Damian Green, the Immigration Minister, has given a key speech on the Government's proposed immigration plans. Speaking to the Reform think tank on 1 February, Green discussed the Government's current and future plans to limit economic migration, toughen settlement rules and reform the student migration system.

In light of the 31 January closure of the Government's public consultation on the student visa system, tier 4 was the focus of Green's speech. The Immigration Minister said that too many students are coming to stay in the UK and using bogus courses as a way to get into the country. With this reported abuse in mind, he argued that the Government's planned clampdown on the student visa system was justified and highly necessary.

Under the Government's new plans, only Highly Trusted Sponsors will be able to offer courses below degree level to adults and frequent inspections will be carried out to ensure these regulations are adhered to. Students coming to the UK will be subject to more rigorous testing in order to display their command of the English language and those individuals wishing to extend their studies must show proof of academic progression. Restrictions will also be placed on students' right to work and their right to bring dependants to the country. Green argued that with these changes, he is 'seeking to eliminate abuses within the system'.

On the subject of settlement, Green stated the importance of gaining a clearer view of those individuals who are coming to the UK for a time and those who are coming to settle indefinitely. Announcing his intention to consult on all routes of settlement in the Spring, he stated that 'since 1997, there has been an eight fold increase in numbers settling in the UK from employment-related categories. It cannot be right that people coming to fill temporary skills gaps have open access to permanent settlement'. In addition, he spoke about the Government's plans to consult on new proposals regarding the family route. This follows on from the introduction in November 2010 of the requirement that individuals applying for a marriage visa now have to demonstrate a minimum standard of English.

The Immigration Minister also discussed the Government's restrictions on economic migration, reiterating the November 2010 announcement on the annual limit of 20,700 skilled workers entering under tier 2 general from 6 April 2011. Green also discussed the exemption on intra-company transfers for those earning £40,000 or more and the provision of 1000 visas every year under the new tier 1 'exceptional talent' route. Defending the new rules against criticism that the economic health of Britain would deteriorate as a result of the new plans, he stated: "This is not about closing our doors; it is about a more selective approach in the interests of Britain."

For the full speech please click here.