The aim is to keep the numbers down, attract the very best

Wealthy immigrants and “world class” artists, musicians and intellectuals are to be given preference under plans designed to attract “the brightest and best” to Britain while keeping out those likely to be a burden on the state.

Immigration Minister Damian Green on Sunday said he would soon announce new rules as part of what he described as the “transformation of British immigration policy,” under which “fewer but better” migrants would be allowed to live here.

The move sparked accusations of “cherry picking,” with critics arguing that it would discriminate against people from poorer countries.

Under the proposed “selectivity” policy, the latest in a series of changes introduced by the Conservative-led coalition government since it came to power less than two years ago, those lacking the kind of skills that Britain needs to boost its economy and spouses of immigrants already settled in Britain would face tougher controls.

“What we need is a system that… goes out to seek those people who are either going to create jobs or wealth or add to the high-level artistic and cultural aspirations we have,” Mr. Green told The Sunday Times.

He said the new policy was aimed as much at bringing down the immigration levels as promised by the Conservatives in their election manifesto as at attracting only the very best.

Fewer and better

“Getting the numbers down is the absolute key but what I am aiming at is fewer and better,” Mr. Green said.

Tougher controls will mean that foreign spouses of British citizens would have to prove that they would be able to support themselves and not end up relying on state benefits.

The family would be expected to show a household annual income of £26,000.

“The idea of coming here from day one and living on benefits: people will think that's unfair… The family will need to show it can support them,” said the Minister.

New rules would also make it more difficult for those on work visas to qualify for British residency.

“You have to show genuine serious usefulness to British society. What we are saying is: if you are a particularly exceptional person we will make it easy for you to come here in the first place and we will allow you to stay for a certain amount of time and in some categories we will make it easier for you to stay here,” Mr. Green said, arguing that the era of mass immigration was “over.”

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