Eligibility to work for Tier 4 students and restrictions on type of work

Staff engaging students have a responsibility to ensure that they do not exceed the weekly hours allowed by their visa. Students with a Student / Tier 4 Visa are subject to working restrictions and it is the shared responsibility of the manager and student to ensure all work is carried out within the terms of the visa. Visa compliance is essential and takes precedence over any work commitments.

Students from outside the United Kingdom (UK) are allowed to take limited employment in the UK, providing their conditions of entry to the UK allow this.

Provided that the expiry date of the Tier 4 visa has not passed, a student on a tier 4 visa can work:

  • a maximum of 20 hours paid or unpaid work per week during term time for degree students
  • a maximum of 10 hours paid or unpaid work per week during term time for students studying courses below degree level;
  • full time outside of term time only i.e. during vacations and following completion of your course

Tier 4 student work hours

During term time, Tier 4 students must not undertake paid or unpaid work which would bring their total hours to more than 10/20 per week across all the work being undertaken. This includes paid, casual work, volunteering, acting as a student ambassador/invigilator, and any other type of paid or unpaid work both for the School and elsewhere. Tier 4 students must sign a declaration before undertaking work for SOAS.

The restriction on hours is an absolute maximum on the amount of work that can be done, which cannot be exceeded. The restriction on hours is on the visa holder and applies to all roles, for example, if the student is restricted to 20 hours and has two positions, they could do up to 20 hours across both roles, but not 20 hours in each role. Working hours are calculated on a weekly basis rather than a monthly average. Please use the weekly timesheet to submit hours worked to payroll for payment.

PhD student work hours

PhD students are required to book leave from their PhD studies, and have this confirmed by their supervisor, in order to take advantage of working full time. UKRI guidance suggests that PhD students should not work more than 6 hours per week during term time.

Prohibited, restricted and unrestricted work

A Student / Tier 4 Visa prohibits certain types of work (e.g. self-employment, business activity, paid sportsperson, sports coaching) and restricts other part-time work to a certain amount of hours per week. For prohibited work – both paid and unpaid – managers must ensure that Student / Tier 4 students are clearly told that the position is prohibited by Student / Tier 4 Visa conditions. (More information can be found under Rules and Restrictions below)

Where the University is not the employer, but is instrumental in the student doing the work (e.g. providing a location to sell goods or advertising a voluntary work position) - Student / Tier 4 students should be clearly told whether the activity / work is permitted / restricted by Student / Tier 4 Visa conditions. Managers must ensure that Student / Tier 4 students are made aware of the limitations of their Student / Tier 4 Visa conditions and signposted to the relevant webpage guidance.

Engaging a tier 4 worker

  • Before any individual starts work, a copy of the right to work documentation must be checked, copied and signed by the nominated individual within the department.
  • If the individual is on a tier 4 student visa, they should be given a copy of the student declaration to sign. This applies to all Tier 4 students, not just SOAS students.
  • The timesheet has been updated so that the School can accurately record weekly working hours and can monitor the number of hours that the student is doing across all their assignments with the School.

Work undertaken must be reported to payroll in weekly hours, rather than as a cumulative monthly figure.

Rules and restrictions

There are strict rules about work that you can and cannot do on your full-time Student / Tier 4 visa. Work activities are split into three categories:

  1. prohibited (you are not allowed to do this under any circumstances)
  2. restricted (you may be able to do this work, but under certain limitations)
  3. unrestricted (work that you are allowed to do)

Examples of prohibited, restricted and unrestricted work

These lists should not be seen as definitive. If you are looking to start any kind of work outside of your course, we recommend that you contact the Student Visa Team before you commit to anything.


