Part-time and vacation work
Why do it?
There are many benefits to working part time during university, such as:
- Earning money during your studies
- Gaining valuable skills for future employment (e.g. team work, commercial awareness)
- Building your experience in an area that you’re interested in
- Finding out more about the world of work
- Networking and building contacts
Take time to put together a strong application, so you make a good first impression and improve your chance of being invited to interview. Even part time jobs can be very competitive, so it is important not to rush this stage. See the Careers website for sample CVs and advice on topics such as applications, cover letters, interviews and more.
Where to look for a part-time job
Part-time work is found in a number of areas, such as admin, childcare, customer service, retail, tutoring and hospitality. For a wide range of opportunities visit:
It can be challenging to find part-time work that is linked to your degree or the industry you want to work in after graduation. Many students combine part time work with some volunteering to gain valuable work experience while they earn money.
Roles on Campus
There are many part-time opportunities on campus, from Student Ambassadors and Library Shelvers, to residential, café, and bar staff. To find opportunities on campus see:
Campus jobs are in high demand, so get your application in early. Limiting your search to only jobs on campus will restrict your success, so look for opportunities in the local area too.
Roles in the local area
QMUL is surrounded by great areas full of shops, bars and restaurants, all which will have vacancies. By looking at lists of shops in each area, you can think of who to contact about vacancies.
- Westfield Stratford City is only one underground stop away from QMUL, visit their website for a list of shops and restaurants which may have vacancies.
- Spitalfields market is close by and has a number of bars, shops and restaurants.
- Oxford Circus is just 15 minutes away on the tube and many different shops and restaurants.
Many independent local businesses still advertise vacancies in their windows. This is where handing in CVs in person can work.
Most retailers and restaurants recruit additional staff for the increased demand during Christmas and the January sales. Tourist attractions, festivals and sports venues often recruit for summer roles, and there is usually an increase in the demand for tutors and around exam time.
How do I get a part time job?
Please see the 'why work' section of this guide for details about where to find work.
A great way to hear about opportunities is to ask family and friends whether they are aware of any vacancies. Perhaps a friend works somewhere where they are looking for extra staff for example. If you have had a part time job before you came to Queen Mary, you could ask if you can be transferred to a London branch.
Get CV/application feedback
Even though the role is part time, competition can be fierce so you will still need to put effort into your application. Each time you apply for a job your CV will be different, as it should explain how your skills and experience fit exactly what that particular recruiter is looking for. Queen Mary Careers and Enterprise has an online CV checking tool that you can use to build your CV from scratch, or use to get instant tailored feedback on your CV. You can also book an appointment with the Careers & Enterprise Centre for feedback from an adviser – visit the Careers website to find out more and to book an appointment.
Have a practice interview
Once you have been invited to an interview contact the Careers & Enterprise Centre to book a practice interview. You can also access a range of resources and tools online to help you prepare for your interview, including a virtual practice interview simulator. Keep copies of any applications you send, along with the job description for the jobs you have applied to, as you will need these when preparing for the interview. Visit the Careers website for more information and to book a practice interview.
Making your own opportunities
There are a number of other ways to get experience and earn money, most of which come down to using your initiative and being proactive.
Enterprise appointments are available in the Careers & Enterprise centre (phone 0207 882 8533) for students at any stage of developing a business or a business idea:
- If you have a business idea and don’t know where to start
- If you have set up a business and would like some more guidance
- If you need financial support to get your idea up and running
You can discuss anything from initial ideas, marketing strategies to funding applications. For more info, book an appointment or visit the Entrepreneurship page on the Careers and Enterprise Centre’s website.
If you have skills which can be offered to employers on a casual basis such as writing, tutoring or child minding, freelancing can be a way to earn money flexibly. Often this would mean contacting employers directly. In some cases employers may advertise freelance roles. See the Self-Employment paragraph within the Income Tax section of this guide to find out more about how this changes your tax and National Insurance status.
Careers events take place throughout the year on a range of topics and include employer workshops and alumni networking events. Attending events are a great way to find out about available opportunities and to get tips on how to succeed in the application process. Keep checking the calendar to stay up to date with the latest careers events at Queen Mary and beyond. To download online copies of our career information sheets click here.
