Low-skilled workers would not get visas under post-Brexit immigration plans unveiled by the government.
It is urging employers to “move away” from relying on “cheap labour” from Europe and invest in retaining staff and developing automation technology.
The salary threshold for skilled migrants will be lowered from £30,000 to £25,600, but those coming to the UK must already have a job offer and speak English.
EU and non-EU nationals will be treated equally with priority given to those with “the greatest talents”, such as engineers and scientists.
The Home Office said EU and non-EU citizens coming to the UK would be treated equally after UK-EU free movement ends on 31 December.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said the new system would mean “the brightest and the best will be able to come to the United Kingdom”.
The government, which said it was aiming to reduce overall migration to the UK, wants a “points-based” immigration system – as it promised in its election manifesto.
Under the scheme, overseas workers who wanted to come to the UK would have to speak English and have the offer of a skilled job with an “approved sponsor”.
They would be awarded 50 points if they fulfil these criteria.
In total, immigrants would have to reach 70 points to be able to work in the UK, with points also being awarded for qualifications, the salary on offer and working in a sector with shortages.
But the government said it would not introduce a route for lower-skilled workers, urging businesses to “adapt and adjust” to the end of free movement between EU countries and the UK.