Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Can the student/graduate start the job before they get their visa?
(a) Tier 2
A student/graduate applying for Tier 2 may only start the job once their official course completion date has passed. Student visa holders are not permitted to fill a permanent full-time vacancy however they can work up to 20 hours per week until the end of their course and unlimited hours after that on a fixed-term contract during the final 4-6 months on their visa. An employer may allow an applicant to start working whilst they have a pending Tier 2 application so long as the official course completion date has been reached and you agree to let them start working. If for any reason their visa was refused then they would have to stop work.
(b) Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme
Yes, provided they have submitted their Tier 4 Doctorate Extension application to the Home Office, the Ph.D. graduate can start working full-time from their date of award, or the date the new Tier 4 Doctorate Extension visa is issued, whichever is earliest. While on a Tier 4 student visa, work is permitted on a part-time basis only (maximum 20 hours per week). This rule continues until the course has been completed and for a Ph.D. student, this means when all corrections are done and the final version of the thesis has been submitted. After this, a Tier 4 student visa holder may work unlimited hours on a fixed-term contract (usually until the Tier 4 student visa expiry date or for a maximum of 4 months).
(c) Start-up Visa
No, unless you employ them on a short fixed-term contract (in line with the usual work conditions for Tier 4 visa holders who have completed a course as described above). Once they receive the Start-up the visa they will be permitted to work unlimited hours on a contract that does not exceed the expiry date on their visa and so long as they continue developing their own business.
Q. Why can’t the student give me a letter from the Home Office to prove their right to work?
A student’s permission to work is contained within the wording on their Biometric Residence Card or visa stamp/sticker in their passport as detailed above. You can always contact the UKVI Employers’ Helpline on 0300 123 4699 for advice.
Q. The student hasn’t got a National Insurance Number, can I still employ them?
Yes, you can employ a student provided they have the right to work as detailed above. A student can start work without a national insurance number however they will have to apply for one once they have a job offer. It can take a few weeks/months for a national insurance number to be issued but in the meantime you can issue them with a temporary number to pay them with the appropriate deductions.
Q. Can I offer the student work on a freelance basis?
Self-employment is strictly not permitted on a Tier 4 student visa. You would need to employ the visa holder. In cases where regular working hours cannot be guaranteed, we are aware that many organizations offer ‘zero-hour contracts’ to students. This ensures they are viewed as employees rather than freelancers and is allowed under the Tier 4 student visa regulations.
Q. Can I employ a student full-time over the summer holidays?
It depends. If the student is an undergraduate you can employ them full-time as their courses do not continue over the summer. However, if the student is a postgraduate you can only employ them for a maximum of 20 hours per week unless they have reached their official course end date, or the work they are doing with you is an assessed part of their course.
Q. Can I employ a student when their course has finished?
Yes, all students should have an additional 4-6 months of visa after the end date of their course to allow them to wait for their results and decide what to do next. During this time they can work full time on their student visas as long as they do not fill a permanent vacancy or work on a freelance basis.
Q. Can I offer an international student a placement?
Yes, as long as it is a requirement of their course and they have approval from the university (which will remain responsible for the Tier 4 student). Some Imperial College courses have a placement included as an assessed part of the course.
Q. What are the implications of ticking the ‘confirm maintenance’ box when issuing a Tier 2 COS?
When you tick this box you are confirming to the Home Office that you will support your employee during their first month of employment should they fall into financial difficulty (e.g. by offering an advance of part of their salary). In most cases, this is very unlikely to happen but by ticking the box you will make the employee’s Tier 2 application much stronger and less likely to be refused for a minor reason (e.g. the bank statement being in the wrong format). It may also make the processing time faster as the UKVI will not need to spend time verifying the applicant’s bank statements.