Internship Legislation and Students Visa in the United Kingdom

Unlocking Potential: Navigating Internship Laws and Student Visas in the UK

Whether you’re a student seeking valuable work experience or an international candidate looking to pursue internships in the UK, understanding the laws and visa requirements is crucial for a successful and fulfilling internship journey.

Explore our landing page dedicated to Internship Legislation and Student Visas in the United Kingdom, where you’ll find comprehensive resources, up-to-date information, and expert guidance on the legal aspects of internships and visa regulations. We aim to demystify the process, empowering you to make informed decisions and ensure compliance with the UK’s internship legislation.

Stay informed, empowered, and prepared as you embark on your internship journey in the United Kingdom. At Piktalent, we’re here to support you every step of the way.

EU citizens

In the United Kingdom, the landscape of internships continues to evolve, and it’s paramount to stay updated with the latest regulations:

  1. National Minimum Wage (NMW): Interns in the UK, if classified as workers, are typically entitled to the National Minimum Wage. Employers cannot circumvent this obligation by merely stating that it doesn’t apply or by drafting agreements that label someone as a non-worker or volunteer.

  2. Employment Rights: An intern’s rights are contingent upon their employment status. The terms “internships”, “work placements”, and “work experience” don’t have a standalone legal definition. If an intern engages in regular paid work for an employer, they could qualify as an employee and be eligible for specific employment rights.

  3. Student Internships and NMW: Students who are required to undertake an internship for less than a year as part of a UK-based further or higher education course are exempt from the National Minimum Wage.

  4. School Work Experience Placements: Work experience students of compulsory school age aren’t entitled to the National Minimum Wage.

  5. Voluntary Workers: Individuals working for a charity, voluntary organization, associated fundraising body, or a statutory body and not receiving payment (except for limited benefits like travel or lunch expenses) are not entitled to the minimum wage.

  6. Work Shadowing: If an internship is purely about observing an employee without any active work involvement (work shadowing), the employer isn’t required to pay the NMW.

  7. Impact of Brexit on EU Citizens: Following the UK’s departure from the European Union, the rules for EU citizens seeking internships in the UK have seen significant alterations. The new immigration regulations and the end of freedom of movement within the EU have raised concerns about the availability of internships for European students.

  8. Student Visa Requirements: For non-UK nationals aiming to undertake internships in the UK, it’s crucial to secure a student visa. Familiarise yourself with the specific visa requirements and the application process, which includes having essential documents like proof of acceptance to an educational institution, financial evidence, and any other documentation mandated by UK authorities.

  9. Working During Studies: International students, including EU citizens, have the privilege to work during their studies in the UK. However, there are certain limitations and restrictions. Ensure you’re aware of the number of hours you’re permitted to work and the types of employment allowed under your student visa. Always stay updated about your visa conditions to ensure you’re in compliance with the regulations.

Steps for EU Citizens to Undertake an Internship in the UK (Updated for October 2023):
  1. Determine Eligibility: If you were not resident in the UK by 31 December 2020 and do not have rights under the withdrawal agreement, you need to meet specific requirements to work or study in the UK from 1 January 2021.

  2. Check for EU Settlement Scheme: Before applying under the points-based immigration system, check if you’re eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme.

  3. Begin Application on GOV.UK: Start your application process on the official GOV.UK website. Ensure you meet the relevant criteria and score the required points for the visa you’re applying for.

  4. Apply for a Temporary Worker-Government Authorised Exchange Visa (T5): This visa remains essential for completing the internship in the UK.

  5. Why a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) is Needed: A Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) is not an actual paper certificate but a virtual document, akin to a database record. For an EU citizen to undertake an internship in the UK post-Brexit, the CoS is crucial because it proves that the intern has a job offer from a UK employer who is willing to act as their sponsor. This sponsorship indicates that the employer confirms the intern’s role is genuine and meets the salary and skill-level requirements set by the UK government. The CoS is a mandatory requirement for the T5 visa application.

