Common Q & A’s
This section gives you essential information and advice about working in the UK as a student and directs you to further sources of help and information.
Can you work?
All European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss national students can work in the UK without restriction on the number of hours or type of work.
If you are here on a Tier 4 (General) Visa there are restrictions on the amount of work that you are able to do and the type of work you can do while you are a student.
If you have entered the UK as a ‘student visitor’ (i.e. to study a short course for up to 6 months), you are not allowed to take paid or unpaid employment or do a work placement, even if it is part of your programme of studies.
If you are a Tier 4 visa holder please read the information below carefully to ensure that you are working lawfully within any restrictions that may apply to you.
What kind of work can you do?
If you are a Tier 4 visa holder you must not:
- be self-employed (this means no freelance work and you cannot set up your own business – see GOV.UK for guidance about employment status);
- be employed as a professional sportsperson or sports coach;
- take a permanent full-time job; or
- be employed as an entertainer.
Please note, however, that degree-level music and dance students can undertake a work placement that involves professional performance providing that is it arranged by Trinity Laban and is an assessed part of your programme of studies.
Students within the Faculty of Music can contact Alicia Mallace-Goulbourne (Professional Placements Coordinator, Performance) with any questions at email@example.com.
There is further information on the UKCISA website.
How many hours can you work?
Tier 4 visa holders who are studying at degree level or above (including on the short-term study abroad degree programme) have permission to:
- work for a maximum 20 hours per week during term-time (paid or voluntary);
- work full-time during your holidays, i.e. Christmas, Easter, Summer (please note that for Masters students on a 12-month programme the summer is not a holiday period); and
- work full-time after your programme of studies has ended (this date is decided by Trinity Laban) while you still have current immigration permission, though other work restrictions continue (i.e. no self-employment, no permanent job).
You should not work more than the maximum number of hours in any one week in term-time, even if you sometimes work under the maximum number of hours in other weeks.
There is further information on the UKCISA website.
Voluntary work counts towards the 20 hours per week during term time. Voluntary work is distinct from volunteering; you will need to ask the organisation whether what you are doing is defined as volunteering or voluntary work. Find our more about the difference between unpaid employment (voluntary work) and volunteering on the UKCISA website.
When you have found work
National Insurance Number
When you have the offer of a job, or if you decide to look for a job, you will need to get a National Insurance Number. Your National Insurance number (NINo) is a unique personal number that is used to record your National Insurance (NI) contributions. There are no charges or fees associated with obtaining a NINo.
You do not need to have a NINo before starting work, but you must obtain one when you get a job. If you have the right to work in the UK, you will need to telephone the National Insurance number application line to arrange to get one:
Telephone: 0800 141 2075
Textphone: 0800 141 2438
Lines are open 8.00 am to 6.00 pm, Monday to Friday, and are normally less busy before 9.00 am. Jobcentre Plus will arrange an ‘Evidence of Identity’ interview for you, or send you a postal application. You will need to tell your employer your National Insurance number as soon as you know it. Do not share your National Insurance number with anyone who does not need it as this might help someone to steal your identity.
Proof of Eligibility to Work
Employers have a legal obligation to check that you are allowed to work in the UK before any work is undertaken, so you must be able to provide evidence of this, usually by showing them your current passport and/or your current biometric residence permit. The UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) Right to Work Checklist gives a list of acceptable documents.
You must also provide your employer with information about the term and vacation dates for your programme of studies so that it is clear to your employer and to the Home Office when you are allowed to work more than 10 or 20 hours a week. You can provide your employer with a printout from the Trinity Laban website showing the term dates for your programme of studies.
National Living Wage and the National Minimum Wage:
The minimum pay per hour that workers are entitled to by law depends on your age and whether you are an apprentice.
The following rate are for the National Living Wage and the National Minimum Wage from April 2019:
- £4.35 if you are aged under 18
- £6.15 if you are aged 18 to 20
- £7.70 if you are aged 21 to 24
- £8.21 if you are aged 25 and over (the National Living Wage)
The rates change every April.
You can find out more on GOV.UK.
Tax and National Insurance contributions
If you work part-time or on a casual or temporary basis while you are a student, you usually pay Income Tax and National Insurance contributions if you earn more than a certain amount each year. This applies whether you are employed or self-employed.
If you undertaking work on an employed basis your employer will usually deduct Income Tax and National Insurance from your wages through Pay As You Earn (PAYE).
If you undertaking work on a self-employed (or freelance) basis you are responsible for paying your own Income Tax and National Insurance contributions through a process called Self Assessment.
Where to look for more information:
- The Low Incomes Tax Reforms Group has produced a tax guide for students with a special section for international students
- GOV.UK has information on paying tax and National Insurance (NI) contributions while you are a student
- There is excellent advice on paying tax and National Insurance on the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) website