Working and volunteering in UK

Last updated: 28 January 2021

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. Those with a Student visa (formerly called Tier 4) are sometimes able to work part-time.

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

Short-term students

Unfortunately, short-term students are not allowed to work in the UK.

This rule applies to:

  • students studying for up to six months on a Standard Visitor visa
  • non-visa national students studying for up to six months without a visa (including EU, EEA and Swiss students)
  • students with the 11 month Short-term study visa.

Short term students cannot do paid work, unpaid internships or work experience placements.

However, they can gain experience through volunteering alongside their English language studies.

Students with a Student visa (formerly called Tier 4)

Students with a Student visa (formerly called Tier 4) can sometimes work in the UK. This depends on which institution they study with. 

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

If able to work, 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 them to work and study in the UK for up to two years. Find out more on the UK government website.

Can students 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 short-term students, 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 sports event, beach clean up or arts festival. Volunteers can be paid expenses, like travel costs.

It is important to note that short-term students can volunteer, but they cannot do 'voluntary work'. Before volunteering starts, make sure the role meets the UK Government's definition of volunteering rather than voluntary work:

Volunteers:

  • 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.