  6. Verify Identity: As part of your application, verify your identity. Most individuals can do this using a smartphone through the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app. If you cannot use the app, you’ll need to attend a Visa Application Centre.

  7. Pay Necessary Fees: You’ll need to pay an application fee. If you’re coming to the UK for more than 6 months, you might also have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge, granting you access to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).

  8. Wait for Confirmation: The processing times for applications can vary. Ensure you apply and receive confirmation of success before traveling to the UK.

  9. Travel to the UK: When traveling to the UK, use the same document you applied for. Note: From 1 October 2021, you cannot use an EU, EEA, or Swiss national ID card to enter the UK unless you meet specific criteria.

  10. Understand Your Rights: Once in the UK, familiarise yourself with your rights, especially regarding work, study, and access to public services.

  11. Stay Updated: Immigration rules can change. Regularly check official UK government platforms for updates on visa categories or other relevant immigration rules. For detailed information and documents, refer to the Erasmus+ Tier 5 visa guide.

Key Documents for the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) Application:
  • Complete the CoS application form.
  • Confirmation from the internship organization (acceptance letter) detailing your internship, including start and end dates, tasks, and duties. This confirmation should be on official letterhead and signed by the internship organization, including a date and stamp.
  • English language transcript of records.
  • Passport copy.
  • If the internship organization offers a salary, provide a scan of your internship/employment contract.
  • If the internship involves working with children, adolescents, or in healthcare facilities, you’ll need a police clearance certificate.

Ensure consistency in documentation: The title of the traineeship/position must be consistent across all documents.

For a comprehensive understanding, always refer to the official UK government website and other relevant sources for the latest updates and changes.

Non-EU citizens

Government Authorised Exchange Visa (Temporary Work)

The Government Authorised Exchange visa is tailored for individuals eager to embark on a short-term journey to the UK for work experience, training, participation in an Overseas Government Language Programme, research, or a fellowship via an approved government-authorized exchange scheme. This visa has seamlessly transitioned to replace the “Temporary Worker – Government Authorised Exchange visa (T5)”.

Eligibility Criteria for the Government Authorised Exchange Visa:

  • Purpose of Visit: Your primary aspiration should be to immerse yourself in the UK for a brief period, focusing on work experience, training, an Overseas Government Language Programme, research, or a fellowship through an endorsed government-authorized exchange scheme.

  • Sponsorship: A pivotal requirement is the certificate of sponsorship from a licensed sponsor. This isn’t a tangible document but a unique reference number your sponsor bestows upon you, affirming your job and personal specifics. The nature of your work, training, or research in the UK should resonate with your sponsoring organization’s mission. Potential sponsors encompass:

    • Organizations orchestrating an approved exchange scheme.
    • Higher education institutions (especially for sponsored researchers, visiting academics, or examiners).
    • Government departments or agencies.

Application Process:

  • Timing: You can initiate your application up to 3 months prior to your job’s inauguration date in the UK, as delineated on the certificate of sponsorship.

  • Decision Timeline: Post your online application, identity verification, and document submission, and anticipate your visa decision within:

    • 3 weeks for applications from outside the UK.
    • 8 weeks for applications from within the UK.

Fees and Duration:

  • Application Fee: The standard application fee is £259 per applicant.

  • Healthcare Surcharge: Typically, the healthcare surcharge amounts to £624 annually. Additionally, evidence of sufficient personal savings is imperative.

  • Visa Tenure: The visa’s duration hinges on the specific scheme, granting a maximum stay of either 12 or 24 months. Entrants can set foot in the UK up to 14 days preceding the job’s onset and can linger for up to 14 days post the job’s culmination.

Rights and Restrictions:

  • Academic Pursuits: You’re permitted to study, though certain courses may necessitate an Academic Technology Approval Scheme certificate.