Identifying fake jobs and scams
If a job is offering you the opportunity to earn money quickly, without requiring any skills and perhaps not even inviting you to interview, it could well be a scam. Legitimate employers will never ask you to send them money for set up costs or to make use of your bank account. Looking at company website can help you decide whether the employer is genuine. Does it look professional and up to date? Do they have professional email addresses (rather than a Hotmail or Gmail account) and do they provide details of their office address and phone number?
Other useful sources of help: Queen Mary Legal Advice Centre, Government website with Employment terms and conditions advice, Citizens Advice Bureau
Visit the Careers website for more information on the types of appointment we offer, and to book.
Keep up to date with the latest news and information by following us on our Social Media pages:
By law an employer is required to pay their staff a minimum amount of money, which depends on the age of the employee. If you are under aged under 25 this is called the National Minimum Wage, and if you are aged 25 or over this is called the National Living Wage.
The rates change every April and are available online.
Many jobs pay more than the minimum amount, but it is illegal for an employer to pay you less.
For advice on what to do if your employer is paying less than the minimum amount, as well as on other issues such as working for an employment agency, you can ring the Acas Helpline on 0300 123 1100. The helpline can take calls in over 100 languages.
Alternatively, there is an online helpline.
Most people pay Income Tax through PAYE, which means that your employer takes Income Tax contributions before they pay you your wages. Income Tax is administered by a government department called HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
For more information about tax for students see:
How much Income Tax will you pay?
You have a ‘personal tax allowance’ which is the amount of earnings in a tax year on which you do not have to pay income tax.
Check gov.uk for information on Income Tax, including personal allowances for current and previous years. On gov.uk you can also estimate your Income Tax for the current tax year too.
When you start a job your employer should ask for ‘new starter information’ (previously called the P46 form). It's a sort of checklist which gives HMRC the information it needs to work out your PAYE code, or tax code. See https://www.gov.uk/tax-codes/what-your-paye-coding-notice-means
Most young people's tax code will be 1250L, which indicates they are exempt until they earn more than £12,500.
In each month that you work, your employer should not tax you on any earnings up to the value of one-twelfth of your annual personal tax allowance, which is £1042 (£12,500 divided by 12). Any monthly earnings above £1042 should be taxed at 20%. The tax free allowance is cumulative, so for example if you earned £842 in April, £200 of your unused tax free allowance would carry forward to May, and be added to the £1042 tax free allowance for that month, giving you up to £1242 tax free earnings.
Working more than one job at the same time
If you have more than one job at the same time, only one job should have your full personal tax allowance set against it. When you start another job, you will need to declare this information to your employer as part of their new starter checklist. Normally your employer at the second job will have to take basic rate tax at 20% from all of your wages.
Try to ensure that your personal allowance (probably 1250L code) is set against your largest source of earnings and basic rate on any secondary sources for earnings.
Watch for duplication of allowances as this could lead to an underpayment of tax.
However, if you know that over the whole tax year your total income from all jobs will still be below your personal tax allowance, you can either:
- pay Income Tax as you earn and then claim a refund at the end of the tax year (see 'claiming back overpaid tax' below); or
- contact HMRC and ask them to split your personal tax allowance between all your jobs
When you leave your job, your employer should give you a P45 or ‘leaver form’, which should show your PAYE code, your total earnings and how much tax you paid. This is explained here.
It is important to keep your P45 as you need to give part of it to your new employer, so they know what tax code to put you on. You also need your P45 to reclaim any overpaid tax.
At the end of each tax year, your employer should give you a P60 form, which shows your total earnings and tax paid in that tax year. Keep your P60 safe as you will need it if you want to reclaim any overpaid tax (see below).
Claiming back overpaid tax
The HMRC website has a tool you can use to check how much income tax you should have paid for a previous tax year, so you can see if you paid too much. You will need details of your earnings before and after tax, which you can get from your P60 form, which your employer will provide you with after the end of the tax year in April.
You need to wait until the end of the tax year to reclaim any overpaid tax. For instructions on how to do this, click here.
Claiming refunds for previous tax years
For previous years, you may be able to claim back any tax you have overpaid if you claim within certain time limits. You can check these time limits online.
If you've paid too much tax for previous years, HMRC will send you a P800 Tax Calculation and any refund you may be due by the September after the tax year. You do not need to send them your P60 certificate.
If you think you are due a repayment and HMRC has not notified you by the September after the tax year then you can telephone or write to tell them why you think you've paid too much tax.
