The Government has recently published a number of changes to the Immigration Rules which will come into force on 13 December 2012. Whilst the stated aim of the changes is to ensure that the brightest and best global talent is able to work in the UK, the impact on employers is likely to be fairly modest. The main changes are as follows:

The maximum leave to remain for senior employees on Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) visas earning £150,000 or more per annum will be increased from five years to nine years It remains the case, however, that time spent in the UK on these visas will not count towards settlement.

The rules relating to the 12 month "cooling off period", during which migrants are required to leave the UK following the expiry of a Tier 2 visa, will be made more flexible so that the "cooling off period" can start from the earliest date that the applicant can demonstrate they left the UK, rather than the expiry date of their leave to remain. The onus will be on the applicant to demonstrate that they have left and remained outside the UK earlier than the expiry of their leave to remain.

Tier 2 (General) sponsors will not be required to appoint a suitable resident worker when carrying out the resident labour market test for PhD occupations if a migrant applicant is better qualified for the post. This will make it easier for employers to recruit the most talented individuals for certain highly skilled roles.

Migrants will be able to be absent from the UK for up to 180 days in any 12 month period during their visa, provided the absence is consistent with the migrant's visa (e.g., business trips, conferences, and research collaborations), or for other serious or compelling reasons (e.g., the serious illness of a close relative). This will make it easier for migrants to travel in and out of the UK without jeopardising the continuous period of lawful residence necessary to make an application for indefinite leave to remain.