Many students hope to use an MBA as a stepping stone to move to a new country. In this case, rankings might not matter as much as student immigration timelines or employment visa requirements. If you are hoping to use an MBA or other professional degree to build a career – and life – in a new country, Touch MBA is here to help. This guide will provide:
- A framework to help you narrow down your potential nations of study;
- Summaries of the visa policies, key industries, and economic outlooks in countries with a high number of strong MBA programs
- Resources to research MBA programs across different countries
We’d like to highlight Canada, Australia, UK and Germany as nations with particularly generous student and post-graduation visa policies which could allow you precious time to look for work. We acknowledge that our analysis is biased towards English speakers who want to attend top-ranked, world-renowned MBA programs. However, we recommend reading through all ten countries on our list and hope that the information presented below is helpful to your study abroad journey.
Ten Countries MBA Applicants Should Consider for Post-Study Work Visas
- Canada (8 months and up to 3 years to look for work)
- Australia (18 months and up to 4 years to look for work)
- United Kingdom (2 years to look for work)
- USA (Optional Practical Training 12 months and up to 2 years)
- Germany (18 months to look for work)
- Singapore (up to 12 months to look for work)
- Netherlands (12 months to look for work)
- Switzerland (6 months to look for work)
- France (12 months to look for work)
- Spain (12 months to look for work)
Touch MBA’s Framework for Evaluating Countries
If you’re hoping to use an MBA as a means to build a life in a new country, deciding on a location and school could be the most influential decision you ever make.
With that in mind, Touch MBA is excited to present some key considerations for you to keep in mind. Later on in our guide, we will use this same framework to evaluate different countries which offer popular MBA programs.
Student Visa Policy
Most countries offer visas for international students attending graduate schools. However, if you are hoping to land a job in the same country as your MBA, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- What is the process to apply for a student visa, and what government agencies manage the student visa process?
- Are you able to hold part-time jobs or internships while on your student visa?
- How long does your student visa last for after graduation?
Work Visa Policy
With some luck and lots of hard work, you can hopefully land a job in the same country as your MBA. But what’s next?
- What documentation is necessary for your work visa?
- Who is responsible for processing your work visa – you, or your employer?
- Does attending graduate school ease the path to citizenship?
Countries are strong in different industries. For example, the United States has a large tech scene, the UK is strong in finance, and Germany boasts a powerful manufacturing industry. Understanding your preferred industries can help define your MBA and post-MBA journey.
Country Pros and Cons
Some countries have high costs of living. Others might be subject to political uncertainty. It is important to research and consider a wide variety of aspects when deciding on where to potentially obtain an MBA and start a career. We’ve tried to call out any country-specific issues which you should be aware of as you survey your options.
Using the framework outlined above, we’ve provided a quick analysis of some of the most popular countries for international MBA students.
Please note that many countries have similar student visa policies – usually requiring a passport, proof of acceptance to a qualified institution, and documentation of financial well-being. We’ve tried to provide links to all relevant government agencies, but only include longer write-ups for countries with more complex student visa application processes.
#1 Canada 🇨🇦
Canada is an increasingly popular destination for MBA students. Several factors account for this, including a high quality of life, ease of receiving a work permit, and expanding choice of industries. For details on some of the top MBA programs in the nation, check out Touch MBA’s guide to the best MBA programs in Canada.
Student Visa Policy 🇨🇦
According to the government of Canada’s international student website, non-Canadians will need to apply for and receive a study permit.
Note that applicants from certain countries — including China, India, Morocco, Pakistan, the Philippines, Senegal, and Vietnam — may be able to receive their study permit faster by using Canada’s Student Direct Stream website.
Work Visa Policy 🇨🇦
One reason Canadian MBAs are growing in popularity is the nation’s postgraduate visa scheme, known as the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP). The PGWPP allows students who graduated from eligible Canadian designated learning institutions (DLIs) to obtain a work permit and gain work experience in Canada. PGWPP permits usually are valid for up to three years, and in certain cases MBA graduates who are awaiting a PGWPP decision are still allowed to work in Canada.
The government of Canada’s website includes an application form for the PGWPP and details on how to apply.
Key Industries 🇨🇦
Canada has a number of large, economically powerful cities including Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. Toronto is the second largest financial services centre in North America, and Vancouver’s tech industry employs 100,000 tech professionals and includes most of the world’s largest tech companies. As a result, there are a wide variety of professional services careers available. In addition to the standard MBA career paths, Canada has a massive energy and natural resource sector, a growing manufacturing sector focused on automobiles and airplanes, and a competitive real estate and construction sector in its large cities.
