Non-European Union immigrants wishing to settle in Britain would need to earn more than what most Briton do under a new “selectivity” policy aimed at attracting only those who can “add to the quality of life in Britain”.

“We need to know that you're not going to be living off benefits from day one of arriving here,” said Tory Immigration Minister Damian Green on Thursday.

He indicated that those who wanted to settle in Britain may be required to have a salary of between £31,000 and £49,000 a year. Most Britons earn less than £25,000 a year. The new threshold was prompted by Britain's desire to attract “the best and the brightest” as it did not need more “middle managers” or unskilled labour.

Mr. Green said he also proposed to set a minimum income level for a British citizen seeking to bring in a foreign spouse. The government's Migration Advisory Committee (Mac) had recommended an annual income of between £18,600 and £25,700.

In a widely-trailed speech to the Right-wing Policy Exchange think-tank, Mr. Green said he wanted to discourage a culture of dependency where immigrants became a burden on the state.

“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.

Critics attacked the plans saying they would favour the rich.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said the raising the income-level for immigrants wanting to bring in a foreign spouse would be a “hammer blow to the human rights of cross-border partners and their families”.

“They've already been hit with 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 U.K.,” said it chief executive Habib Rahman.

Claiming that immigrants were taking away British jobs, Mr. Green said that, according to a Mac report, there were up to 23 fewer jobs for British workers for every additional 100 working migrants coming from outside the European Union. 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 adding: “It is not my view, or the view of the vast majority of the British people.”

Critics said the real reason for the crackdown on immigrants was the Tories' election manifesto promise to bring down immigration from “hundreds of thousands” to “tens of thousands” a year. The rest was “guff”.

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