More than 660million people of all nationalities will be eligible to apply for work visas under Britain’s points-based immigration system, critics warned last night.
Migration Watch UK said it could let immigration ‘spin out of control’.
The figure from the group, which wants tougher border controls, includes more than 250million from India and China.
It said the visa system, announced by Home Secretary Priti Patel this year, must be revised in the wake of Covid to let unemployed Britons find jobs.
Migration Watch UK has urged Mrs Patel to cap the number able to secure work visas under the scheme, which begins in January as Britain leaves the EU.
Migrants will have to speak English and hold a job offer to qualify. But the think-tank said the business sector will take advantage of the system to hire ‘cheaper, non-unionised overseas labour’.
Chairman Alp Mehmet added: ‘This scheme was drawn up long before the Covid crisis.
‘Now, with unemployment heading for several million, we cannot simply blunder on with unlimited immigration from all over the world. Immigration could spin out of control as it did under Labour.
‘The only way to avoid a crisis is to put a cap on the numbers and then adjust as necessary. What is the point of taking control over immigration only to hand it over to business?’
Migration Watch UK’s analysis, published today, estimates 590million young adults outside the EU are educated to at least secondary level in the top 15 ‘source countries’ – those whose citizens are most likely to come to Britain to work.
It said 77million EU citizens were also eligible to apply for visas, making the total more than 667million.
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘The idea that every single person who qualifies to come to the UK will do so is nonsense. The Home Secretary and the Prime Minister have been clear that the new system will enable us to bring overall numbers down.
‘For the first time in forty years, the British Government will have the levers to control of our borders and count people coming in and out of this country.’