In December 2021, students voted at the Arts SU Members Meeting for Arts Students' Union to lobby nationally for International Students on a Tier 4 Visa to be able to Freelance, proposed by MA Applied Imagination CSM student Brenda Hernandez and Campaigns Officer Syahadah Shahril. Currently freelancing for International Students (Tier 4 Visa) is illegal under UK law, something which we want to change as we acknowledge the impact this has on our International art students at UAL and across the UK. 

In February 2022, Brenda and Syahadah submitted to the National Union of Students National Conference a policy proposal calling for the national student representative organisation to lobby the UK government on lifting the ban on Tier 4 International Students not being able to freelance and be registered as self-employed. The policy was selected in a priority ballot vote to be discussed at this year's conference on 28-29th March 2022. 

The Arts SU policy is being discussed under the topic "International Student Experience - During & Post Study", specifically in Amendment 3

National Conference, 28-29 March, ACC Liverpool


Supporting statement from Brenda Hernandez (MA Applied Imagination student- CSM)

I'm originally from Mexico and moved to the US in 2012, where I later obtained my undergrad degree in 2019. Then, in late 2020, I moved to the UK to pursue my MA in Applied Imagination in the Creative Industries at UAL Central Saint Martins. Throughout nearly a decade and multiple visas (especially Student visas), my experience as a migrant student got restricted by visa rules that limited my professional growth. As a creative, I felt I was falling behind other creatives by not being allowed to sell my work given that self-employment was against the rules for Student visas in both the US and the UK.

After years of wishing I could legally freelance as a migrant student and speaking to others with similar experiences, I knew I was not the only one facing this issue. I realized the issue is also reflected in the overall young freelancer population in the UK, as its diversity is not properly reflected by the diversity of higher education students when taking into account international students make up nearly a third of the entire student population in the country.

I then began a project during my MA advocating for equal professional opportunities for both international and home students. The project led to a campaign called Inter.work, a petition on the UK Government and Parliament's website, and a proposal accepted for voting at the NUS National Conference. With enough backing, the proposal to support legal freelancing for international students would become policy for NUS, so really looking forward to what's to come!

Why is this important to the student movement? 

We are acutely aware of the need for NUS to do more to represent art students across the UK and address the systematic barriers creatives face in the Education sector today. International Students make up a significant proportion of student bodies at arts institutions and broadly across the student population – yet are restricted in their ability to seek freelancing work or opportunities in the UK. This hugely affects art students who rely on freelancing to develop their creative practice and career in the industry, however, access to freelancing is not only limited to the arts sector and will hinder International Students in other industries also.

June 2022 Update - Syahadah Shahril (SU Campaigns Officer)

In the first term of this academic year, we at the SU started to work together with Brenda, from CSM, on a campaign to allow students A photo of Syahadah, who is wearing a red top.on Tier 4/student visas to freelance. Brenda had initiated the campaign and shared it with the SU, which we gladly backed and worked together on, as one of our priorities this year was international student support.  

Together, we worked on developing a proposal that would progress this lobbying campaign to the necessary platforms to ensure success. 

We brought the proposal of taking the international student freelancing campaign to NUS National Conference to you, our members, at the AMM in November. You voted for us to propose it to NUS National Conference to highlight the national nature of the issue, as well as to make it an NUS campaign priority for the next year. 

We presented the proposal at the conference, where it was discussed and debated with other delegates from SUs across England and Wales. 

The policy proposal was successfully passed at NUS National Conference in March 2022, with the help and collaboration of other SUs and their delegates. This helps to increase the lobbying power of the campaign. 

We are now taking the campaign forward to UAL, where we have received positive feedback and offers of collaboration. We are currently developing a toolkit and a briefing to raise awareness of the issue, which will be presented at the UAL Education Conference 2022. It’s an exciting opportunity to be able to discuss the campaign with UAL staff across different schools and teams in order to co-create a strategy going forward.  


How can I find out more? 

If you have any further questions about the campaign or proposal please email democracy@su.arts.ac.uk