Working in the UK as an International Student

The International @ Campus Life Team have put together some tips to keep in mind when applying for your right to work in the UK, as an international student.


Being able to work part time alongside studies can have lots of benefits for international students. It is an opportunity to earn a bit of extra money while also developing transferable skills to take into the world of work after you graduate.

But what are your rights to work? What do you need to be aware of, as an international student, to make sure you don’t break any rules? In this article we’ll explore some of the main restrictions that apply to international students who have a visa to study as well giving you some guidance to help you to identify potential problems.

What is ‘work’ and how much work can I do with my visa?

The UK Government UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) says that ‘work’ includes:

· Paid or unpaid employment

· Paid or unpaid work placement that forms part of your university course

· Being self employed

· Engaging in business or professional activities

The type of work you can do and how much (if any) depends on what type of visa you have and the course you are studying.

The most common visas held by international students are either the standard visit visa, used for short courses of 6 months or less or the Student Route visa used for courses over 6 months long.

If you have a standard visit visa, whether you are an EU or non-EU students, you cannot do any kind of work or work placement.

If you have a Student Route visa sponsored by Swansea University and you are studying at degree level, you can work up to 20 hours per week during term time and full-time during official vacations as well as during the extra time added to your visa once you have completed your course. Student visa holders studying below degree level can work up to 10 hours during term time and full-time during vacations.

As mentioned above, work can be paid or unpaid so you need to keep track of any volunteer work you might do as this will count towards your weekly term time limits.

If you have a visa inside your passport or a biometric residence permit (BRP) these documents will state your own personal permissions to work. If you have a digital immigration status, then your working rights will be stated on your visa decision letter and your online immigration profile.

If you have a Student Route visa, you cannot be self-employed or engaged in business activities (more on this below). You also cannot work as a professional sports person or coach, or as an entertainer. This includes paid work as an actor, musician, dancer or other performer. You can find out more about working rights on the International@CampusLife working during your studies website and on the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) Student Work pages.

Challenges in a 21st century job market.

Self-employment and engaging in business activities are strictly forbidden under both the standard visit visa and the Student Route visa. This means you won’t be able to set up your own business or work as a ‘freelance’ or ‘contractor’.

But it can be tricky to know when some jobs might actually be considered to either self-employment or a business activity. This is especially the case with non-traditional jobs that can include remote working, running an online business, roles in the ‘gig economy’ like Deliveroo or Uber, buying, selling items for profit on websites like eBay and even becoming a YouTube influencer. The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) has a really useful blog post that helps to explain more about how different jobs might fit into the immigration regulations.

Balancing study with part-time work and the cost of living.

Hopefully coming to study in the UK as an international student is about long-term career goals. Leaving Swansea University with that coveted degree certificate along with all the new experiences you will have amassed during your time in Swansea - new friends, new knowledge and skills, and maybe even some useful connections to help you on your future career path – all these things are part of the study abroad package. Many students will have spent their life savings to be able to go overseas and study.

Studying for a degree requires a lot of time and hard work so you will need to be careful to get the balance right between study and any part-time work you decide to do. The UK can be an expensive place to live especially if your family are also with you in the UK. We have information about the local cost of living on our website, where you will find a useful guide to the costs associated with accommodation, local travel, food, utility bills, childcare and more – you can even convert the costs into your own currency for easy comparison. However, it is very important that you have a secure source of other funds to cover your tuition fees and majority of your living costs so that you not reliant on finding part-time work.

Also beware of employers who put pressure on you to work more than you can comfortably (and legally) do. The UK has laws to prevent employees being exploited including a minimum wage, maximum working hours and anti-discrimination laws. It is important that you know your rights as an employee and if you need help understanding these, please have a look at working during your studies website or contact the Students Union Advice and Support Centre.

Where can I get more advice.

International@CampusLife has a team of immigration advisers to help you with your visa and immigration related questions. There are a variety of ways you can contact I@CL including email, face-to-face drop-in sessions and Live Chat. The Students Union Advice & Support Centre offers free, impartial and confidential advice and representation on a range of both legal and personal matters, including problems you might experience with an employer.

Advice and Support