Under the latest UK immigration rules, MBA graduates from outside the European Union face a new series of hurdles before they can work in the UK.

MBAs from leading business schools had qualified as highly skilled migrants under a special provision. But this is being withdrawn, meaning MBAs who want to work in the UK will have to provide proof of previous earnings, age and ties to the country.

Under the “MBA provision”, introduced in April 2005, MBA graduates from the 50 top business schools were automatically eligible for work permits. Partly as a result, the UK was the destination of choice for many graduating MBAs.

The new rules, introduced with the aim of making the immigration system fairer and more transparent, eliminate the provision in favour of a uniform, points-based approach, which puts the MBA on a par with any other masters degree. Applicants need 75 points to qualify. A masters degree now counts for 35 points. Five bonus points are given for degrees awarded by UK schools. A further 20 points are available on the basis of youth (those under 28 score the maximum 20, falling to five points for 30- and 31-year-olds). The balance of points must be acquired by showing previous earnings.

A 32-year-old MBA without UK ties would need to demonstrate annual earnings of more than £35,000. These must be current earnings and must have been acquired within the 15 months immediately before starting school. Previous earnings are adjusted to account for lower wage levels in different economies. So, for instance, Indian
salaries are multiplied by 5.3 to generate equivalent UK wage levels.

But incoming MBAs with a gap in their earnings pattern may find doors closed to them. These cases are already starting to crop up, according to Sarah Buttler, an immigration consultant.

“We have already seen a case of a young woman who had left a job early to travel before studying who now finds she cannot use some of her evidence of previous earnings. If you dig a bit below the surface, I think you would find many cases of people who won’t be able to qualify as they previously would have done,” she says.

MBAs going to larger companies will probably still find a way in. Businesses can still sponsor staff but have to show they have tested the labour market and cannot find suitable local candidates. However, such visas are tied to the job for which they were granted.

In future, MBAs planning to graduate and move to London to job hunt may need to rethink.

The new rules require applicants to demonstrate sufficient funds to support themselves. A family of four will have to show
disposable funds of £5,600.

For those already in the UK, these rules came into force on February 29. For those applying from abroad, the Border and Immigration Agency plans to roll out the new system this year.

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