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The Immigration Rules on UK Employers Hiring Overseas Students in the UK on Student Visas

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Not all UK business owners have applied to the Home Office for a sponsor licence to enable them to hire overseas workers to fill vacancies. With Christmas fast approaching and with seasonal vacancies that would have historically been partially filed by EU nationals our Sponsorship Licence lawyers take a look at whether UK employers can fill their job vacancies by employing students who are in the UK on student visas.

UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence lawyers

For advice on hiring students from overseas, sponsor licences and any aspect of immigration law call the expert London immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

Don’t risk your Sponsorship Licence

If your business does have a sponsor licence you should not risk your sponsor licence being the subject of a Home Office audit or even suspended or revoked because you are not aware of the implications of hiring an international student on a student visa in breach of the conditions placed on their student visa.

In addition to placing your sponsor licence at jeopardy if you employ a student, even on a part time or seasonal basis, who does not have the right to work in the UK in the manner that your business wants to employ them, you also risk prosecution for breaching legislation on illegal working through either not conducting right to work checks or not completing them properly.

Some UK employers express surprise that right to work checks apply to temporary student workers but they do. Sponsorship Licence lawyers emphasise that it is not worth jeopardising your sponsor licence or your business reputation for the short-term gain of hiring extra staff over the Christmas period.

Remember, if a business has its sponsor licence revoked you will not be able to continue to employ your existing sponsored employees. They will have their skilled worker visas curtailed and will either need to find a new sponsoring employer with a Home Office sponsor licence or leave the UK. Even the suspension of a sponsor licence can lead to enormous problems with recruitment as any plans to recruit additional staff from overseas on skilled worker visas will need to be put on hold until your sponsor licence is no longer suspended and you can resume employing workers on skilled worker visas.

The implications for a student who does not comply with the work conditions on their student visa

If an international student on a student visa works in a way that contravenes the work conditions on their student visa, then they risk:

  • Being in breach of illegal working legislation.
  • Having an application to extend their student visa or switch to a new visa (such as the graduate visa, skilled worker visa or spouse visa) refused because they breached immigration rules.
  • Facing deportation.
  • Being refused entry clearance if they leave the UK and apply for a new visa from overseas.

In addition to the above, the student’s university or college is under a duty to report a student to the Home Office if they discover a student is working in breach of the conditions on their student visa.

Can a student work for a UK employer whilst the international student is in the UK on a student visa?  

Sponsorship Licence lawyers say that an international student may be able to work for a UK employer whilst in the UK on a student visa. Much depends on whether the student visa is for a part time or a full-time course.

Generally, if an international student is in the UK to study part-time then their visa conditions will not allow them to work. The prohibition on work includes a ban on paid and un-paid work.

If an international student is studying in the UK on a full-time course, then their visa conditions are likely to allow the student to work but there will be restrictions on:

  • The type of work.
  • The hours of work.

The positive news for UK employers is that an international student is not restricted to working for a UK employer with a Home Office issued sponsor licence.

Working hours for international students

Most student visas set working hour limits during a student’s term-time. In university term time, a full-time international student is limited to taking employment for a maximum of twenty hours per week.  The term time dates are not set nationally but by the student’s university and that may mean if an employer is close to more than one university there may be different term dates applicable to student employees.

When calculating the hours an international student is allowed to work per week the twenty hours are looked at over a working week comprising a seven-day period, commencing on the Monday and finishing on the Sunday. In student holidays or outside of term time, international students on student visas can normally work full time for a UK employer.

What work can an international student do whilst in the UK on a student visa?

An international student has to ensure the work they undertake while in the UK on a student visa is allowed under the Home Office’s student visa guidance.

An international student cannot:

  • Undertake business activities.
  • Become self-employed.
  • Take up permanent employment.

The ban on self-employment can put some part-time jobs out of the scope of international students. For example, driving or cleaning jobs where an employer does not formally employ a worker and the worker is treated for tax purposes as self-employed.

Even if the job on offer is employed work an international student is limited to twenty hours per week during term time.

Alternatives to employing international students on student visas 

There is an alternative to employing an overseas student on a student visa. Once a student graduates they may meet the eligibility criteria to apply for a graduate visa. With a graduate visa, a student who has graduated from a UK university or college can take up permanent employment for the duration of their visa. Unlike a student on a student visa, the graduate can work full time. Importantly, the graduate visa holder does not need a sponsoring employer so a business can recruit a graduate visa holder even if the business does not have a sponsor licence and even if the job vacancy does not meet the skilled worker visa skill level or minimum salary threshold.

Sponsorship Licence lawyers say that it is best to look at all the various recruitment and work visa options so your business can weigh up the benefits of applying for a sponsor licence or your alternate options for hiring overseas workers.

UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence lawyers

For advice on hiring overseas workers and international students and any aspect of immigration law call the immigration team at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.