Permitted work – Employment Opportunities, and Employment Agencies


If your visa indicates you have the right to work for a specified number of hours per week to supplement your income, your university or college will be able to provide you with details of work opportunities.  For example, at time of publishing this information resource/booklet, university level international students are entitled to work for a period of 20 hours per week UKVI (UK Immigration) permitted work subject to registration particulars compliance.  Your visa, personal ID / passport, and study registration will be needed by all genuine employers. 

Your Students Union will always normally be your starting point when looking for part-time, permitted, work opportunities, as well work experience.  UCAS provides valuable guidance regarding work, from how to find (some useful links) through to tax, and career enhancing skills topics:

The working environment:

Your workplace environment, whether from a convenience store to a department store, to take away delivery services or working in for example fast-food outlets, will involve two major topics:

  • Working with colleagues and communicating with your manager/line manager
  • Experience of communication with customers / service users

These two areas provide very important communications in the workplace experience, experience of teamwork and team playing, focus, customer care, troubleshooting, sometimes even making life-long friends, of transcultural learning and culture sharing, and sometimes encountering the darker sides of life (experienced anywhere in the world) such as bullying, prejudice, exploitation). They also can as well as providing, sometimes much needed income, also potentially provide workplace experience, valuable for CV’s and work context character references.

Beyond the Students Union support on finding a part-time job (see above), there are three particular sources (out of these the third being the most commonplace) of accessing permitted work, beyond of course university and university students’ union notice boards and online job opportunities that international students can access.  The three sources referred to are:

DWP and Job Centre Plus:

In the UK the two state agencies that provide job opportunity services and on other matters of importance relating to working in the UK, are the Department of Work and Pensions and Job Centre Plus. 

What you can expect from using DWP and Job Centre Plus services:

Private sector employment and HR agencies: these are another option, but often not so relevant to international students, and they may charge you a fee for their services.  They become much more relevant in conjunction with Job Centre Plus (part of the DWP) once you are about to graduate and have entitlement to work in the UK after graduating. 

Word of Mouth: This method of learning of part-time work opportunities — in for example, restaurants cafes and bistros (including fast food outlets), takeaways, nail parlours, hotels, convenience stores. There are two main ‘word of mouth’ routes for learning about part-time work opportunities. The main, advised, one is via your Students Union and university or college, and the other is via your international students’ network contacts that often have extensive outreach to a wide range of employers in your locality/town-city.  We advise that you should concentrate on the first route as students’ unions, universities and colleges have much better knowledge of safe and appropriate part-time work opportunities, and that if you decide to take up part-time employment opportunities through the independent international students ‘word of mouth’ route, that before you commit to such opportunities that you check with your students’ union, university or college first. 

The UKNFS and OCHD are aware that sometimes such employment opportunities can involve borderline illegal [NOT compliant with UK Immigration, international students allowed part-time work requirements which if not complied with can lead to risk of deportation or involve exploitative and/or not safe working conditions] working conditions that exploit international students. 

For this reason, the UKNFS and OCHD advise that it is essential that you provide details of your part-time work opportunity first to your Students Union, university, or college, BEFORE you accept such part-time work opportunities, and especially before starting such part-time employment. 

Safety and protection from exploitation – part-time employment dangers for international students:

In follow up from the above, international students are vulnerable to two particular factors that do not exist for UK/Home students.  Their first language is not English, and they have minimal knowledge of rights and responsibilities in workplace settings and the laws and protections in place to protect them from exploitation and abuses. 

International students come to the UK to study, not to work, but in some cases part-time work is important to pay for part of tuition fees and accommodation and living costs because international students – some of whom have earnings and costs of living substantially lower than those in the UK – pay substantially higher course fees than their UK/Home students counterparts. 

As such, if international students are working in exploitative conditions such as at or below the UK minimum wage, or having their earnings paid late or with substantial unjustified reductions in amounts of pay, and employers careless of or deliberately utilising the fact that there is a 20 hours per week permitted time to work legally, those subject to such working conditions will be distracted from being able to properly concentrate on their studies, and may because of the stress caused be subject to disrupted sleep patterns.

We have learned of such cases and that the targets/victims lack awareness and support from their university/college simply because these organisations don’t have always time for pastoral care type independent monitoring activities in such areas of international students’ lives, and in turn international students may not have the confidence or the capability to self-advocate on such disruptive, harmful experiences, to the education provider.