Aside from receiving a high-quality education, studying abroad is an opportunity to experience the lifestyle and culture of a new country. Many students want to have an enriching experience with opportunities for travel, events or trying new things with friends, while others want to find a job or internship to boost their resume. Whether it's to accommodate your adventurous lifestyle or to gain working experience, it’s possible to work on a student visa. We’ll go through and compare the options for working whilst studying abroad for the US, UK, Ireland, Australia, and Canada.
Ways to Gain Work Experience as an International Student
Internships Available Through Your University
University careers centres will have information on internships or work placements you are eligible for, and normally these are applied to like a regular job. These internships are normally subject to working hour restrictions for international students.
Study and Gain Experience With a Co-Op Programme
Some universities offer work placements or internships integrated within their degree, known as a Co-Op programme. Co-Op internships are usually 6-12 months long, and allow you to gain industry experience whilst studying. Usually, Co-Op degrees are not subject to typical working hours restrictions, however this depends on the country.
Choosing Work Placement Courses
If you are not in a Co-Op degree programme with an integrated internship, there might be other options available. Some universities offer courses which are a semester-long work placement, where you study and intern in an area related to your degree. Normally these courses are available to students in their second year or above of study for undergraduates, and to most postgraduate programmes.
Choosing a Programme that Suits Your Work and Study Goals
Before reading the specifics, keep in mind that every country has different regulations and working opportunities for international students. If you want to work whilst studying abroad, the opportunities available might be highly dependent on your visa. Below is just an introduction to working hour regulations; if you want to know more about your options in one of these regions as an international student, contact an Intake Advisor to have a more detailed discussion.
Working Hours for International Students in the UK
During Your Degree
International students on student visas are eligible to work whilst studying in the UK. Students can work up to 20 hours per week during the university term, but can work full time hours during holidays such as semester breaks. The basis of employment cannot be permanent, and therefore students can only be employed part-time or casually. There is no limit to where you can work, however you cannot:
- Be self-employed (such as a contractor or freelancer)
- Work permanent full time (permanent part-time is allowed)
- Be an entertainer or sportsperson
Internships Whilst Studying
If you are required to do a work placement or internship as a part of your degree, you can work full-time even if your visa does not permit employment. This rule only applies to internships or work placements which are assessed and a required part of your university course, and not ones sought out independently.
There are work routes depending on your degree level and study area. International students can stay and work full time for 2 years after graduating with a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, and up to 3 years with a PhD on a Graduate visa. Other work routes include the Skilled Worker and Start-up route, which you can apply for based on your skills, and can be granted for up to 5 years. However, most of these post-graduation study routes do not count towards settlement (permanent residency) in the UK.
Working Hours for International Students in Ireland
During Your Degree
International students studying in Ireland can be employed for casual work for up to 20 hours during term time, but up to 40 hours during the holidays. However, the ‘holiday period’ stipulated by the government is a fixed period for every international student in Ireland, regardless of your own school’s term dates. This means you can only work up to 40 hours during this period, which covers the typical semester breaks for universities in Ireland.
You can apply for a visa in the Third Level Graduate Programme, which is a 1 or 2-year visa allowing international students to work for up to 40 hours a week after graduating from an Irish University. It's important to note that an international student can study up to 7 years in Ireland, and the Third Level Graduate Programme contributes to this time limit.
Alternatively, if you have received a job offer after graduation, you can apply for the General Employment Permit or Critical Skills Employment Permit if you are offered a role in an area listed as in-demand or in a labour skills shortage by the Irish Government. For research students, you can apply for the Research Hosting Agreement to stay in Ireland after graduation.
Working Hours for International Students in Canada
During Your Degree
Working hours for international students in Canada depend on whether you are employed on-campus or off-campus. For on-campus employment, such as at a cafe, bookshop, library, or as a tutor on campus, there are no limits to the number of hours you can work, and you can even work at another job off-campus if you want to. The main restriction to on-campus employment is if your student visa specifies whether or not you can work on campus.
However, for off-campus employment, which is at any business not located on the university campus, you can work a maximum of 20 hours per week during the semester and full time during the breaks. The Canadian government does not stipulate how many hours is considered full time for working during breaks. You are allowed to be self-employed as an international student in Canada, as long as you document your earnings to prove compliance with off-campus working rules.
Only international students whose visa says they are eligible for off-campus employment are allowed to do so. Students only taking general interest courses or are only enrolled in an English or French as a second language programme are not eligible to work off-campus.
After graduation, international students in Canada are eligible to apply for a Postgraduate Working Permit (PGWP), where you can stay in Canada to work after graduation. There are no restrictions for working hours, and the length granted for a PGWP visa depends on the length of your programme of study. Only programmes from Designated Learning Institutions are eligible for a PGWP, so double check this before applying.
Read more about the Post Graduate Working Permit
Work in Canada With a Co-Op Programme
Another option for international students wanting to study and work in Canada is the International Experience Canada programme, where you can apply to live in Canada for up to two years. You can either do a Co-Op programme or work in Canada after graduation, and you recieve an open work permit.
Working Hours for International Students in the US
During Your Degree
Regulations regarding working hours for international students in the US also depend on whether you are working on-campus or off-campus. For the first year of study, international students are only able to work on-campus, however can work off-campus afterwards.
Off-campus employment for international students in the US is only available on a case-by-case basis. Students must submit a separate application and demonstrate economic hardship or other circumstances which require a student to seek off-campus employment during study. Alternatively, students can work off-campus if the job directly relates to their area of study, either as Curricular Practical Training or Optional Practical Training (OPT). This needs to be approved by both a School Official and the US Government.
The working hours for both on-campus and off-campus employment is up to 20 hours per week during semester, and full time during semester breaks.
International students can also apply for the OPT for extended stay in the US after graduation. The OPT is for employment directly related to your area of study. However, if you complete any OPT-related employment during your study, it will be deducted from the possible visa length granted to you post-graduation. The OPT visa length is up to 1 year for non-STEM graduates, and up to 3 years for STEM graduates. There is no maximum limit for working hours for a postgraduate OPT visa; however you must work a minimum of 20 hours per week.
Working Hours for International Students in Australia
During Your Degree
Work hours for international students were relaxed during the pandemic, but new restrictions will be enforced as of July 1 2023. International students in Australia can work up to 48 hours per fortnight, and there is no limit to work hours during official semester breaks listed by their university. International students must retain student status and have satisfactory progress through their enrolled course whilst working and studying simultaneously. There is no limit on the type of work and number of employers you can have, as long as working hour restrictions are met.
International students who completed a Bachelors, Masters or PhD are eligible for the Temporary Graduate Visa (subclass 485). There are different streams based on your previous visa status, and what you studied at university:
- Post-Study Work Stream: 2-4 years granted to live and work in Australia after graduation
- Graduate Work Stream: up to 24 months granted to live and work in an in-demand occupation
- Second Post-Study Work Stream: a renewal of 1-2 years granted to students who graduated from an Australian university in a Regional Area
International Student Working Hours: Comparison Table
Here’s a summary of all working hour restrictions for international students:
Discuss Your Study Abroad Options With an Intake Advisor
This article was an overview of international student working hours. To have a personalised discussion regarding your options for jobs, internships and graduate visas for international students, reach out to Intake and schedule an appointment with our Advisors. Intake Advisors can provide you with up-to-date information and recommendations to help you make a confident and informed decision!