Pros and Cons 🇨🇦
As shown above, one of the largest factors drawing international students to Canada is its straightforward and relatively generous student and worker visa framework. Additionally, Canada boasts strong quality of life metrics, such as housing affordability, a strong education system and publicly funded health care. However, some Canadian MBA programs may not be as well-known as their American or European counterparts.
#2 Australia 🇦🇺
Australia is a great option if you’re looking for a place to stay after finishing your MBA, with relatively long-term postgraduate visas and a number of globally integrated cities. Touch MBA has previously written about and compared Australia’s top MBA programs.
Student Visa 🇦🇺
Australia recently revised its visa process, and all applications are submitted online through the online application portal. Similar to other countries, Australia requires student visa applicants to hold a passport and proof of acceptance to a qualified university, as well as other basic documentation.
Work Visa 🇦🇺
After finishing your MBA, you can qualify for a temporary graduate visa, which allows you to remain in Australia and work for up to four years after graduating from a qualified Australian institution.
Key Industries 🇦🇺
With several large and wealthy cities, there are plenty of career options for MBA graduates in Australia. However, in addition to classic career paths such as consulting or financial services, Australia boasts a strong agricultural sector and is a major exporter of natural resources. Additionally, Australia is a popular tourism destination and features a strong entertainment industry.
Pros and Cons 🇦🇺
Australia’s temporary graduate visa allows graduating MBA students to remain in Australia for up to four years. Furthermore, Australian wages are generally quite high compared to other countries on the list, and Australia ranks #5 in the U.S. News & World Report’s quality of life rankings. However, you get what you pay for – cost of living in Australia is quite high, as many goods and services are more expensive than in other countries and rent is high in major urban centers.
#3 United Kingdom 🇬🇧
Given London’s reputation as a hub of international business, it makes sense that many schools in the United Kingdom cater to MBA students from a wide range of backgrounds. For more information on specific programs, check out Touch MBA’s guide to the top UK MBA programs!
Student Visa Policy 🇬🇧
As of April 12, 2020, MBA students from a country that is not Switzerland or part of the European Economic Area (EEA) must apply for a United Kingdom student visa. MBA students should apply for a Tier 4 (General) student visa. The United Kingdom government offers a website discussing how to apply for this visa.
Work Visa Policy 🇬🇧
The UK allows international students to remain in the country for up to two years after graduating to find work with its graduate visa.
The United Kingdom’s general work visa, known as a Skilled Worker Visa, is available for MBA graduates from outside Switzerland or the European Economic Area. In order to apply for a Skilled Worker Visa, you must have received a job offer from a licensed sponsor, usually your employer, in the United Kingdom. Your sponsor will issue a certificate of sponsorship outlining the details of your position, including expected contract length.
You can stay in the UK through your Skilled Worker Visa for the length of time detailed in your certificate of sponsorship, for a maximum of five years.
In addition to the T-2 employment visa, the United Kingdom offers a Youth Mobility Visa, High Potential Individual Visa, and an Innovator Founder Visa, if you want to set up a business in the UK. Innovator Founder visa recipients must:
- Be endorsed by one of four business endorsing bodies; and
- Display that their businss idea is new, innovative (different from anything else on the market), viable, and scaleable
Key Industries 🇬🇧
London is one of the world’s leading cities for financial and professional services. The UK’s largest city also boasts a strong construction sector, and the United Kingdom as a whole boasts the world’s second largest national aerospace industry.
Pros and Cons 🇬🇧
The United Kingdom is a heavily globalized nation, and regardless of your background it is likely possible to find other business professionals from similar circumstances. However, one con to keep in mind is the ongoing nature of Brexit, which will likely lead to general uncertainty in the United Kingdom’s business circles for years to come.
#4 United States 🇺🇸
The United States is home to many of the top-ranked MBA programs in the world, including Harvard Business School and the Stanford Graduate School of Business. However, many American universities offer MBA degrees to serve a variety of student needs and interests.
Student Visa Policy 🇺🇸
According to the student visa overview from the United States Department of State, international students must acquire a student visa to study in the United States. For an MBA, a student must apply for and receive a “F” variety student visa. The Department of State outlines the steps to receive a student visa, though these steps may vary based on the policies of your local United States embassy or consulate:
- Receive acceptance to a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school. To search for certified schools, use the Department of Homeland Security’s School Search tool.
- Register for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and pay the SEVIS I-901 fee.
- Complete the online visa application, form DS-160.
- Prepare the necessary documentation and schedule an interview at your local United States embassy or consulate.
