The Government launched today a public consultation into reforms to the work routes leading to settlement.
The immigration minister, Damian Green, set out plans to re-classify visas as either 'temporary' or 'permanent' as well as to introduce stricter criteria for those who want to stay in the country.
Under the current system, many workers are allowed to apply to stay permanently in the United Kingdom. And the numbers granted employment-related settlement has risen significantly: last year, 84,000 people who entered the country for work were granted settlement whereas the number in 1997 was just 10,000.
The government has committed to reforming all routes of entry to the UK in order to bring immigration levels under control. Government has already capped economic migration from outside the EU and reformed student visas to address the widespread abuses of that route.
Addressing the link between temporary routes and permanent settlement, as well as the family visa route, will further reduce net migration. As a result of these policies it is expected that net migration will be reduced to sustainable levels, down from the hundreds to the tens of thousands a year.
Commenting on the announcement Mr Green said:
"The proposals I am making today are aimed at breaking the link between temporary and permanent migration. Settlement has become almost automatic for those who choose to stay. This needs to change. The immigration system has got to be made to work properly.
"We want the brightest and best workers to come to the UK, make a strong contribution to our economy while they are here, and then return home. A small number of exceptional migrants will be able to stay permanently but for the majority, coming here to work will not lead automatically to settlement in the UK."