Know-how: employing international students

Jun 6, 2019 | Diversity

Rachel Harvey, senior associate at Shoosmiths LLP, is holding a webinar on employing international students. Here she explains the rules regarding employing international students during their course. 

Even in the midst of Brexit uncertainty, the number of international graduates seeking to remain in the UK is increasing.  

As a result, employers need to be aware of the rules surrounding employing them whilst they are still studying, on completion of their studies and on a long-term basis. Failure to comply with the rules may expose employers to civil penalties for employing an individual in breach of their conditions. In addition, when employers wish to retain students who have completed their course they may, if they do not hold one already, be required to apply for a Sponsor Licence. 

My webinar with the ISE will offer practical advice on employing international students during and post-studies. In this blog I give a preview, focusing on employing international students during their course.

Not all international students (those from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland) are entitled to work while they are in the UK, but some are allowed to take limited employment if the conditions of their permission to study allow it.  

A student who has been granted permission to be in the UK as a Tier 4 student and is permitted to work will have a clear endorsement in their passport or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP).It will state that they are permitted to work and the number of hours of work permitted during term time e.g. 10 or 20 hours a week. A week for the purposes of assessing the number of hours a student works has recently been defined by the UKVI as a fixed period to run from Monday to Sunday.

If permission to work is not stated in either the passport or on the BRP card, the student is not permitted to work. Students who have the right to work are permitted to work full-time during vacations. Students are not permitted to fill a permanent full-time vacancy unless they are applying to switch into the Tier 2 route following the completion of degree-level study in the UK (see below).

Short-term students are not permitted to work.  

Retaining documents is key, in addition to retaining the standard Right to Work documents for students who have limited permission to work during term-times, employers must obtain, copy and retain details of their academic term and vacation times covering the duration of their period of study in the UK for which they will be employed.  They must also remember to diarise the expiry date of the student’s visa to ensure that they do not continue to employ them if they no longer have permission to be in the UK.  

If a student is allowed to work, they cannot:

  • be employed as a doctor in training (except on a recognised foundation programme);
  • be employed as a professional sportsperson (including a sports coach);
  • be employed as an entertainer;
  • be self-employed (except where you are awaiting a decision on an application you have made for leave to remain as a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Migrant – this route will close on the 5 July 2019);
  • engage in business activity; or
  • fill a full-time, permanent vacancy (except on a recognised foundation programme or where they are filling a post as a Student Union Sabbatical Officer).
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