The United States Department of State outlines that recipients of an “F” variety visa may not enter the United States earlier than 30 days before the start of their program, and must depart the United States within 60 days after the end of their program. However, there are opportunities to remain in the United States longer through various work and training visas, outlined below.
Work Visa Policy 🇺🇸
Immediately after finishing your MBA, many students apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) which allows for temporary employment directly related to your field of study — such as an internship with a tech company or investment bank. Optional Practical Training for most MBA programs lasts for 12 months. However, graduate students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)-related degrees may receive 24 months of Optional Practical Training. As a result, many American MBA programs are self-designating as STEM in order to provide international students without this longer OPT period. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website details Optional Practical Training guidelines and requirements.
After participating in the Optional Practical Training program, MBA graduates usually seek out longer-term visas related to their career. These visas are explained in greater detail on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigratoin Services website:
- H-1B visas are usually provided by an employer. H-1B visa recipients generally must work in a position which requires a specific college degree (such as your MBA).
- O-1 visas are available for individuals which display exceptional skill or ability in their field. However, the threshold to receive approval for this visa is exceptionally high.
- E visas are available for foreign nationals which start or operate a business in the United States and make a substantial financial investment in that business.
Please note that you are not required to first apply for Optional Practical Training before applying for or receiving the other visa varieties. However, in general the Optional Practical Training process is more straightforward and does not require your employer to invest as much time or money as is needed to receive an H-1B or O-1 visa.
Key Industries 🇺🇸
The United States is such a large economy that most post-MBA careers are an option. From Silicon Valley’s tech scene to New York City’s financial services industry to consulting and beyond, it’s all here. When deciding on an MBA program in the United States, it may be more helpful to determine your target geography and industry, as many lesser-known schools still boast strong placement rates in particular fields.
Pros and Cons 🇺🇸
As the birthplace of the MBA, the United States likely has an MBA program to fulfill even the most specific interests or intended career paths.
Visa requirements in all countries are stressful, but the United States seems to be a particularly difficult process. H1-B employment visas are usually capped on an annual basis, meaning that even strong applicants may not receive permission to work in the United States. For the 2024 Fiscal Year, only 188,000 out of 780,000 applicants won the H1-B “lottery,” which is based on random selection without consideration of graduate degree school or degree type. However, being selected in the lottery is only the first step. Upon selection, applicants must undergo an approval process, which can take months and is fairly strict, with only 75 percent of lottery winners receiving approval in 2019. This means that the final number of H1-B visas approved in 2019 was significantly less than the 85,000 original lottery “winners.”
#5 Germany 🇩🇪
Though slightly less prestigious than some other top MBA destinations, German programs offer an affordable path to an MBA and an opportunity to stay and work in Europe’s largest economy. If you’re looking for details on specific programs, Touch MBA previously published a guide to the top German MBAs.
Student visas 🇩🇪
Germany offers student visas for individuals who have received acceptance to a graduate program. Based on our research, the process can be a bit more confusing than with other countries, but don’t let that keep you from considering an MBA in Germany. The process includes:
- Locating the nearest German embassy or consulate website;
- Reviewing the specific requirements for your country;
- Setting up a visa appointment and preparing your documents;
- Paying for the visa application; and
- Attending the visa interview.
It seems that the process may be different depending on your country of origin – so be sure to closely read your local German embassy’s website or visit the German government’s visa navigator for more information.
Additionally, upon graduating, you will be able to apply for a residence permit and stay in Germany for up to 18 months to look for work.
Work Visas 🇩🇪
In addition to the residence permit outlined above, it is possible to receive a work visa if you meet the following requirements:
- Your qualifications must be recognized in Germany – attending a German MBA program would help check this box; and
- You’ve received a job offer in Germany.
If you meet these requirements, you can begin your visa acquisition process by requesting an appointment at your local German Embassy. As with the student visa, receiving a German work visa may differ depending on your nationality. One key point to be aware of – German companies are incentivized to hire foreigners who have received degrees from German schools through a simplified hiring and visa process. This could help you be especially competitive when applying to jobs in Germany.
Key Industries 🇩🇪
As the largest economy in the Eurozone and one of the largest exporters in the world, Germany offers a variety of industries in which newly minted MBAs could work. Key export-oriented industries include automobile production such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW, pharmaceuticals, and electronics. Germany is also a leader in the global energy transition and is the leading producer of wind turbines globally. Additionally, Germany has a strong economy across its internal regions, meaning that cities such as Frankfurt, Berlin, and Cologne all provide a wealth of opportunities in the professional services industries such as finance or consulting.
