly-paid staff must not exceed hours permitted by their Tier 4 visa. During semester time that is 20 hours per week or 10 if their course of study is below degree level. This includes all work internally and externally to the University. Claim forms for these staff to complete and get paid for work they have undertaken have a declaration that they complete to confirm they have not exceeded these hours and the accompanying guidance notes also detail the legal requirement to not exceed permitted hours during semester time.

    All claim forms for Tier 4 staff are examined individually to further ensure they have not claimed hours in excess of their visa limitation and any suspected cases on non-compliance are immediately investigated by Human Resources, Student Central and the senior management where the student is employed.

    All Tier 4 student-staff submitting claims for payment are identified as such and a report is run every month to ensure hours worked do not exceed visa limits.

    Tier 4 students can both volunteer and do voluntary work in the UK, provided they are permitted to work and their visa must be checked to confirm this. Any voluntary work contributes to their weekly work allowance on Tier 4, so any hours you give them must not exceed their limit, either on its own or combined with other types of paid or unpaid work they are doing.

    Note that the UKVI makes a distinction between voluntary work and 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). Volunteers usually help a charity or voluntary or public sector organisation.
    For anything not covered here, please contact the HR recruitment team.
    More information for students on working whilst studying can be found here. They can also contact International Student Advice Team.