  • Employment Scope: You’re authorized to engage in the job outlined in your certificate of sponsorship, undertake a secondary job for up to 20 hours weekly, and work in a job featured on the Skilled Worker shortage occupation list for up to 20 hours weekly, in tandem with your primary role.

  • Family Inclusion: Eligible ‘dependants’, such as partners and children, can accompany you.

  • Restrictions: You’re prohibited from accepting permanent positions, and your access to public funds is curtailed.

Tier 4 Visa: Tailored for Higher Education and Internships in the UK

The Tier 4 Visa is designed for non-EU citizens who have been accepted for higher education in the UK, including internships.

Eligibility for the Tier 4 Visa:

  • Sponsorship by Educational Institutions: A Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from the educational institution, indicating acceptance into a recognized course, is essential.

  • Internship Duration: Tier 4 visa holders can engage in internships for their course’s duration, gaining practical work experience and honing their skills.

  • Educational Institution Approval: Approval from the educational institution is necessary for internships. Institutions might have specific guidelines about the internship type and duration.

  • Work Opportunities: Generally, Tier 4 visa holders can work part-time during term-time and full-time during holidays, with certain restrictions in place.

  • Paid and Unpaid Internships: Both paid and unpaid internships are accessible for Tier 4 visa students. However, it’s vital to ensure compliance with UK minimum wage legislation for unpaid internships and meet the legal criteria for unpaid work.

Recent Updates:

  • Restrictions on Family Members: The UK government has introduced new restrictions to the student visa routes. Starting from January next year, international students will no longer be able to bring family members on their student visa, unless they are enrolled in postgraduate research routes.

  • Work Route Limitations: Students will be prohibited from switching from the student visa route to the work route until they have completed their studies.

  • Financial Requirements Review: The government will review the funds students must have to demonstrate they can support themselves and their dependents in the UK.

  • Crackdown on Unscrupulous Agents: Measures will be taken against international student agents who may be supporting inappropriate applications.

  • Net Migration: The changes aim to reduce net migration while ensuring that international students continue to make a significant economic contribution to the UK.

Staying Updated with Changes: Immigration rules are dynamic. Regularly checking official UK government platforms, like the Home Office or UK Visas and Immigration, is essential for updates on the Tier 4 visa category or other relevant immigration rules. Remember, regulations for interns might differ from regular employees. For instance, interns might not be entitled to benefits like paid vacation or sick leave. Always verify the specific regulations for interns in your industry.

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Frequently Asked Questions

The Tier 5 visa is designed for temporary workers, including interns, who are sponsored by UK-based organizations. On the other hand, the Tier 4 visa is for individuals pursuing higher education in the UK, allowing them to study and engage in internships during their course.

Unfortunately, after Brexit, the United Kingdom is no longer a member of the Erasmus+ program. As a result, UK participants, as well as participants from EU countries, are no longer eligible for Erasmus+ internships in the UK. However, alternative exchange programs and internship opportunities may still be available for EU citizens in the UK. It is advisable to explore other exchange programs or consult with your educational institution to discover alternative options for internships in the UK.

It has established the Turing Scheme as a replacement program. Under the Turing Scheme, UK students and institutions can still receive funding for study and work placements abroad, including internships, in various countries, including those in the European Union. EU students can also participate in the Turing Scheme and receive funding for study and work placements in the UK. Therefore, while Erasmus+ itself is not applicable to exchanges with the UK, there is still a funding scheme available for exchange programs to and from the UK. It is recommended to check the specific eligibility criteria and application process for the Turing Scheme or consult with your educational institution for further details.

The Turing Scheme is a UK government initiative that replaced the UK’s participation in the Erasmus+ program after Brexit. It provides funding opportunities for UK students and educational institutions to participate in study and work placements abroad, including internships, and for international students to come to the UK for similar experiences.

The Turing Scheme differs from Erasmus+ as it is specifically tailored for UK participants and institutions. While Erasmus+ was a European Union-wide program, the Turing Scheme is focused on providing similar funding opportunities for study and work placements outside the EU and for international students to come to the UK.