Pros and Cons 🇩🇪
Just as the living costs in Germany are comparatively low, so too are the prices for an MBA. Many German programs last only one year, reducing the time you’d spend in the classroom and accelerating your return into the workforce. However, don’t let the low costs fool you – German MBAs often offer an impressive return on investment. That being said, many German MBA programs are comparatively young, meaning they may not have as strong of a global reputation and network as those in other countries.
#6 Singapore 🇸🇬
As a global financial powerhouse and the regional economic hub of Southeast Asia, Singaporean MBA programs offer immediate access to a variety of leading multinational corporations. Check out Touch MBA’s Best MBA Programs in Singapore guide for more school-specific information.
Student Visas 🇸🇬
Foreigners who have been accepted to a recognized Singaporean educational institution need to apply for a Student’s Pass and In-Principle Approval (IPA). The Singaporean Immigration and Checkpoint Authority (ICA) website details the steps to apply for a student pass.
Work Visa 🇸🇬
After graduation, students cannot remain in Singapore on a Student’s Pass. However, recent graduates can apply for a Long-Term Visit Pass (LTVP) through the ICA website, which is valid for up to one year.
If you are able to find work in Singapore, your employer is responsible for applying for a Letter of Consent (LOC), which allows you to work in Singapore and will need to be renewed every two years.
Key Industries 🇸🇬
As a leading global financial hub, banking and professional services such as consulting are industries for Singapore. Numerous multinational companies across a variety of sectors also hold their Southeast Asian regional headquarters in Singapore. However, Singapore also acts as a key exporter of goods, taking advantage of its highly attractive investment climate to attract producers of electronics and chemicals.
Pros and Cons 🇸🇬
The Singaporean visa process is very straightforward, and the city-state’s small size means you’ll have easy access to a variety of companies right outside of your MBA program campus. However, the cost of living in Singapore is extremely high.
#7 The Netherlands 🇳🇱
The Netherlands offer a generally simple, straightforward system to get an MBA. Obtaining student and work visas is easy, and if you’re interested in energy or consumer packaged goods, the Netherlands is an MBA destination worth looking at.
Student Visa 🇳🇱
The Dutch government offers a website outlining the process to apply for a student visa depending on your nationality. In certain cases, you may not need a student visa at all.
Work Visa 🇳🇱
If you have a valid residence permit in the Netherlands and are still in-country completing your studies, you can apply online for a residence permit for a 12-month “orientation year” in which you can look for work. The Netherlands’ Immigration and Naturalisation Service website includes an overview of how to apply. Additionally, once you find work, the website also details how you can transition your temporary stay visa into a permanent work visa.
Key Industries 🇳🇱
The Netherlands has a strong and diversified economy, but is particularly successful in the energy, consumer packaged goods, and agriculture sectors. Several Dutch companies employ large numbers of MBAs, including Royal Dutch Shell, Heineken, Unilever, and TomTom – all of which have their headquarters in either Amsterdam or Rotterdam.
Pros and Cons 🇳🇱
The Netherlands’ student and work visa systems are very straightforward and allow for MBA students and graduates to remain in the country while seeking work. However, the Netherlands is a relatively small and less diverse economy when compared to some of the other countries on this list, and its MBA programs may not be as well known as those in other countries.
#8 Switzerland 🇨🇭
Despite the fact that Switzerland is one of the smallest countries on this list, don’t let that fool you. Switzerland boasts a variety of strong MBA programs, great quality of life metrics, and the headquarters of a number of blue-chip global companies.
Student Visa 🇨🇭
The Swiss government offers a website detailing the process to apply for a student visa. Please note that you may need to contact your local Swiss embassy for specific application details.
Work Visa 🇨🇭
According to EPFL, a Swiss university, graduates of a Swiss university or program can remain in-country for up to six months after graduation to look for work. However, this post-graduate extension is only applicable for six months. You’ll need to work with your Swiss employer to arrange for an official work visa once you receive a job offer. Check out this detailed overview of work permit regulations in Switzerland for non-Swiss citizens.
Key Industries 🇨🇭
Key Swiss industries include banking, pharmaceutical production, tourism, and manufacturing. Major Swiss companies include Roche and Novartis, two of the world’s largest biotech companies; UBS and Credit Suisse, major financial services firms; and Nestle, a global producer of consumer packaged goods.
Pros and Cons 🇨🇭
Switzerland is well-known for it’s high quality of life, and for a small country it also boasts relatively large foreign populations (25%) which could help make your transition easier. However, some universities only offer courses in the local languages (German and French), and finding employment without fluency in these languages may be difficult.