In most cases you'll get back the tax you've overpaid as long as you claim on time. You can get more information and check the time limits on applying for a repayment of overpaid tax here.
Leaving the UK
If you are leaving the UK and not coming back before the end of the current tax year, and you have paid income tax, to claim back any overpayment you can either apply online or complete form P85 and send it by post.
If you have student or Tier 4 immigration permission (a “student visa”), your work restriction prohibits you from being self-employed in the UK. You can ignore this section.
You are self-employed if you run your own business or if you work on a freelance basis. You are also self-employed if you sell goods (including online trading) that you buy with the intention of re-selling them, or if you make items yourself and sell them, intending to make a profit.
If you are self-employed, you normally need to pay Income Tax and National Insurance Contributions, and fill out a Self-Assessment tax return. You may also need to register for VAT. You need to let HMRC know as soon as you start working for yourself. You can register online, by post or by phone. For information see: https://www.gov.uk/business-tax/self-employed
The QMUL Careers & Enterprise Centre can also advise on self-employment and starting your own business, and there is information in this guide in the previous section ‘Making your own opportunities’.
What is National Insurance?
National Insurance (NI) is a compulsory 12% tax on your weekly earnings between £183 and £962. You pay NI for each week that you earn over £183. It is taken from your wages automatically.
If you have more than one employer, they will all apply the allowance. So, for example, if you have more than one employer, but earn less than £183 per week from each one, you will not pay NI contributions even if your total pay is more than £183.
Some of your NI contributions help pay for essential public services, and some are paid into the UK’s state pension fund. You cannot get a refund of these contributions.
How do I apply for a NI number
UK nationals normally receive their NI number at the age of 16.
Non-UK nationals who want to work must apply for an NI number. You can do this when you start looking for work, or when someone offers you a job, or when you start work for the first time.
The whole process of applying for an NI number is explained online.
To apply for an NI number, contact the National Insurance application line 0800 141 2075. Lines are open Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm. You must know your home postcode when you ring.
When you ring, you will either be asked to attend an ‘evidence of identity’ interview at your local Job Centre Plus, or you will be sent a postal application. If you are asked to attend an interview, check exactly what documents you will need to take with you: this is usually a range of original documents such as your passport, national identity card, birth certificate or driving licence. International students may need evidence that they are enrolled at QMUL. If you need evidence of enrolment:
If you are looking for work or already working you may also need to provide evidence of this such as job applications or a letter from your employer. It might take up to 12 weeks before you receive your NI number through the post, but you can work, and be paid, while you are waiting.
Do I need a NI number before I start work?
Some employers wrongly think that a National Insurance number is proof of your right to work in the UK and that they need to see that you have one before you can start work. This is incorrect. As proof that you can work in the UK, an employer only needs to see (and make a copy of) your immigration permission, or evidence of your status that allows you to work, either in your current passport or on your Biometric Residence Permit. There is information online for employers about how to check if someone can work in the UK.
However, a few employers choose to only offer jobs to people who already have an NI number. This can be the case with some recruitment agencies, including QTemps, run by the QMUL Careers and Enterprise Centre.
Please note that if you would like to work or you are currently working in the UK, you will be subject to employer checks (your employer checking that you have the right to work in the UK). There is information on employer checks in the section of this guide 'International students: the rules about working'.
Students who are subject to immigration control are not normally eligible for welfare benefits. This includes:
- anyone who has immigration permission to stay in the UK as a student (a “student/Tier 4 visa”) or
- EU/EEA and Swiss nationals who are not living in the UK by 31st December 2020 and will not be applying under the EU Settlement Scheme to stay in the UK beyond the date the UK leaves the EU. See the welfare benefit section of our EEA Rights page for more information.
If the above applies to you, you will most likely have a prohibition on claiming public funds, which includes most welfare benefits, and you can ignore this whole section.
Universal Credit (UC)
UC is a new means-tested benefit. It is paid as a single monthly payment for people who are looking for work or on a low income. It is replacing Income Support, Income Related Employment and Support Allowance, Income-based Job Seekers Allowance, Housing Benefit, and Child and Working Tax Credits.
You will make one online claim for your living costs, housing and dependent children. It will be made up of a standard allowance plus other 'elements' - for example for children, childcare, housing and caring. There will also be an element for those with limited capability for work. The amount you could get will depend on your own circumstances. If you qualify, your monthly payment will cover everyone in your family who qualifies for support. 'Family' could mean you as a single person for example, or you might also be claiming for a partner and/or children. There are more details on the gov.uk website.
