Entry to the UK by Romanians and Bulgarians is likely to be restricted if they join the European Union next year, Home Secretary John Reid said today.
Mr Reid said immigration from the two countries would need to be "carefully managed".
It was the strongest indication so far from the Government that nationals of the two Eastern European states will not be granted the same unrestricted access as residents of other former Communist states which joined the EU in May 2004.
Addressing the Police Superintendents' Association annual conference in Chester, Mr Reid said the planned expansion of the EU would have an impact on policing and crime.
"As global migration increases and the EU continues to expand, we need to be ready for fresh challenges - including in the law enforcement field," said the Home Secretary.
"That is why we need to manage immigration carefully, including in respect of the forthcoming decision over Romania and Bulgaria.
"We need to consider very carefully all the implications of accession of new states and ensure that we have all the necessary safeguards in place, right down to local borough level, to reassure the public that this movement will be managed fairly and competently."
He added: "I know that law enforcement agencies have already been working closely with the Romanian and Bulgarian governments to identify the new challenges."
The EU is expected to make a final decision on whether Romania and Bulgaria can join the federation next month.
If, as expected, the move is given a green light, the two countries will become EU members on January 1 next year.
Conservative politicians and the Migrationwatch think-tank, which campaigns against mass immigration, have both suggested that the number of Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants allowed to work in the UK should be restricted.Reuse content