Work rights for Tier 4 students are being tightened. From 3 August, anyone applying to study as a Tier 4 student at a publicly funded college will have no work rights.

As an employer, extra care should be taken when checking not only new student employees' work rights, but also existing student employees. From 3 August, as a result of these tightened rules, some students may not continue to have work rights, following a visa extension application.

As a reminder, Tier 4 students either have 20 hours work rights, 10 hours work rights or no work rights during their visa. (Those students who do have work rights are restricted to the hours listed above during term time, but are free to work full-time throughout their vacation period). Therefore extra care needs to be taken when checking an international student’s work rights, before employment commences, to ensure they are not employed in excess of their permitted hours of work.

As well as checking the student's passport, for students who have limited permission to work during term-times, employers must also obtain, copy and retain details of the student’s academic term and vacation times covering the duration of their period of study in the UK for which they will be employed. This information needs to be held on the migrant’s file. Visa expiry dates also need to be closely monitored.

It should be noted that weekly hours undertaken cannot be averaged out over a longer period of time. For example: if a student has 20 hours work rights per week, they can only work up to 20 hours in any given week. Students cannot for instance work 15 hours one week and 25 hours the next.

In addition, to ensure that students with limited work rights are not being allowed to work in excess of their permitted hours internal policies should be reviewed and relevant staff members updated.

To assist with these ‘right to work checks’, UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) publishes a guide for employers. For further information on Tier 4 students' work restrictions, please refer to our guide.

Should an employer find itself in the position of having employed a student in breach of his or her conditions, this could result in:

  • reputational damage
  • a fine of up to £20,000 per illiegal worker
  • possible prosecution and
  • action being taken against the sponsor licence (if the employer holds one).

As part of their sponsor obligations and duties, Tier 4 sponsors are also obliged to report any Tier 4 students who are working in breach of their visa conditions to UKVI. Where a Tier 4 sponsor is also employing international students, the HR team will need to work closely with its Tier 4 compliance team to ensure that students are not working in breach of their conditions of stay.