Can I claim UC if I can’t find work?
UC is the benefit for people who are available for work and actively seeking work. Most full-time students cannot claim UC on this basis because they are not seen as available for work, even during vacations and even if they are looking for work. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. Please see the following webpages and advice guides for more information:
Earnings and Benefits
If you are someone who is eligible to claim welfare benefits, your earnings may reduce your benefit entitlements. There may also be limitations about the number of hours you can work before your benefits are affected.
You must tell the office that pays your benefit about your income.
If you would like more information about how any earnings might affect your benefits, contact a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service.
Tax credits help people who are on a low income, they are being replaced by UC and it is not possible to make a new claim for Tax Credits.
You do not need to have children to claim certain tax credits. There are two types of tax credits: Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. You may be eligible for one or both. They are income assessed and paid by HM Revenue and Customs. You can get a claim form from the Tax Credits helpline: 0845 300 3900. For information about current eligibility for tax credits and how to claim, see the gov.uk website.
Note: Some EEA nationals can claim tax credits if they satisfy certain residence conditions. Contact a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service if you need more information.
European Economic Area and Swiss students: the rules about working
Your right to work will be different according to the type of UK immigration permission you have.
It is essential that you understand how your immigration permission might affect your right to work in the UK so that you do not break any conditions of your stay. Please check the option which applies to you below:
You have been granted Pre-Settled or Settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, or you have the right to apply for it by the deadline of 30th June 2021 because you were living in the UK by 31st December 2020.
You can work legally in the UK with no restriction on the number of hours or type of work you are allowed to do.
You have been granted Student immigration permission because you moved to the UK after 31st December 2020.
EU/EEA and Swiss nationals who move to the UK after 31st December 2020 will usually need to apply for Student immigration permission. Your right to work is then restricted and we explain what those restrictions are in the International Students section of this guide. It is essential that you understand those restrictions as breaching them means you are in breach of your immigration permission which has serious consequences.
You are in the UK with Visitor immigration permission because you moved to the UK after 31st December 2020 and are studying on a course of less than 6 months
If you have come to the UK as a Visitor, you cannot work, either paid or unpaid. However you can undertake genuine volunteering, which has a specific definition different to unpaid work.
The rules for Visitors state:
- the volunteering lasts no more than 30 days in total and;
- it is for a charity that is registered with the Charity Commission.
Please note this is not the same as voluntary work which is not permitted.
The Home Office guidance differentiates between volunteering which is allowed and voluntary work which is not:
- often have a contract with their employer (this means the employer must provide the work and the voluntary worker must attend at particular times and carry out specific tasks)
- are also usually remunerated in kind
- do not have a contract of employment
- must not take the place of an employee
- must not receive payment in kind but reimbursement for reasonable travel and subsistence expenses is allowed
- support a charity or voluntary or public sector organisation, but must not be undertaking work ancillary to the organisation’s charitable purpose including, for example, routine back office administrative roles, retail or other sales roles, fund-raising roles and roles involved in the maintenance of the organisation
If you do not have permission to work, and you work, (paid or unpaid), you are committing a criminal offence. The immigration authorities treat work restrictions very seriously. They can refuse your immigration application, or remove you from the UK, if you work too many hours or if you do work which you are not allowed to do. You might also be barred from returning to the UK for a certain period.
Employers have a legal obligation to check whether EU, EEA and Swiss citizens have a right to work in the UK where the employment starts on or after 1 July 2021. Employers are not required to retrospectively check the status of people they employed before 1 July 2021.
Once you have been granted Pre-Settled or Settled Status, or applied for your visa and used the UK Immigration ID Check to scan your identity document onto your phone, you will be able to access a share code online which you can show to employers as evidence of your status in the UK. Employers will no longer be able to accept EU passports or ID cards as valid proof of right-to-work, except for Irish citizens. The gov.uk webpages explain what landlords need to check.
International students: the rules about working
The information on this page applies to nationals of all countries outside the EEA. This information also applies to nationals of the EU/EEA/Switzerland who move to the UK from 1 January 2021 onwards with Student immigration permission.
EU/EEA/Swiss nationals who moved to the UK before the end of 2020 have different working rights and should read the rules about working for EEA nationals.
