The Government is reportedly planning to introduce a work permit system for Bulgarians and Romanians that will require them to prove they can fill specific skill shortages.
Relatively few potential job applicants from the two countries are likely to meet the expected criteria in a move designed to take pressure off the Government over immigration, according to the Guardian.
"We have a strong record on accepting migrants from Europe, but sometimes politics has to override the economics and that is what is going to happen in this case," an unnamed cabinet minister told the newspaper.
Existing British points-based work permit systems used for applicants from other countries place a premium on university education, professional qualifications and potential earning power. A similar system is likely for people hoping to come here from Romania and Bulgaria.
The European commission is due to decide on 27 September whether to allow the two countries into the EU on 1 January as planned, or instead delay entry for a year on the grounds that they have not met all the judicial and human rights criteria.
By Daniel Thomas