Britain's coalition government will have to consider restricting visas for foreign students and curbing settlement rights if it wants to achieve promised cuts in immigration, a parliamentary committee said on Wednesday.
The UK government has already imposed an interim cap on work visas for skilled workers, which has drawn howls of complaint from companies facing limits on hiring overseas employees.
Businesses say the migrant ceiling is based on artificially low staffing needs last year when the economy was mired in recession.
But parliament's Home Affairs Committee said the work visa cap by itself would have little effect in reducing net immigration from the current annual level of around 200,000 to the “tens of thousands” a year sought by the government.
Britain can only enforce immigration controls on citizens from outside the 30-nation European Economic Area (EEA). They account for just over half of the annual immigration total, but only about a quarter of them come for work. By contrast, some 45% of non-EEA migrants a year come to Britain to study.
The government plans to make the migration cap permanent in April next year, but has yet to decide its level.