If you are a non-European Union (EU) citizen and wish to undertake an internship in the UK, you will likely need to apply for a visa. The specific visa category will depend on various factors, such as the duration of the internship, your nationality, and the type of internship you will be undertaking. Here is some information to help you understand the visa requirements:

  1. Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Government Authorized Exchange) Visa: The Tier 5 visa is often applicable for internships in the UK. This visa category allows individuals to work temporarily in the UK under specific exchange programs. To apply for a Tier 5 visa, you will generally need a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from a sponsoring organization based in the UK. The CoS serves as proof of sponsorship for your internship. It is important to note that the Tier 5 visa has different subcategories, so it is essential to determine the appropriate subcategory based on your specific circumstances.

  2. Tier 4 (Student) Visa: If you are already studying in the UK as a Tier 4 visa holder, you may be able to undertake an internship as part of your course. The Tier 4 visa allows for limited work opportunities, including internships relevant to your field of study. However, you must ensure that the internship aligns with the restrictions on working hours specified in the Tier 4 visa regulations. You will need approval from your educational institution to engage in an internship.

It is important to consult the official UK government websites, such as the Home Office or UK Visas and Immigration, to obtain the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding visa requirements for internships in the UK.

  1. Eligibility Criteria: Review the eligibility criteria for the specific internship program or visa category you are applying for. Understand the requirements regarding nationality, education, language proficiency, and any other specific criteria set by the internship provider or the UK government.

  2. Visa Requirements: Determine the appropriate visa category for your internship. Understand the visa requirements, including the application process, supporting documents, fees, and processing times. Make sure to comply with all the necessary visa regulations to avoid any issues during your internship.

  3. Internship Duration: Consider the duration of the internship and ensure it aligns with the visa validity. If you are applying for a Tier 5 visa, be aware of the maximum stay allowed under the specific subcategory. It is important to avoid overstaying your visa, as this can have serious consequences for your future travel and immigration prospects.

  4. Financial Considerations: Evaluate the financial aspects associated with the internship. Consider the cost of living in the UK, including accommodation, transportation, and daily expenses. Ensure you have sufficient funds to support yourself during the internship period, as financial stability is an essential requirement for visa approval.

  5. Internship Provider: Research and carefully assess the credibility and reputation of the internship provider or host organization. Consider factors such as their industry standing, past experiences of interns, and the opportunities they offer for professional development and learning.

  6. Legal Compliance: Familiarize yourself with the UK’s employment laws and regulations, including minimum wage requirements, working hours restrictions, and health and safety standards. Ensure that the internship you are applying for adheres to these legal obligations to safeguard your rights and well-being.

  7. Insurance and Health Coverage: Verify if you require health insurance coverage during your internship in the UK. Understand the scope of coverage and any additional insurance requirements set by the internship provider or visa regulations challenges. during your internship.

  1. Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Government Authorized Exchange) Visa: The processing time for a Tier 5 traineeship visa can range from a few weeks to several months. It is advisable to submit your application at least three months before your intended start date. However, processing times can be subject to change, so it is important to check the current processing times on the official UK government website or with UK Visas and Immigration.

  2. Tier 4 (Student) Visa (for internships as part of a study program): If you are already in the UK on a Tier 4 student visa and wish to undertake an internship as part of your study program, the processing time will depend on the specific circumstances of your case. It is recommended to consult with your educational institution’s international student support services to determine the processing time for your particular situation.

Please note that these are general estimates, and the actual processing time may vary based on individual circumstances, the completeness of your application, and the workload of the immigration authorities at the time of submission. It is crucial to plan ahead and submit your visa application as early as possible to allow ample time for processing and avoid any delays or complications.

  1. Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Government Authorized Exchange) Visa: The visa fee for a Tier 5 traineeship visa was £244 in 2021. However, additional charges may apply, such as the Immigration Health Surcharge, which is currently +- £470 per year of the visa duration (subject to change). The Immigration Health Surcharge provides access to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) during your stay.

