By BBC News
People coming to live in the UK from outside the EU must “add to the quality of life in Britain”, immigration minister Damian Green has said.
He argued Britain does not need more “middle managers” or unskilled labour and those who settle could have to command a salary of more than £31,000.
Any British citizen who wants to bring in a non-EU spouse should also meet a minimum salary level, he added.
Labour said ministers had set out “no workable proposals” to cut immigration.
The government has pledged to cut net migration from 242,000 – the figure for the year ending September 2010 – to the “tens of thousands” last seen in the 1990s.
As part of that the number of people from outside the EU coming to the UK to work will be capped.
In his speech to the Policy Exchange in London, Mr Green referred to a report by the government’s Migration Advisory Committee (Mac) which found there were up to 23 fewer jobs for British workers for every additional 100 working migrants coming from outside the EU.
He said it disproved the “old assumption” that “as immigration adds to GDP it is economically a good thing, and that therefore logically the more immigration the better, whatever the social consequences”.
“That was the view of the previous government in its early years, and it is still the view of Tony Blair and some of his former advisers,” he said.
“It is not my view, or the view of the vast majority of the British people.
“The key insight of the Mac’s work is that the measure of a successful immigration policy is how it increases the wealth of the resident population.”
Mr Green said he wanted to build a “national consensus” around immigration, adding: “Importing economic dependency on the state is unacceptable.
“Bringing people to this country who can play no role in the life of this country is equally unacceptable.”
He said he wanted anyone moving to the UK to join a British spouse “to be able to integrate and be independent”, which was why a requirement to speak English was being introduced.
But he said he was also proposing to set a minimum income level for any sponsor seeking to bring in a foreign spouse – and said the recommended level from Mac was between £18,600 and £25,700.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said that would be “hammer blow to the human rights of cross border partners and their families”.
Chief executive Habib Rahman said: “They’ve already been hit with an age minimum (although we defeated that), language requirements and ever increasing visa fees. Now they face what is likely to be an unreasonably high income threshold.
“One might argue that this government has it in for poor people who fall in love with anyone who’s not resident in the UK.”