Please note that if your studies change or stop, this can affect your right to work: this is explained in the section below on Interrupting, resitting or withdrawing.
- If you have Student or Tier 4 (General) Student immigration permission
- If you have Visitor or Short Term Student or immigration permission
- How many hours a week can I work?
- Employer checks
- Restrictions on the type of work you can do
- Interrupting, resitting out of attendance or withdrawing
- Completing your course early
- Changing your Sponsor
- Working after the end of your programme with Student or Tier 4 immigration permission
- Consequences of breaching a work condition
- Work placements
- Working for an employer based outside the UK
- People with an immigration status other than 'student' or 'visitor' or 'short term student'
- Staying the the UK to work after your studies
If you have Student or Tier 4 immigration permission for full-time studies at Queen Mary, you can work part-time during your studies - see below for details of how many hours and what type of work you can do. The wording on your immigration sticker in your passport or in the ‘Remarks’ section of your Biometric Residence Permit will state your work conditions. You must check this carefully.
If you have Student or Tier 4 immigration permission for a part-time course, you are not permitted to work at all in the UK.
If you have come to the UK as a Visitor or Short Term Student (for example: because you are doing a course of study of six months or less), you cannot work, either paid or unpaid. However you can undertake genuine volunteering, which has a specific definition different to unpaid work. See the section below on volunteering / unpaid work.
If you do not have permission to work, and you work, (paid or unpaid) you are committing a criminal offence. The immigration authorities treat work restrictions very seriously. They can refuse your immigration application, or remove you from the UK, if you work too many hours or if you do work which you are not allowed to do. You might also be barred from returning to the UK for a certain period.
If you are studying on a degree level programme and have the standard Student or Tier 4 immigration permission work restriction, you can work up to 20 hours in any one week during term-time, (or 10 hours a week for certain programmes[*]). Since 6 April 2017, 'week' has been defined in the Immigration Rules as "a period of 7 days beginning with a Monday". It is essential that you work no more than 20 hours (or 10 hours for certain programmes) in any seven-day period starting on a Monday. If you work irregular hours and / or have more than one employer, you will need to keep detailed records of how many hours you work each day so that you can be sure you are not in danger of breaching your work conditions.
If you are found to be working more than your weekly limit of 10 or 20 hours in any week during term time, you can face serious consequences. The immigration authorities treat work restrictions very seriously. They can refuse your immigration application, or remove you from the UK, if you work too many hours or if you do work which you are not allowed to do. You might also be barred from returning to the UK for a certain period.
If an employer asks you to work more than your weekly allowed hours during term time, explain that you cannot do this as you must comply with the conditions of your immigration permission. Some employers may tell you that it is fine to do just a few hours extra a week, or that you must only maintain an average of less 10 or 20 hours per week, or that overtime does not count. None of these things are true: you would be working illegally. For more information see Consequences of breaching a work condition below.
You can work full-time (or any hours above the term-time limit) during the University vacations that apply to your programme of study. If you are an undergraduate, your vacations will be the standard Christmas, Easter and summer vacations that apply to your programme. If you are studying on a one year taught postgraduate programme, your vacations will usually be just at Christmas and Easter: the summer is not vacation time. You use this time to complete a project or dissertation, or sit exams, and you can only work a maximum of 20 hours per week until the official end date of your programme. See Queen Mary's calendar for the official term dates.
If you are a continuing undergraduate student, you can work full-time up to the start of re-sits when you must revert to 20 hours for the whole of the Late Summer res-sit period, ususally a two week period. After this you can revert to full-time hours until the start of the new academic year.
Postgraduate research students
If you are a postgraduate research student your vacations will be agreed with your supervisor, and are normally for 6 weeks a year.
Employers have a legal obligation to check that you are allowed to work in the UK, so you must be able to provide evidence of your immigration permission. Currently, you can show your physical documents (usually passport or BRP card) or your employer can check your right to work electronically. You can generate a share code electronically so that your employer can check your right to work electronically. From 6 April 2022, employers will no longer be able to accept or check a physical BRP as valid proof of right to work, even if it shows a later expiry date. From this date they will have to undertake the electronic right to work check.