If you are on a Student / Tier 4 visa, you must not do any of the following prohibited activities under any circumstances:

Employment as a professional or semi-professional sportsperson (including a sports coach)
  • sports coaching / coaching education e.g. as part of an after school club or as part of a Sunday sports club for which you are paid
  • playing or coaching in any capacity e.g. zumba / dance / yoga / fitness instructor for which you are paid
Employment as an entertainer
  • employed as an entertainer e.g. DJ, musician (whether self-employed or as a paid employee)
  • taking part in television shows (check with organisers whether this is considered employment)
  • any freelance work, including working remotely (outside of a company office, but connected digitally e.g. emails) from any country
  • performing for audiences on stage, cabaret or comedy shows e.g. singing, stand-up comedy, playing music, tribute acts, children's magician

Including but not limited to:

  • selling things for personal profit on campus or in pop-up shops (selling from temporary bases e.g. at a music festival or other event)
  • selling items for a profit on a regular basis (trading) on Amazon, eBay, Etsy etc. (occasional
  • sales of unwanted items are permitted)
    using a skillset to obtain a personal contract, either for profit or unpaid e.g. if a member of a student society contributes to work on a society project with a client, and then obtains more work from that client in a personal contract
    any activity in which you are paid in cash e.g. dog walking, babysitting etc.
    private tuition / teaching

If you wish to set up as a self-employed worker after your graduation (e.g. start your own business in the UK, or work as a freelancer) then you should contact a Student Visa Team in the first instance to discuss your options.

Business activities

Including but not limited to:

  • 'gig economy' work such as Uber, MyHermes, DPD, Deliveroo etc. (short-term contracts with last minute scheduling/freelancing)
  • direct selling i.e. going to people's homes to sell products directly to them, or in any location that is not a permanent retail office
  • setting up a business
  • running an online business; this includes collecting 'passive' income from affiliate marketing e.g. clicks on your YouTube videos
  • working for an employer based outside of the UK while you are in the UK (you may work for an overseas employer if you are not in the UK)
  • working for a company in which you hold shares of 10% or more (including where the shares are held in a trust for you)
  • working for a company where you hold a statutory role, such as director
  • having a partnership arrangement with a trading business
  • regularly buying and selling shares
  • Bitcoin mining
  • any full-time, permanent contract (i.e. taking a full-time job alongside studying), except in
  • a role as a Student Union executive officer
  • earning money through renting a UK property
  • establishing a trading presence e.g. registering a company with Companies House

If in doubt, always remember that you cannot run any business in the UK; this is even the case if all of your clients for that business are outside of the UK.


Restricted work refers to paid work you can do, but which is restricted by the 10 or 20 hour time limit detailed on your visa. Examples of restricted work include:

  • participating in focus groups or clinical trials
  • resident tutors (being 'on call' in this role for no more than the maximum hours detailed in your Student / Tier 4 visa)
  • hourly paid work at the University
  • part-time paid employment

If you wish to start any kind of work, you should discuss this first with a Student Visa Team.

Voluntary work

Voluntary work is different to volunteering, which is explained in the section titled, 'Unrestricted'. In voluntary work, you will normally have contractual obligations to perform the work (e.g. to attend at particular times and carry out specific tasks), with the employer contractually obliged to provide you with the work. The contract does not have to be written, and you will normally be paid 'in kind' i.e. you will receive a benefit instead of monetary payment, such as accommodation for the duration of your contract.

Voluntary work could, for example, include:

  • stewarding at events for which you receive benefits instead of payment e.g. music festivals for which you receive free entry (e.g. via wristbands)
  • any work for which you receive payment in the form of vouchers or other incentives e.g. receiving Amazon vouchers for acting as a student caller


You are able to do any unrestricted activities. Examples of unrestricted activities include:

  • placements that are an assessed and integral part of your course
  • performances that are part of your course
  • academic and business programmes and work placements forming part of your course, including secondments to businesses
  • acting/performing as an amateur. An amateur is defined as 'a person who engages in a sport or creative activity for personal enjoyment and who is not seeking to derive a living from the activity'. Other examples include being an amateur sports player or coach i.e. not receiving payment, such as coaching as part of a student club or society

Volunteering is an unrestricted activity. This is different to voluntary work as no contract is involved, and there are no payments 'in kind' except for reasonable travel and subsistence (food and drink) expenses.