Only the "bright and brightest" of immigrants can settle in the UK, which is a "privilege", Britain said on Wednesday, announcing a series of steps to exercise far greater control over who can or cannot stay in that country.
The new measures, which are likely to affect thousands of Indians working or seeking to work in the UK, mean migrant workers on a Tier 2 (skilled workers) visa will no longer be able to settle in the UK on the basis of the number of years they have spent there.
A new minimum pay threshold will also mean that only very talented employees who strengthen the UK economy will be able to apply to stay in the UK permanently.
"Skilled temporary workers who want to apply for settlement will have to earn at least £35,000 or the going rate for their job, whichever is higher," Damian Green, the UK's immigration minister, said on Wednesday in a press release.
"Migrants doing jobs which are in shortage and scientists and researchers in PhD-level roles will be exempt from the £35,000 salary threshold."
Temporary leave would be capped at six years "to reinforce the temporary nature of Tier 2 of the points-based system", he said.
The British government, has, however, exempted all workers in "shortage occupation jobs" (currently including specialist nurses, teachers and social workers) from the minimum settlement salary threshold of £35,000.
The proposed plans include introducing a requirement that Tier 2 migrants who leave the UK will need to wait for 12 months before they may apply to re-enter the UK on a Tier 2 visa.
"The new immigration policy will retain a route for overseas domestic workers in private households, but only when they accompany a visitor and this is limited to 6 months' stay, with no right to change employer," Green said.
"Similarly, it will retain entry for private servants in diplomatic households under Tier 5 of the points-based system (temporary worker - international agreement category), with a maximum stay of 5 years and no ability to change employer or to settle in the UK," he said.
In addition, the UK government plans to make changes to visitor rules to allow a defined group of professionals to undertake specific fee-paid activities for short stays of up to 1 month without formal sponsorship requirements.
As part of the UK government's efforts to review its immigration system, last summer consultations were held proposing reforms to employment-related settlement, Tier 5 of the points-based system and overseas domestic worker routes.
"Settlement in the UK is a privilege. We are sweeping aside the idea that everyone who comes here to work can settle and instead reserving this important right only for the brightest and the best," Green said.
"Our reforms of the immigration system will ensure we are more selective not only about those who are allowed to come here, but also those who are allowed to stay permanently."
The British government is reforming all routes of entry to the UK in order to bring immigration levels under control and reduce net migration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands.
It has already taken action to reduce numbers by restricting the number of migrants from outside the European Union who can go to the UK to work, and has also introduced significant changes to the student visa system.