Employers are required by law to obtain and retain details of the term time and vacation dates of a course a student employee (who has limited leave to remain in the UK) is undertaking. This means that employers can see when your working hours are limited, and when they are unrestricted. The employer should request this evidence from the employee, either annually or for the entire course, in any of the following forms:
- A printout from the institution’s website or other institutional material which confirms your course timetable, or
- A print out of the timetable from your academic school, or
- A print out of the official Queen Mary calender
There is more information about employer checks on the UKCISA website.
As well as a restriction on the number of hours that you can work, there are also restrictions on the type of work that international students can do. You cannot:
- be self-employed*
- work as a professional sportsperson (including a sports coach)
- work as an entertainer
- work as a doctor or dentist in training (except on a recognised Foundation Programme)
- work in a position which would fill a permanent full-time vacancy (except on a recognised foundation programme or as a Students’ Union sabbatical officer)
- engage in business activity. A Student will be considered to be engaging in business activity if they are working for a business in which they have a financial or other significant beneficial interest in a capacity other than as an employee. There is more information about the meaning of business activity in The Student and Child Student Home Office guidance.
*There is information on the gov.uk website about what counts as self-employed. You are self-employed if you run your own business or if you work on a freelance basis. You are also self-employed if you sell goods (including online trading such as eBay or Amazon) that you buy with the intention of re-selling them, or if you make items yourself and sell them, intending to make a profit.
If you are not attending your programme because you are interrupting, re-sitting out of attendance or you have withdrawn, you must stop working as soon as this change to your studies takes effect. If you continue to work you will be in breach of your immigration conditions.
Please note: If you are re-sitting out of attendance and the end date of your course as stated on your CAS has already passed and you are not therefore reported to UK Visas and Immigration by QMUL's Immigration Compliance Team, we understand that you would still have immigration permission which allows you to stay in the UK and work. However it would be difficult to argue that you are in an official vacation period, and you have not completed your course, and therefore it is advised that you do not work more than 20 hours per week during this period.
We explain on our curtailment web page what will happen if you successfully complete your course earlier than expected (for example because you changed programme to a shorter one). In this situation you can work as described in the section below 'Working after the end of your programme with student immigration permission'.
If you have been granted immigration permission to study with a different education provider, it should be clear from your new immigration permission whether you are permitted to work and for how long. If you are in the process of changing your educational provider you can continue to work in accordance with your current immigration permission if you have started studying with your new sponsor, but only if you have a Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) to study a course with the new sponsor, the sponsor is a Student Sponsor (which QMUL is), and you make a new immigration application before starting the new course. For more information, please refer to Annex B of the Home Office guidance 'An employer's guide to write to work checks' and contact a Welfare Adviser if you are unsure.
As well as in vacations, you can also work more than 20 hours a week between the official end date of your programme and the end of your permission to stay in the UK, which is normally about four months, depending on the length of your course. If you have finished your exams, or if you complete your dissertation early, you should not normally work more than 20 hours a week until the official programme end date. If you are a postgraduate research student, you can work full-time after formal submission of your thesis for examination to the Research Degrees Office, after you have defended your viva and completed your corrections.
Furthermore, you can only work more than 20 hours a week after the end of your programme if you have actually completed the programme. For example, if you learn that you have not passed your final exams/coursework and have to take resits, you must change back to 20 hours or less (although see the ‘Warning’ above if you will be re-sitting out of attendance).
If you have been given more than 4 months immigration permission beyond the end date of your course, or if you finish your course earlier than expected, you should only work up until the 4 month point beyond the end date of the course. Working beyond this time will be a breach of immigration conditions. Contact a Welfare Adviser for advice.
If you have overstayed on your immigration permission you must not work in the UK. If you have been working you must stop work immediately when your immigration permission expires.
Those who breach a prohibition on working, or who take employment that is not permitted within the Student or Tier 4 Immigration Rules, or who work more than the permitted number of weekly hours, or who work when they don’t have valid immigration permission, can face serious consequences.
The Immigration Act 2016 strengthened punishments for employers of illegal workers (those who do not have immigration permission), including doubling the maximum civil penalty to £20,000 per illegal worker.
It also made illegal working a criminal offence in its own right, with a maximum custodial sentence of six months and/or a fine of the statutory maximum (unlimited in England and Wales) and allows wages paid to all illegal workers to be recoverable under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
The immigration authorities treat work restrictions very seriously. They can refuse your immigration application, or remove you from the UK, if you work too many hours or if you do work which you are not allowed to do. You might also be barred from returning to the UK for a certain period.
