Additional requirements for employed student visa holders

Most undergraduate and taught postgraduate students on Tier 4 visas are restricted to a maximum of 20 hours per week work during term-time/ any time during which they have study commitments (this includes any weeks when the student has study commitments, even if this is outside of the standard term-time). Paid and unpaid work counts towards the student's maximum permitted working hours. For information on acceptable evidence of term and vacation dates see guidance below.

Most postgraduate research students on Tier 4 visas are restricted to a maximum 20 hours per week work all year round, as research students are not considered to have terms. For further details about employing Tier 4 postgraduates please see guidance below.

Short Term Study and visitor visa holders are prohibited from taking any employment, whether paid or unpaid. You must check the student’s visa for any work restrictions.

Please contact the Student Visa and Immigration team for more information or queries about Tier 4 student visas and how to recognise when a student visa holder is permitted to work.

Where a Tier 4 visa holder is applying to switch into Tier 2 to take up the role in question they are permitted to start work during their application for a Tier 2 visa. See Switching from a Tier 4 visa into Tier 2 General for additional information.

Biometric Residence Permits for overseas applcants

Biometric Residence Permits (BRP) (credit-card sized plastic visa cards) are now issued to those applying overseas for permission to stay in the UK for more than six months. The applicant will be issued with a 30 day vignette (visa in their passport) to enable them to enter the UK but they must then collect their BRP within 10 days from a designated Post Office.

A letter issued to the applicant along with their 30 day vignette details the designated Post Office and the date from which the BRP will be available for collection, based on the UK address and intended travel date listed in the visa application. The passport containing the vignette and the letter must be presented when collecting the BRP. If the applicant does not collect their BRP within 10 days they could face a financial penalty and have may have their visa curtailed. Guidance in relation to BRPs for overseas applicants, and the schedule for the international roll-out, can be found on the Home Office website.

When conducting a right to work check, departments/ colleges must ensure that a copy of the Biometric Residence Permit is taken (where the visa holder is expected to hold one), as well as the 30 day vignette showing the entry date stamp. Visa holders should be advised to collect their Biometric Residence Permit before starting work so that a right to work check can be completed in full as required.

If for any reason a visa holder is unable to collect their Biometric Residence Permit before they commence work, the department/college may rely on the 30 day vignette as proof of right to work (assuming it is valid) only up to the expiry date of this temporary visa. The visa holder should be advised to collect their Biometric Residence Permit as soon as possible and before the 30 day vignette expires and present it to their department or college as proof of continued right to work. In these circumstances, departments and colleges must complete an initial right to work check on the 30 day vignette and a repeat right to work check on the Biometric Residence Permit before the 30 day vignette expires.

Departments and colleges will recognise those applicants from overseas who should have a Biometric Residence Permit by the expiry date of their vignette (visa in their passport). Those who should be issued with a Biometric Residence Permit will have a visa in their passport valid for only one month.

Work restrictions for student visa holders

Tier 4 Student visa holders are not permitted to:

  • be self-employed
  • be employed as a professional sportsperson including as a sports coach
  • be employed as an entertainer
  • take a permanent full-time job
  • work as a doctor or dentist in training, unless they are on the foundation programme.

Students may take voluntary work. Any hours spent doing voluntary/ unpaid work counts towards the student’s maximum permitted hours during term time.

Following completion of their studies, students may work full-time. Completion of studies is usually interpreted as when the final exam is sat or when leave to supplicate is granted. In either case students should not work more than four months full-time on their student visa following completion of studies unless they have submitted a valid application for a new visa status. Students who complete early and have a long period remaining on their student visa will be reported to the Home Office and their visa will be curtailed short, and this generally takes three to four months so the student should not be disadvantaged compared to those who complete on schedule.

The above restrictions on the type of work that is prohibited still apply. You must seek written confirmation from the research supervisor/ confirmation that the student’s thesis has been submitted or that the student has completed their studies before employing a student visa holder – see further information below. Note that where a student is later required to complete corrections, they are then considered to be studying again and the restrictions on maximum hours permitted for employment during term-time must be adhered to.

Improvements to the casual payment process

Improvements to the casual payment process will enable the Staff Immigration Team to undertake routine monthly checks to ensure that all casual workers have a valid Right to Work check included on their CoreHR record, and to monitor the weekly working hours undertaken by casuals on a Tier 4 visa to ensure they do not exceed the maximum hours imposed by their visa. If the Staff Immigration Team identify any compliance issues, payment to the casual worker would be withheld pending investigation.

