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 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.
Labour said a “hostile environment” would make it hard to attract workers.
But Home Secretary Priti Patel told BBC Breakfast the government wanted to “encourage people with the right talent” and “reduce the levels of people coming to the UK with low skills”.
She added that businesses could also recruit from among eight million “economically inactive” potential workers in the UK.
But the SNP called this a “ridiculous or dangerous idea”, as many in this group were suffering “ill health or injury”.
Who is ‘skilled’?
Under the plan, the definition of skilled workers would be expanded to include those educated to A-level/Scottish Highers-equivalent standard, not just graduate level, as is currently the case.
Waiting tables and certain types of farm worker would be removed from the new skilled category, but new additions would include carpentry, plastering and childminding.