There is a difference between unpaid work, voluntary work and volunteering.
If you have a work prohibition, because you are in the UK under the Visitor or Short Term Student immigration category, you cannot do unpaid work or voluntary work.
Volunteering is allowed.
The rules for Visitors state:
- the volunteering lasts no more than 30 days in total and;
- it is for a charity that is registered with the Charity Commission.
Please note this is not the same as voluntary work which is not permitted. The Home Office guidance differentiates between voluntary work which is not allowed and volunteering which is:
- often have a contract with their employer (this means the employer must provide the work and the voluntary worker must attend at particular times and carry out specific tasks)
- are also usually remunerated in kind
- do not have a contract of employment
- must not take the place of an employee must not receive payment in kind but reimbursement for reasonable travel and subsistence expenses is allowed
- support a charity or voluntary or public sector organisation, but must not be undertaking work ancillary to the organisation’s charitable purpose including, for example, routine back office administrative roles, retail or other sales roles, fund-raising roles and roles involved in the maintenance of the org
The rules for Short Term Student state:
- You do not have a contract of employment.
- You must not take the place of an employee.
- You must not receive payment in kind, but reimbursement for reasonable travel and subsistence expenses is allowed.
- You will usually be helping a charity or voluntary or public sector organisation.
Please note volunteering as a Visitor or Short Term Student is not the same as voluntary work which is not permitted.
If you wish to volunteer, check with the organisation you wish to volunteer with that the role meets the government rules for volunteering for either Visitor or Short Term Student, because if it is voluntary work or unpaid work instead, you will be breaching your immigration conditions. See the helpful government guidance about the differences between volunteering and voluntary work for those with Visitor and Short Term Student immigration permission.
If you have a work restriction, unpaid work and voluntary work counts towards your weekly limit on hours of work. So, if you want to volunteer, check with the organisation you wish to volunteer with that the role meets the government rules for volunteering (see above) to avoid breaching your weekly limit on hours of work.
If you are undertaking a work placement, which is an assessed and integral part of your course, you are permitted to work full-time on this placement, even during term-time. Please note this is only the case if it is an assessed as an integral part of your course.
If you are doing a work placement which is an assessed as an integral part of your course, you can work your permitted hours per week in addition to working on your placement. If you finish your work placement early, you are still considered to be in term-time until the official end date as stated on your CAS.
If you are doing work which is not a placement and is not therefore an assessed and integral part of your course, then you must adhere to the working limit in line with your Student or Tier 4 immigration permission (no more than 20 hours per week for courses at degree level and above).
If you are studying with Student or Tier 4 immigration permission, there is no longer any provision in the Immigration Rules for doing an internship. If you wish to gain work experience with a company, you need to ensure that any work you do meets the conditions of your immigration permission. For example, you could only work full-time during a vacation period from your programme of study.
If you are working for an employer based outside the UK and you are physically not inside the UK, your Student visa work conditions do not apply. You should check the work rights in the country you are working.
If you are physically in the UK, working for an employer based outsdie the UK, for example you are working for an employer remotely, or doing a "virtual internship" any hours you work for them will count towards your 10 or 20 hour maximum.
If your permission to be in the UK is not as a student, short term student or visitor but as someone’s dependant, you normally have no restriction on working. If you have another immigration status, you should make sure you understand whether you can work and, if you can work, whether you have any restrictions. This is usually shown on the UK immigration sticker or stamp in your passport or on your Biometric Residence Permit. If you are unsure, check with a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service.
If your permission to be in the UK is under a different category such as one of the work categories, although there is no prohibition on you studying full-time, if you need to extend your immigration permission in any of these categories, you may not be able to meet the criteria for extending such as a minimum earnings requirement in the preceding 12 months if you have not been working full-time.
For information on the possible immigration options that allow people to stay and work in the UK after studies see the Advice and Counselling Service website.
[*]If the programme you are studying on is not degree level you can only work up to 10 hours per week during term time. The programmes that this applies to at QMUL are all English language courses including pre-sessional programmes and the International Science and Engineering Foundation Programme. However, if you have immigration permission which covers both a pre-sessional and a main degree level programme, you should still be able to work up to 20 hours per week. Always check what it says in your passport or your Biometric Residence Permit and make sure you do not work more hours a week than you are allowed.