The new process will require any Tier 4 student who plans to work more than 20 hours in any week to email Tier4casualpayments@admin.ox.ac.uk to provide SIT with their name, student number and course and if a PGR student, a scanned copy of the letter from their doctoral supervisor providing the dates that they are ‘on holiday’ from their research studies. This will allow SIT to authorise the payment. If you know any Tier 4 student who will be working over 20 hours in a week, please make them aware of this change. All Tier 4 students will be informed of this change.

The new process will be adopted by over 60% of departments in “phase one” from November 2016. There will be a phase 2 in 2017 to include all other departments.

Junior Deans

In all cases where graduate Tier 4 students are employed their weekly working hours must not exceed 20 hours which includes hours worked as a Junior Dean and any other work that they do across all employers. Junior Deans who are Tier 4s may be on-call in case something happens at night, and only the time spent dealing with incidents will count towards the 20 hour limit (being on-call in case something happens is distinguished from situations in which those who are on-call at night expect frequent call outs). In practice, except in extremely exceptional circumstances, the average number of times that Tier 4 JDs can be called out to deal with welfare and disciplinary matters at night should not exceed once a week in term time and once a month during the vacation. Where the pattern of frequency of call out regularly exceeds this guidance, alternative arrangements to staffing JD posts should be made.

Completing a right to work check for student visa holders

In addition to completing a right to work check using the student’s visa and passport following the normal right to work check process  you are also required to obtain additional documentation in relation to the student’s term and vacation dates specific to their particular course of study, and information about any work taken elsewhere in addition to the work you are offering before allowing the student to start work. See further guidance below.

Confirmation of term and vacation dates for employed student visa holders

In order to establish when you may employ a student visa holder full-time and when you must adhere to the restricted term-time hours as noted on their visa, you must seek evidence to confirm the student’s term and vacation dates.

For Oxford students on Tier 4 visas, it is acceptable to hold this information in the form of printed term dates from the website or other official published material. There is no requirement to hold a copy on each Oxford student’s file but there must be a copy easily accessible should the Home Office wish to see it at any time; we suggest a copy is placed in the cabinet/place that Personnel files are kept.

For non-Oxford students on Tier 4 visas, confirmation of term dates must be held on each individual file alongside the right to work check documentation. The Home Office will only accept one of the following forms of evidence in these circumstances:

  • A printout from the student’s education institution’s website or other material published by the institution setting out its timetable for the student’s course of study, (you should check the website to confirm the link is genuine); or
  • A copy of a letter or email addressed to the student from their education institution confirming term time dates for the student’s course; or
  • A letter addressed to you as the employer from the education institution confirming term time dates for the student’s course.

Employing undergraduate & taught postgraduate students

For undergraduate and taught postgraduate students, a print out of the University’s timetable is acceptable evidence of term and vacation dates as long as these are the dates followed for the student’s particular course of study. Please see the following webpage for Oxford’s term and vacation dates. For students from other education institutions, you will need to refer to the website of that institution for their respective term and vacation dates.

Employing graduate research students

Graduate research students are considered to have study commitments throughout the year and do not follow the standard pattern of vacations. As such, a graduate research student should generally not be employed for more than 20 hours per week (even outside of the normal term times), however, see paragraph below for instances where you need to employ a graduate research student more than 20 hours per week.

When completing a right to work check for an employed student visa holder who is a graduate research student at Oxford you should print and retain a copy of the working while studying guidelines. This is sufficient to employ an Oxford graduate research student (who is a student visa holder) for up to twenty hours per week (along with a right to work check completed using their student visa and passport). If you wish to employ a student visa holder who is a graduate research student at another institution, you must ask for written confirmation of term and vacation dates for the student’s course from the institution.

In circumstances where it is agreed between the graduate research student and their research supervisor that they may work beyond 20 hours per week, you must seek written permission from the student’s research supervisor which confirms that the student is considered to be on vacation (specifying the dates), they are not expected to study/complete any work towards their thesis during this time and therefore may take full-time employment during the specified vacation period. You may use the Graduate Student Employment Template Letter (12kb)   to give to the student’s research supervisor to complete as evidence that the student may take full-time employment.

Confirmation of any other work

Where a student is employed during term-time when they have restrictions on the number of hours they may work (this applies to total number of hours worked in other departments at Oxford, in colleges and for external employers, not just in the employment you are offering, and includes both paid and unpaid work), you must ask the student to complete the Tier 4 Student Employment Declaration (84kb) to confirm that they are not employed anywhere else in excess of their permitted hours and/or the hours of work offered will not take them in excess of their permitted term-time hours.

Both the evidence of term and vacation dates (including the letter from the research supervisor for graduate students employed in excess of 20 hours per week) and the student work declaration must be obtained and retained with the right to work check before the student commences work.