  2. Tier 4 (Student) Visa (for internships as part of a study program): If you are already in the UK on a Tier 4 student visa and undertaking an internship as part of your study program, there may not be an additional visa fee. However, you may still need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge as mentioned above.

It is important to note that these fees are for visa applications only and do not cover other costs associated with your internship, such as travel expenses, accommodation, or living expenses. Additionally, there may be other optional services or priority processing available for an additional fee.

For the most accurate and up-to-date information on visa fees, it is recommended to consult the official UK government website or contact UK Visas and Immigration directly. They will provide the current fees and any additional charges applicable to your specific circumstances.

Yes, students on a Tier 4 visa can participate in internships that are relevant to their course of study. However, these internships must be approved by their educational institution and comply with the working hour restrictions specified in the Tier 4 visa regulations.

Students on a Tier 4 visa can undertake both paid and unpaid internships. However, it is important to ensure that unpaid internships comply with the UK’s minimum wage legislation and meet the legal criteria for unpaid work.

Yes, Tier 4 visa holders are generally allowed to work full-time during university holidays. However, they should ensure that their work hours do not exceed the limitations set by their visa and that the employment does not interfere with their studies.

A Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) is a document issued by a UK-based organization that serves as proof of sponsorship for individuals applying for a Tier 5 visa. It is required for those seeking employment or internship opportunities in the UK under the Tier 5 category.

The maximum duration for a Tier 5 visa is typically 12 months, although it may vary depending on the specific subcategory. It is important to check the visa requirements and duration for the relevant subcategory.

Non-EU citizens who are not studying in the UK would generally require a Tier 5 visa or another appropriate visa category to undertake internships or temporary work in the country.

It is recommended to visit the official UK government websites, such as the Home Office or UK Visas and Immigration, for the latest information on visa regulations and requirements. Additionally, educational institutions’ international student support services can provide guidance specific to student visa

Yes, for most internships in the UK, you will need a job offer or sponsorship from a UK-based organization. The organization must be authorized by the UK government to offer internships to non-UK residents. This sponsorship is typically in the form of a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) and is necessary to apply for the appropriate visa, such as the Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Government Authorized Exchange) visa. The sponsoring organization will provide you with the necessary documentation and details required for your visa application.

It is important to note that the sponsorship process and requirements may vary depending on the specific internship program and visa category.

The conditions of your visa may determine whether you can undertake multiple internships. It is advisable to check the specific requirements of your visa category or consult with relevant authorities for clarification.

In some cases, it may be possible to switch from a Tier 4 student visa to a Tier 5 visa for an internship. However, there are specific requirements and procedures involved. It is advisable to seek guidance from the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) or consult with an immigration lawyer for assistance.

Since Brexit, the rules and regulations regarding internships in the UK have undergone changes. Non-UK nationals, including EU citizens, may be subject to different visa requirements and eligibility criteria for internships in the UK.

Yes, EU citizens can still undertake internships in the UK after Brexit. However, they may need to apply for the appropriate visa or permit to work or study, depending on the duration and nature of the internship.

EU citizens may need to apply for a Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Government Authorized Exchange) visa or another relevant visa category to undertake internships in the UK after Brexit. The specific visa requirements will depend on the circumstances and duration of the internship.

The visa requirements for non-EU citizens may remain largely unchanged after Brexit. Non-EU citizens will generally need to apply for the appropriate visa or permit to work or study in the UK, as per the existing regulations.

Yes, international students can participate in the Turing Scheme. The scheme allows international students to come to the UK for study and work placements, including internships, through partnerships between their home institutions and UK institutions.

Yes, the Turing Scheme is not limited to specific countries. It allows UK students and institutions to pursue study and work placements in various countries worldwide, promoting global mobility and international collaboration.

For more information about the Turing Scheme, including eligibility criteria, application procedures, and available opportunities, it is advisable to visit the official website or contact your educational institution’s international office.

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