#9 France 🇫🇷
France is an incredibly appealing location for international MBA applicants due to its large economy, relatively affordable graduate programs, and strong MBA program rankings. For more information, check out Touch MBA’s guide to the top MBA programs in France.
Student visa policy 🇫🇷
The type of visa you apply for in France will depend on the length of your MBA program. If your MBA program is a single-year program and less than 12 months in total length, you can apply for a residence permit for students (VLS-TS), which entitles the holder to travel freely within the Schengen Area, work 20 hours per week for supplementary income, and extend their stay as the permit expiration date approaches. Campus France, a website run by the French government, has details on how to apply for the residence permit. In addition to the standard residence permit, France also offers a multi-entry variation with which the holder can travel outside of Europe and re-enter France.
Work visa policy 🇫🇷
Upon completion of your MBA, France has a range of visa options that sometimes require employer sponsorship.
Students from a country in the European Union, European Economic Area or Switzerland may stay in France to look for work after they graduate – for as long as they like.
Non-European Students can apply for an APS temporary resident permit valid for 12 months as they look for jobs in France.
If you are planning to work in France for over 90 days, you will need to apply for a long-stay work visa, which will also serve as a residence permit. The procedure to acquire a long-stay visa includes:
- Receiving an offer of employment from a company based in France;
- Your employer drafting a work contract and sharing it with the French Ministry of Labor;
- Scheduling and attending an appointment at your local French embassy or consulate; and
- Registering with the French Office of Immigration and Integration.
In 2016, the French government also began organizing “Talent Passport” visas, which allows certain individuals — such as highly qualified employees, entrepreneurs or employees of an innovative company — to receive streamlined visa services. The talent passport is valid for four years.
Key Industries 🇫🇷
In addition to the usual post-MBA fare, France excels at several industries. First, as the most-visited tourism destination in the world, the travel sector plays a key role in the French economy. Additionally, manufacturing and especially chemicals are a large industry in France, and France boasts several of the largest energy companies in the world including FDG-Suez, EDF, and Total. France is also the largest agricultural producer in the European Union.
Pros and Cons 🇫🇷
International students make up the majority of most of the top MBA programs in France, and in recent years the French government has worked to attract entrepreneurs and innovators with new residency permits such as the Talent Passport, outlined above. Additionally, many French MBA programs are relatively affordable when compared to their American and British counterparts. One potential challenge to studying and working in France is the need to learn to speak French — this could be a pro or a con, depending on your interest in learning a new language!
#10 Spain 🇪🇸
Though Spanish MBA programs may be lesser-known than their French or British counterparts, getting an MBA in Spain provides a unique value proposition thanks to the liveability of the country, international makeup of MBA cohorts, and opportunity to learn Spanish. Check out the prior Touch MBA post on the best MBA programs in Spain for an idea of the available programs.
Student Visa 🇪🇸
Before applying for a Spanish student visa, you must apply to and receive acceptance from a Spanish university. Upon receiving acceptance, it is recommended that you consult the nearest Spanish Embassy or consulate for specific instructions on how to apply for a long-term student visa.
Work Visa 🇪🇸
Spain offers a one-time, 12-month residency permit which can be used upon graduating to seek work. However, Unlike other EU countries such as Germany, remaining in Spain after completing your MBA is a fairly competitive process. First, you must be able to find a position which is listed as a “shortage occupation”, meaning that a company is unable to fill the position with a Spanish worker. Once you have been offered the position, your employer must work with the Spanish Ministry of Labor to arrange for your work visa. The process may take several months to complete.
Key Industries 🇪🇸
Spain offers employment opportunities in a variety of industries, but some of the largest and most innovative include renewable energy and automobile production. Spain is also the second most-visited country in the world, leading to opportunities in tourism and entertainment.
Pros and Cons 🇪🇸
Spain consistently scores incredibly high on quality-of-life indices, and the government’s focus on improving infrastructure has helped strengthen the economy and makes Spain an easy country to travel in. However, if you are looking for long-term economic stability, Spain has at times fallen behind other European countries such as Germany.
Resources to Research MBA Programs
We hope that the country profiles listed above help define your MBA journey. However, we also understand that you’ll need to do plenty of research on your own. Several websites can be particularly helpful when researching MBA programs in different countries. A few of our favorites include:
- Touch MBA’s Country Guides, where you can compare a country’s Best MBA Programs head-to-head and find the best international MBA program for you.
- The Financial Times also offers a MBA rankings site, with added functions such as the ability to sort by post-MBA salary or the effectiveness of a school’s career services office
- Touch MBA’s podcast features MBA applicants, graduates, and admissions officers from programs around the world. These are a great resource that hopefully can help you better understand the programs to which you are applying!