Tens of thousands of immigrants will be stripped of the right to settle in the UK permanently under Home Office proposals.
Ministers are to crack down on a regime which allowed a record 241,000 foreigners to settle here last year–up from 51,000 when Labour came to power.
They plan to abolish a rule that gives those from abroad the right to live in Britain permanently if they work here for five years.
The Government will also look at restricting the right of immigrants’ spouses to a British passport if they stay here long enough.
Ministers say it is vital if they are to hit David Cameron’s target of reducing net migration–the number of people entering the country, versus those leaving–to the ‘tens of thousands’.
Breaking the link between permanent settlement and the right to work in the UK temporarily has long been demanded by groups campaigning for a policy of ‘balanced migration’.
Under the plans, to be published before the end of this year, foreigners will still be able to gain a visa to work in Britain, but they will no longer be able to remain here permanently simply by virtue of staying in the country legally for five years.
A Whitehall source said: ‘We want to break the link between working and settling in Britain. It has become almost automatic for people who keep their noses clean and don’t get a criminal record.
‘The Government is not against people coming here to work, but that shouldn’t automatically mean they get to stay in Britain forever.’
Under the policy, a new ‘hurdle’ will be introduced for immigrants who wish to remain here permanently, based on their ability to support themselves and their families, their qualifications and whether they are working in professions where there are shortages of trained Britons.
Those on high incomes, businessmen and millionaire investors would be exempt because the Government believes they create jobs. EU nationals who have a right to live in the UK would not be affected.
The Home Office knows it needs to do more to cut immigration levels if the Prime Minister is to have any hope of meeting his election promises.
Crackdowns have already been announced on student visas and on the number of work permits given to non-EU nationals.
But without reducing the number of people who can remain here permanently, the ‘tens of thousands’ target is highly unlikely to be hit. Last year net migration rose by 21 per cent–with 239,000 more people arriving in the UK than leaving.