Working and volunteering in UK

Last updated: 2 March 2020

Am I allowed to work in the UK during my studies?

Unfortunately, most international students learning English in the UK are not able to work during their studies. Students with a Tier 4 visa are sometimes able to work part-time.

Volunteering is an alternative option for student who want to practice their English and meet local people.

EU/EEA/Swiss students

Students from the European Union, European Economic Area or Switzerland can work in the UK without restrictions until the end of 2020. This is expected to change from 2021.

Short-term study visa students

Unfortunately, if you have a short-term student visa, you are not allowed to work in the UK, including on an unpaid internship or work experience placement. However, you can gain experience through volunteering alongside your English language studies.

Tier 4 students

Students with a Tier 4 visa can sometimes work in the UK. This depends on which institution you study with. 

If you study at an eligible institution on full-time course, you can work part-time. Your passport sticker (entry clearance) or biometric residence permit (BRP) will tell you how many hours you can work per week. Ask your chosen institution to find out if you are able to work, or contact us at English UK.

If you are able to work, Tier 4 students can:

  • Work a maximum of 10 hours per week if the course leads to a qualification below degree level
  • Work a maximum of 20 hours per week if the course leads to a qualification at degree level or above
  • In both case, students can work full time during the holidays, and after the course until the end of the visa period.

Youth Mobility Scheme visa (Tier 5)

Students aged 18 to 30 from Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea or Taiwan can apply to spend up to two years in the UK on a Youth Mobility Scheme visa.

This visa allows you to work and study in the UK for up to two years. Find out more on the UK government website.

Can I do an internship or work placement with a UK student visa?

Internships and work placement are considered the same as work under UK visa rules.

English language centres often offer English plus work experience courses, but these are only available to students with a visa that allows them to work.

Volunteering is permitted for all international students

All students, including those with a short-term study visa, can volunteer with a charity, or voluntary sector organisation. This is a great opportunity for international students to meet local people and practice their English.

Example of volunteering opportunities include helping at a local charity shop, sports event or arts festival. Volunteers can be paid expenses, like travel costs.

Students with a short-term study visa can volunteer, but they cannot do 'voluntary work'. Before you start volunteering, make sure the role meets the government's definition of volunteering rather than voluntary work:


  • Do not have a contract of employment (written or verbal). There should be no obligation to attend at particular times and carry out specific tasks
  • Must not take the place of an employee
  • Must not receive payment in kind but reimbursement for reasonable travel and subsistence expenses is allowed
  • Usually help a charity or voluntary or public sector organisation.
Voluntary workers:
  • Often have a contract with their employer, which means that the employer must provide the work and the voluntary worker must attend at particular times and carry out specific tasks
  • Are also usually paid for their work.

You can see the UK Government's guidance for short-term students here, on page 13 (published on Thursday 22 August 2019).

Post-study work: working in the UK after completing a university degree

International students who enrol on a undergraduate (RQF 6) level course or above at a higher education provider from September 2020 and successfully complete their course of study will be eligible to apply for the new two year graduate work visa.