Employment projections and skills strategies emphasise the importance of (highly) skilled labour for competitiveness. A strategic focus on ‘attracting the best talent’ globally may conflict with policies to ‘grow local talent’. This issue is considered in the UK context of a shift from a liberal immigration regime to a demand-led system characterised by increasing restriction, through adjustments to a points-based system to manage labour migration from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). The specific focus is on an annual limit on non-EEA labour migrants introduced in 2011 and tightening of eligibility criteria for entry of (highly) skilled migrants, amid business’ concerns that this might stifle economic growth. Drawing on 20 employer case studies and literature on skills and migration policy, the article investigates the costs and implications for business in adhering and seeking to adapt to migration policy changes. Such changes pose administrative burdens on employers and limit business flexibility but associated monetary costs to businesses are difficult to quantify. Adaptation strategies and the impact of migration rule changes vary: some firms experience limited impact, some adjust their recruitment behaviour and some feel their underlying business rationale is threatened. Developing local talent is a partial long-term solution.