Net migration will start to rise again in less than two years as the Government runs out of options for restricting the number of foreign nationals entering the UK, a leading think tank has warned.
While net migration is forecast to fall to 140,000 next year, from around 180,000 at the end of last March, it is likely to rise again in 2014, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said.
The decline in net migration will be driven by lower numbers of international students from outside the EU, but this is likely to be short-lived, the IPPR said.
A crackdown on foreign students will see UK Border Agency officials conduct interviews with student-visa applicants from "high-risk" countries, while a new inspection regime to ensure colleges are genuine has already led to 150 closures.
International students are included within the Government's target to get annual net non-EU immigration below 100,000 and it has faced criticism for damaging business and universities by making it harder for non-EU nationals to come to the UK to learn.
IPPR associate director Sarah Mulley said: "Although net migration will fall next year, the Government is fast running out of options for further restricting non-EU immigration in any significant way.
"This may leave future progress against the net migration target dependent on patterns of EU migration and emigration, both of which are unpredictable and largely outside Government control. The net migration target is leading to bad policy decisions. It is keeping out migrants who make a significant economic contribution and are not the focus of public concerns."
The IPPR said the next two years will show the "limits" of Government action on net migration as it runs out of ways to significantly reduce numbers further. It wants the focus to shift away from migration to integration, the impacts of migration on housing, work, and public services and better cooperation at European and international levels.
The think tank warned that final figures for 2014, when it expects net migration to rise again, will not be available until after the 2015 general election. In 2013, it expects further significant falls in non-EU student immigration and steady declines in non-EU immigration for work and family reasons.
It also expects a modest increase in immigration from the EU and a small increase in asylum claims. Higher net emigration by UK nationals is also predicted.