Tough restrictions stopping all but highly-skilled EU workers are among leaked Home Office proposals which if implemented would see the end of the free movement of labour straight after Brexit.
The 82-page paper proposes offering residency for a maximum of two years with "highly skilled" workers getting three to five years. It also suggests ending the right to settle in the UK for most European migrants and restricts those who want to bring in family members.
The Home Office paper, titled the Border, Immigration and Citizenship System has been seen by the Guardian which reports how it has been circulated among senior ministers.
The proposals would still need the backing of MPs and are to be negotiated with the EU during Brexit talks.
Employers would need to concentrate on recruiting locally and any EU national would need permission before they took up a job.
All EU citizens would need to show a passport before entering the UK although there would be no new border checks.
The report said: "The government will take a view on the economic and social needs of the country as regards EU migration, rather than leaving this decision entirely to those wishing to come here and employers."
The proposals would only come into force at the end of a transition period of up to three years.
EU withdrawal bill
Lord Green, chairman of Migration Watch said: "These proposals rightly focus on low-skilled migration and by doing so could reduce net migration from the EU by 100,000 a year over time. This would be an important step to achieving the government's immigration target."
Labour MP Yvette Cooper said the document went against a government commitment for consultation, telling the BBC: "The process for developing its policy seems to be completely confused.
"What assessment has been done of the impact or the interrelationship between immigration proposals and any trade or single market deal?"
The TUC said the plans would mean that migrants would be exploited and "create an underground economy".
A government spokesperson said: "We do not comment on leaked draft documents. We will be setting out our initial proposals for a new immigration system which takes back control of the UK's borders later in the autumn."
Meanwhile, the Labour party is set to impose a three-line whip on its MPs to vote against the EU withdrawal bill next week. The party said the bill in its current form lets government ministers grab powers from parliament.