Tier 4

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Tier 4 is the student category. Individuals from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) who wish to study at a UK university will need to be sponsored by the educational establishment to undertake their studies.

General employment conditions

Some students at college or university who hold a Tier 4 visa are permitted to undertake supplementary work whilst in the UK, this depends on the level of the course they are studying and the type of sponsor they have.

Employers need to be aware of these entitlements before employing a student. A student who is permitted to work will have a clear endorsement in their Biometric Residence Permit which states they are permitted to work, and the number of hours of work allowed during the term time. If this information is not set out, this is an indication that the student does not have the right to work.

For students following a course at degree level (NQF level 6 or above) with a sponsor which is a recognised body or a UK higher education institution, the following work is allowed: 

  • up to 20 hours a week during term time
  • any duration during vacations
  • employment as a postgraduate doctor or dentist on a recognised Foundation Programme
  • can include work placements as part of a recognised course (no more than half of the total length of course).  

For students following a course below degree level (NQF level 3, 4 or 5) with a sponsor which is a UK higher education institution, the following work is allowed:

  • up to 10 hours a week during term time
  • any duration during vacations
  • on a work placement as part of a recognised course (no more than 33 per cent of the total length of course).

Students following a course at any level with a Tier 4 sponsor which is a publicly funded further education college (from 3 August 2015) or a private college (from 2011) are not allowed to work whilst in the UK.

In May 2015, An employer's guide to right to work checks was updated with further guidance. 
Employers are still required to apply the NHS Employment Check Standards  and be compliant with the preventing illegal working legislation when employing individuals on a student visa.

Graduate Immigration Route

From summer 2021, the Graduate Immigration Route will be available to all international students who have completed a degree at undergraduate level or above at a Higher Education Provider, and have a valid Tier 4 visa at the time of the application. Successful applicants on this route will be able to stay and work in the UK, or look for work,  at any skill level for a maximum period of two years. You can find more information about the new route on the Home Office website.

Foundation Programme training for doctors and dentists

There are the following exceptions to university or college sponsorship for Tier 4:

  • Two year Foundation Programme for doctors - sponsorship granted by Health Education England (effective from November 2016 when responsibility for medical school graduate sponsorship changed from Health Education South London)
  • One year Foundation Programme for dentists – sponsorship granted by Health Education England (effective from November 2016 when responsibility for dental school graduate sponsorship changed from Health Education South London).

In order for a student to be issued with a Tier 4 visa to undertake a recognised Foundation Programme in either medicine or dentistry, they must have graduated from an accredited UK university with a UK degree in either medicine or dentistry. They will be issued with an extension to their Tier 4 visa by the new sponsor, as outlined above, to cover the duration of the Foundation Programme training up to a maximum of three years.

The Home Office confirmed changes which came into force on 13 December 2012 to allow students to start working as a doctor or dentist as soon as they have submitted an application in which they are sponsored to do a recognised NHS Foundation Programme, while they are waiting for that application to be decided. These new arrangements will avoid potential delays for medical degree students in beginning the next stage of their training.

Upon completion of the Foundation Programme training, trainees will be able to transfer into Tier 2 to either continue their core or specialty training or pursue another career route.

More information 

Further detail on Tier 4 is available on the GOV.UK website.

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