If you’re an international student, you may be considering whether you can work in the UK. Here’s some advice and resources on finding out about your eligibility
If you’re an international student studying in the UK, you may be considering whether you can work and what your employment rights are if you do.
First to basics: your right to work as a student in the UK will depend on whether you are from:
1. The European Economic Area (EEA), which comprises all 27 EU countries plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
2. One of the A2 accession states – Bulgaria and Romania.
3. Neither of the above
If you’re a student from a country within the EEA or you’re a Swiss national, you have the right to work in the UK without any restrictions.
Accession state students
Students from Bulgaria and Romania are eligible to work for no longer than 20 hours per week during term time. During vacations, however, you’re able to work full-time. To do this, you need a registration certificate or a ‘yellow card’ first. If your degree includes a work placement you must have the registration certificate/yellow card before you start.
Some accession state students may be exempt from the above restrictions, which are due to be removed in January 2014.
Neither of the above
If you’re an international student from a country not within the EEA, you will need to check your passport or biometric residence permit to see whether you have the required stamp to work.
A ‘restricted’ stamp means that you have the right to work, subject to certain conditions. If you have applied for student immigration permission on or after 31 March 2009, the conditions are as follows:
• Your course must be full-time and of a duration of more than 6 months.
• You do not work more than 20 hours per week in term time (working full-time during vacations is permitted).
• You can work full-time on a work placement but only if your course meets certain requirements.
• You must not set up your own business, work self-employed, as a professional sportsperson or entertainer or pursue a career by filling a permanent full-time vacancy.
A ‘prohibited’ stamp, as indicative of the name, means that you do not have the ability to work in the UK. It’s a criminal offence to work if you have a prohibited stamp and you could face legal action.
The wordings for each stamp can vary and you can check the status of your stamp on the UKCISA website.
Employment rights once you’re working
Once you are able to work in the UK, the conditions of work are the same as for other UK workers; you are entitled to receive the national minimum wage, you will need to pay income tax on your earnings and you will also need to make national insurance contributions (you must apply for a national insurance number).
When you apply for a job, you should not be discriminated against in the process because of your sex, race, disability or because you are a trade union member. This applies whether or not you have a contract of employment.
You also have the right not to be unfairly dismissed, but to bring a claim you usually need to be lawfully employed under a contract of employment for a minimum period of two years (for those employed before 6 April 2012, it’s one year’s service). This time period will not apply to some limited exceptions such as discrimination. Regardless of your length of service, you can bring a claim if you are dismissed from your employer if:
• You are pregnant or because of your sex, race or disability.
• You refused to undertake dangerous or unsafe activities which posed a threat of physical injury.
• You tried to join a union.
• You ‘blew the whistle‘ on wrong-doing at work.
• You asserted your right to be paid the minimum wage or took action against your employer for a breach of employment law.
• Guidance for nationals of Bulgaria and Romania on obtaining permission to work in the UK
Philip Landau is an employment lawyer at Landau Zeffertt Weir Solicitors