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Student YouTubers Beware

Posted by: Gherson Immigration

Let’s suppose you have spent a considerable amount of effort building up a significant following on a social media platform such as YouTube, TikTok (Dou Yin) or Onlyfans through your up-and-coming gaming, tech-review, Minecraft, or beauty channel in your home country. You currently have around 30,000 followers and you have successfully monetized your channel on YouTube. Everything is going well.

However, it has also been your intention to pursue undergraduate or postgraduate studies in the UK, and having received your acceptance offer from a prestigious UK university, you quickly applied for a Student Visa. Question – did you consider the possible impact of the UK Immigration Rules on your social media and internet-based commercial activities?

ST 26.5 of Appendix ST of the Immigration Rules prohibits students from being a) self-employed, b) engaging in business activity, and c) working as an entertainer in the UK. 

With respect to being self-employed, you could potentially fall foul of this provision because as an ‘influencer’, you are not directly employed by YouTube. This means that you could be deemed by the Home Office to be self-employed. It should be noted that this could also raise potential UK tax issues, which you would need to consider.

As regards the second prohibition above, “engaging in business activity” includes having a “financial or other significant beneficial interest in a capacity other than as an employee” in an entity classed as a “business” under the Home Office’s guidance. An individual running a YouTube channel, for example, could potentially be construed as engaging in “business activity” if the channel generated income, as opposed to somebody who engaged in vlogging for their personal enjoyment. 

With respect to the prohibition at c) above, being an influencer could arguably be seen as taking part in ‘entertainment’. This could be mitigated against if you could show that you were engaging in such activities as an amateur and solely for your personal enjoyment.

If a student is found to be engaging in any of these prohibited activities, their visa could be curtailed if the Home Office considers their actions to be of “sufficient gravity”. This means that the amount earned from a ‘gig’, including (but not limited to) the aforementioned social media activities and any income-generating project or hobby, could also be relevant to the Home Office’s determination of the gravity of any breach. The wider consequences could include being refused UK visas in the future. 

Students should note that their school, university or higher education establishment is under a legal duty to report them to the Home Office if they find out about any such ‘gig’ activity. It can be assumed that the likelihood of such reporting would be high given the institution would be keen to protect its commercial interests and the ongoing ability to sponsor international students. As a result, we recommend that any student or prospective student assesses carefully whether any planned activity may endanger their student status, and to seek professional advice if in any doubt.

In the event that you require any information or advice about studying in the UK, please do not hesitate to contact us.  

The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.

©Gherson 2020

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