When can I start to work full-time as an international student in the UK? | Top Universities

When can I start to work full-time as an international student in the UK?

By Keshala Jayawickrama

Updated February 29, 2024 Updated February 29, 2024

Navigating the landscape of employment opportunities as an international student in the UK is a crucial aspect of the student experience. Understanding the regulations, restrictions, and opportunities associated with working full-time is essential for maximising both academic and professional growth while studying abroad.  

In this article, we will explore the various aspects of working as an international student in the UK, including visa regulations, part-time work opportunities, and the transition to full-time employment post-graduation. By gaining insight into these key areas, international students can make informed decisions and capitalise on the valuable opportunities available to them during their time in the UK. 

Understanding visa regulations 

While you are on a student visa, and enrolled on a degree level full-time course, you will only be legally permitted to work on a part-time basis for a total of 20 hours a week during your studies. If the course you are enrolled on is below the degree level, you can only be working for a maximum of 10 hours a week including both paid and unpaid work. If you happen to take on more than one job, the total hours worked from both jobs should sum up to 20 hours a week.  

Additional restrictions on employment under the visa include: 

  • Refraining from claiming public funds or pensions 

  • Engaging in specific occupations such as professional sports roles or coaching 

  • Pursuing self-employment 

If you work more than 20 hours or 10 hours per week during term-time on a student visa in the UK, you risk violating the terms of your visa. This violation can have serious consequences, including potential deportation, visa revocation, and difficulty obtaining future visas or residency permits.  

Additionally, your employer could also face serious penalties if reported to the Home Office. It's crucial to adhere to the visa regulations regarding working hours to maintain compliance with immigration laws and protect your status as an international student in the UK.  

Part-time work opportunities 

For most international students, finding part-time employment during their studies is an essential requirement, mainly to gain extra income to help pay for living expenses. Common part-time job options include roles in retail, hospitality, tutoring, administrative support and customer service.  

Many universities also offer on-campus employment opportunities, such as working in libraries, student unions or academic departments. These roles not only offer financial support but also help students gain practical experience, improve their English language skills, and build professional networks. Additionally, part-time work can enhance students' resumes and increase their employability upon graduation. 

Full-time work opportunities post-graduation 

After completing your studies and outside of term time, you will be able to engage in full-time employment which usually amounts to 37.5 or 40 hours per week. Students on a tier four student visa who manage to successfully complete a degree level certification from a recognised education provider can then apply for a graduate visa/ post-study work visa following graduation. This will allow you to remain in the UK for at least another two years and to be employed full time. Holding a graduate visa/post-study work visa, you can: 

  • Work in most jobs 

  • Be self-employed  

  • Engage in voluntary work 

However, you can’t be employed as a professional sportsperson, apply for public funds or the state pension. 

There is a plethora of full-time work opportunities in several industries for international students within the UK after the completion of studies. Industries and sectors eager to recruit fresh talent and graduates include finance, technology, healthcare, education and hospitality. 

Additionally, many companies actively seek out international students for their unique perspectives, diverse skill sets, and global outlook. By leveraging networking opportunities, career fairs, and online job platforms, graduates can successfully navigate the job market and secure fulfilling roles that align with their interests and career aspirations. 

Tips for success 

Regardless of all the opportunities out there, the entire process of looking for and landing a full-time job can be challenging for most international students at first. So, here are a few tips to help you out with the process. 

  • Plan as early as possible: Identify what your career aspirations are and narrow down your options to a specific set of industries and job roles before you graduate and can work full-time.  

  • Network: Build relationships with peers, professors, and professionals in your field of study. Attend career fairs, networking events and workshops to expand your connections and learn about job opportunities. 

  • Tailor your CV and cover letter: Customise your CV and cover letter to fit the UK standards and requirements and to highlight transferrable skills and previous work experiences.  

  • Seek support: Take advantage of resources offered by your university's career services, such as resume reviews, mock interviews and job search workshops. Utilise online job boards for graduates, professional associations and social media platforms to explore job opportunities and connect with potential employers. 

  • Prepare for interviews: Practice common interview questions and be ready to discuss your academic achievements, work experience and career aspirations. Showcase your enthusiasm, professionalism and ability to contribute to the organisation. 

By following these tips and staying informed about visa regulations and employment opportunities, you can navigate the process of finding full-time work as an international student in the UK effectively.  

This article was originally published in February 2024 .

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