Human Resources

Employing Tier 4 Sponsored Students


As an employer, the University has a legal responsibility to prevent illegal migrant working in the UK. The Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 stipulates the civil penalties that employers are liable to pay for committing the offence of employing an illegal migrant worker include fines of up to £20,000 per illegal worker. Crucially, the University could also have its sponsor’s licence revoked, and so lose the ability to sponsor migrants who come to the UK in the future. The Act requires that employers conduct basic document checks on every person they intend to employ to ensure that they only employ people who have a legal right to work in the UK.

The 2006 Act introduced a unified Points Based System (PBS) to replace the previous work permit and other immigrant worker schemes. The PBS is the mechanism for the University to employ overseas nationals requiring permission to work in the UK.

The resident population of the United Kingdom contains a wide range of ethnic groups and there are also many people from outside the UK who are entitled to work here. It is therefore important to remember that the checks on entitlement to work in the UK need to be carried out for every person that the University intends to employ, regardless of their race, ethnicity or nationality, to avoid any potential discrimination. The government body responsible for the PBS, the UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) service has a Code of Practice on complying with the law without discriminating.

Who does this apply to?

All managers need to follow the University’s recruitment guidance, and specifically the Right to Work checks. This guidance provides additional guidance for those managers who employ, or are likely to employ, students who are in the UK under a Tier 4 Sponsorship visa. This includes Undergraduate, Postgraduate Taught and Postgraduate Research students.

What do I need to consider?

A Right To Work Document Check must be completed prior to any employee undertaking any activities at the University. Staff involved in the recruitment process may wish to use the Quick Reference Guide- Casual Staff Right to work Checks v1.1* as an aide memoire.

You must make sure that you understand any visa restrictions the student may have, and confirm that dates of the planned employment do NOT exceed the end date of the student visa.

You also need to ensure that the hours the student works each week (and this includes all paid employment the student may have across the University) do not exceed the permitted maximum. You will be able to do this using the Tier 4 Planned Hours Recording system.

The student must not be engaged to work for more than the maximum weekly hours set out in the following table:


Teaching blocks     ("term time")   

Christmas / Easter vacation

Summer vacation


(foundation degree or degree)

20 hours per week 

UoP strongly recommends students leave sufficient time for academic study




Postgraduate Taught       

(Includes most MA, MSc                students)          

 20 hours per week until course completion has been confirmed by  Faculty Registrar and Academic Registry.            


Postgraduate Research

 (Includes PhD, MPhil,          MLitt)                                          

Restricted to 20 hours per week, except within recognised annual leave periods

Annual leave for PGRs is a maximum of 8 weeks within the year; which equates to 6 weeks plus bank holidays and UoP Christmas closure                                                                           

What do I need to do?

1. If any of the form is incomplete, or the Right to Work documents are not appropriately checked, then the email will be returned detailing what needs to be changed.

    a. The start date of the contract must be later than the date the Right to Work docs verified (see point c below).

    b. Parts 1 and 2 of the form must be fully completed.

        i. Part 1 is completed by the department and provides the details of the position they wish to appoint the casual member of staff to. This section must be completed fully, or it will be returned.

       ii. Part 2 is completed by the employee and provides their personal details and their student status where applicable

      iii. There is also a declaration section that will inform both HR and the line manager of their right to work, and more importantly of any restrictions on their visa (if they are non-EEA students)

      iv. As with Part 1 all sections must be completed or the form will be returned to the recruiting department.

Right to Work documents must be photocopied as per the guidance, each page must be stamped, verified as a copy of the original and dated.

The Right To Work Checklist can be found here.  The Variable Hours Employee Form can be found here. The most recent version was updated in January 2016 and that is the ONLY version that can now be accepted by HR.  

  1. If the paperwork is all correct, an acknowledgement email will be sent.
  2. The contract of employment will be created and sent electronically to the employee with a copy sent to the line manager from HR Service Centre. If the employee is a Tier 4 student, they will be reminded in the email of their restrictions. If they have more than one job, all managers will be notified.
  3. In advance of the contract start date, you (or your nominated deputy) will start to receive weekly email requests containing a form link to be used to record the planned hours for the student. You will continue to receive these during during the relevant term or course until the student’s contract ends. You must complete the form in plenty of time for action to be taken if the planned hours exceed the permitted limit: if this happens you will receive a warning email explaining that it is your responsibility to negotiate the hours with any other University managers the student may have (listed in the email), and to record the updated figure. Failures to record planned hours will be escalated and the appropriate action taken. More information is available on the Tier 4 Planned Hours Recording page.
  4. End of Employment At the end of their contract, the Tier 4 student will automatically be made a leaver. It is important that all claims are sent to Payroll before the end date, or the student will be taxed as a ‘payment after leaving’ for their final pay.

What else do I need to know?

This Nationality Groups information provides a guide on the nationalities who may be impacted by these restrictions.

Students Undertaking Unpaid Employment

Tier 4 students are able to do voluntary work if they are permitted to work, but this work and any other (i.e. paid) work that they do must not exceed the number of hours they are permitted to work during term time. For example, if a student can work for 20 hours during term time and has paid work of 15 hours a week during term time, they cannot do more than 5 hours voluntary work per week. If they are not permitted to work, they cannot do voluntary work. Volunteering (as opposed to Voluntary Work) hours are excluded from the permitted hours limits. Whenever students undertake unpaid employment it is important to treat the employment appropriately to avoid exceeding the permitted hours limit. Factors that the UKVI may take into account when considering whether a particular unpaid employment is Voluntary Work or Volunteering include:

  • Voluntary workers will usually have contractual obligations to perform the work (e.g. to attend at particular times and carry out specific tasks) with the employer being contractually required to provide the work – the contract does not have to be written. The worker is usually remunerated in kind.
  • Students who are volunteering do not have a contract, they must not be a substitute for an employee and they must not be doing unpaid work – i.e. receiving payment in kind (although they are sometimes reimbursed for reasonable travel and subsistence expenses). Volunteers usually help a charity or voluntary or public sector organisation.

If there is any doubt over the nature of the unpaid work, it will be safer to treat it as Voluntary Work, and include it within the permitted hours limit. Additional information from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) can be accessed here.

You can also refer to our Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

How do I get help?

Use this contact form to get in touch (please note that you need to be logged into your UoP staff email account to access this form).