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Working in the UK during your studies

As a student on a Tier 4 visa, you're entitled to remain in the UK for the entire course of study, plus an additional period at the end of your degree. During this period you are entitled to work during your studies, as long as the wording on your visa does not prohibit it. If you're allowed to work, your visa will state that 'Work must be authorised'. This actually means that you have an automatic right to work. If you are not allowed to work, your visa will be endorsed 'No work' or 'Employment prohibited'.

European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss Nationals

If you are normally resident in a country within the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland you have the right to live and work in the UK and do not need to obtain permission to work.

Croatian Nationals

If you are a Croatian national you must obtain permission to work in the UK. As a student, you will need to apply for a Yellow Registration Certificate, which will allow you to work for up to 20 hours per week during term time. Information on how to apply for this can be found on the Home Office website.

What are my work restrictions?

If you hold a Tier 4 student visa to study at the RCA then you should have permission to work in the UK for a maximum of 20 hours per week during term time and full-time during vacation periods.

Your permission to work will be stamped on your visa in your passport or on your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) if you have extended your visa in the UK.

You should check to ensure that you have been given the correct permission to work. If you have not been given permission or have not been given the correct permission you should contact the Student Support Office for further advice.

While studying in the UK you can perform most kinds of work. However, you must not do the following:

  • be self-employed (this includes freelance work)
  • be employed as a professional sportsperson or sport coach
  • be employed as an entertainer
  • take a full-time permanent job
  • pursue a career by filling a permanent full-time vacancy.
Volunteering is also considered as work; if you are working and volunteering the combined hours must be at 20 hours per week

How a week is defined?

  • A 'week' has been defined in the Immigration Rules as 'a period of 7 days beginning with 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 that you are not in danger of breaching your work condition by exceeding 10 or 20 hours in any seven-day period, starting on a Monday.

What is term time? 

'Term time' means any period when you are supposed to be doing academic work. For example, when you should be:

  •     attending classes and lectures, workshops and seminars
  •     preparing for exams
  •     doing coursework
  •     writing essays, a dissertation or thesis.

Term time and holiday or vacation dates are defined by the College's calendar.

These dates are usually based around the academic year with holidays at Christmas, Easter and in the summer. 

Vacation Periods

Your vacation periods is when you can work full time, are the period when you are not required to be studying. 

Different work restrictions apply to postgraduate students and postgraduate research. 

  • You are allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours a week during term time and full time during the Christmas, Easter and Summer Vacation only.            
  • Students on a 15 month MA do not have a summer term, so you cannot be considered to be on vacation until you have completed all elements of your degree, including submission of your dissertation or final corrections to your thesis. 
  • Once you've completed all elements of your degree and are waiting for your results then you will be able to work full time for a maximum of four months or until your Tier 4 visa expires, whichever is the earliest.  

Postgraduate research students

As a research student, you do not have the same defined vacation periods as postgraduate taught students. 

Your working hours remain as 20 hours per week throughout the year. You would only be allowed to work full time during your vacation time.

As a PhD student, your vacation periods would need to be approved and authorised by your supervisor. You would need to make sure that authorisation of your holiday is recorded and a copy is also given to you.

Applying for a National Insurance Number

Students who are actively seeking work may apply for a National Insurance Number by telephoning the following number.
You need to apply by phone for a National Insurance number.

National Insurance number application line:
Telephone: 0800 141 2075 
Textphone: 0800 141 2438

Monday to Friday, 8am – 6pm

The telephone operator will ask you a number of questions including:
• full UK address and Postcode
• personal details (name, date of birth)
• employer’s name and address if you have one.
• your occupation
• your date of entry to the UK
• your eligibility to work in the UK (e.g. student visa, student dependant visa, EU citizen).

The phone call will last approximately 10–20 minutes.

If the operator considers you to be eligible for a National Insurance number on the basis of the information you have supplied, they will book an appointment for you to have a National Insurance number interview at one of the local offices (they will provide the address) If required. They will inform you how long it will take for you to get a national insurance number. An interview will be arranged locally (usually within 18 working days) and you will receive a National Insurance Number several weeks thereafter. The whole process should take no longer than 6 weeks.

Working without a National Insurance Number

You can start work before your National Insurance number arrives if you can prove you can work in the UK. You should tell your employer that you’ve applied for one, and give it to them when you have it. 

Reclaiming Tax

As an international student, you may be entitled to reclaim any tax that you have paid upon leaving the UK. In order to do this, you will need to complete a P85 form and return it to HM Revenue & Customs.

Further information about reclaiming tax can be found on the website.


Student Support Office
+44 (0)20 7590 4140
[email protected]


Tax if you come to live in the UK
Student jobs: paying tax