EEA/Swiss migrant workers

Last modified: 20 October 2023

The fees and Student Support regulations across the four countries of the UK make provision for eligibility for EEA and Swiss nationals who are working in the UK, as well as for certain 'relevant family members' of such people.

In this page we outline what activities can be considered as work and, therefore, when someone is considered a ‘worker’. We also highlight relevant case law, from the UK and EU, relating to workers and work.

Applying as a 'worker'

Last modified: 20 October 2023

If you wish your educational institution to consider you as a 'worker' when assessing your fee status, or if you wish your funding body to consider you as worker when assessing your application for Student Support, it is important to state this clearly in your fee status assessment form / financial support application. It is normally helpful to include a chronology of the work you have done since you came to the UK. It may also be helpful to include documents, if you have any, as evidence of work you are doing and have done, including:

  • P45s / P60s / payslips
  • Contracts of employment
  • Certificates of work authorisation/registration

However, before you do this you should check what the team assessing your application will wish to see.

How do I challenge the decision to refuse?

Start by having a look at our information on Appealing a fee status decision or what to do if you are Incorrectly refused, or not eligible for student support.

Who is a 'worker'?

Last modified: 20 October 2023

In the fees regulations and Student Support regulations, various types of ‘migrant worker’ are defined.

Generally, the term 'worker' will include someone who is:

  • employed; or
  • self-employed; or
  • a frontier worker who is employed or self-employed.

A frontier worker is an EEA/Swiss national who works in the UK but who resides in the territory of an EEA State other than the UK, or Switzerland, and returns to their residence in an EEA state, or Switzerland, at least once a week.

What counts as 'work' or 'working'?

Last modified: 20 October 2023

The definition of 'work' is broad. As cases arise and are taken to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the definition of 'worker' for the purposes of the European treaties is further developed, and this can affect the eligibility of workers to 'home' fees, and entitlement of workers to Student Support. Look at the facts of your own case and the work you have been doing.

Working whilst studying

Key facts about work

Work that is 'ancillary' to study

Becoming a 'worker'

Stopping work to start a course

People who remain 'workers' when no longer working

Those who have not found work in the UK

Work undertaken purely to benefit from 'home' fees and Student Support

List of relevant case law

Last modified: 25 April 2018




Deborah Lawrie-Blum
Land Baden-Württemberg
Case 66/85

For those who are employed there are three essential elements of the work relationship. The work must be work:

  • of some economic value
  • undertaken for and under the direction of another
  • undertaken in return for remuneration

D.M. Levin
Staatssecretaris van Justitie
Case 53/81

Work must be genuine and effective to the exclusion of activity which is purely marginal and ancillary.

Work can be part-time and low paid.

Steven Malcolm Brown
The Secretary of State for Scotland
Case 197/86

Definition of 'ancillary': Had it not been for acceptance on a course of study, the work would not have been undertaken. An example of ancillary work is a work placement that is part of your course.

Brian Francis Collins
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
Case C-138/02

A 'work seeker' is not a 'worker' who is entitled to social and tax advantages. Student Support is considered a social and tax advantage.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
Maria Dias
[2009] EWCA Civ 807

Someone who is on maternity leave retains 'worker' status.

Someone who has stopped work for childcare reasons is voluntarily unemployed and doesn’t retain 'worker' status.

M. L. Ruzius-Wilbrink
Bestuur van de Bedrijfsvereniging voor Overheidsdiensten
Case C-102/88

Someone who worked 18 hours a week was considered to be a 'worker'

Ingrid Rinner-Kuhn
FWW Spezial-Gebaudereinigung GmbH & Co. KG
Case 171/88

Someone who worked 10 hours a week was considered to be a 'worker'

R.H. Kempf
Staatssecretaris van Justitie
Case 139/85

Teacher who gave 12 lessons a week and had a low income was considered to be a 'worker'

V. J. M. Raulin
Minister van Onderwijs en Wetenschappen
Case C-357/89

Those undertaking contracts can be 'workers'


"[the] national court may [...] when assessing the effective and genuine nature of the activity in question, take account of the irregular nature and limited duration of the services actually performed under a contract for occasional employment. The fact that the person concerned worked only a very limited number of hours in a labour relationship may be an indication that the activities exercised are purely marginal and ancillary. The national court may also take account, if appropriate, of the fact that the person must remain available to work if called upon to do so by the employer".

Franca Ninni-Orasche
Bundesminister fur Wissenschaft, Verkher und Kunst
Case C-413/01

The end of fixed term contract does not necessarily mean that migrant is voluntarily unemployed

Sylvie Lair
Universitat Hannover
Case 39/86

If there is a sufficient link between work and studies taken thereafter migrant retains 'worker' status.

You should not seek to become a 'worker' solely in order to benefit from student support.

Ezgi Payer and Others
Secretary of State for the Home Department
Case C-294/06

A migrant can be 'worker' and 'student' at the same time

Udo Steymann
Staatssecretaris van Justitie
Case 196/87

Payment in kind (not necessarily money) can count as remuneration