Foreign cooks and cleaners will be banned from working in homes as part of a clamp-down on immigration.
Damian Green, the Immigration minister, told MPs the UK needs to be "more selective about who we allow to stay" and that he wants to break the link between coming into the country to work and being allowed to settle permanently.
Among the measures he is considering is making it a requirement that even dependants of immigrant workers be compelled to learn to speak English if they come into the country.
He hopes to scrap visas for people coming to the UK as domestic workers. "This would oblige those wanting domestic workers to recruit instead from the UK labour market, with the rights and protections that affords," Mr Green said. At present domestic workers can stay for up to six years and then apply to stay permanently.
Temporary workers might also be barred from staying longer than 12 months and from being accompanied by any of their dependants.
Tens of thousands of immigrants will be prevented from coming to the UK under government plans, he said, with only a "tightly controlled minority" allowed to stay permanently.
Dr Adam Marshall, of the British Chambers of Commerce, warned that restrictions could damage the economy: "Turfing out valuable migrant workers who are turned down for settlement would be incredibly disruptive to companies of all sizes, and to the UK's economic recovery."