The immigration minister, Damian Green, will confirm on Thursday that ministers want to move to a more highly selective policy.
"We need to know not just that the right numbers of people are coming here but that the right people are coming here..." Green will argue in a speech to the Policy Exchange thinktank.
Only migrants earning more than £31,000 a year will be able to settle in Britain.
Husbands, wives or fiancés who cannot speak English and are likely to be dependent on benefits will be barred.
A ban any British resident from bringing an overseas-born spouse into the country unless they have a minimum household income of £25,700 a year - which effectively covers half the UK's working population.
Matt Cavanagh, associate director of the Institute for Public Policy Research, said "...essentially their approach is, if you're a wealthy migrant, you can come, you can stay as long as you like; if you're a wealthy resident, you can marry whoever you like; but for everyone else, it is going to get much more difficult. And we're not talking about people who are destitute or living on benefits, we are talking about people who are working and getting an average wage. Migrants will still be invited to come and work at these wages [between £20,000 and £30,000] to fill jobs where we lack the skills or nobody else wants to do the work, but after five years they will be asked to leave, regardless of the contribution they have made or could make in the future.
Likewise, not just people living on benefits but almost half the British population, could lose the right to marry and live with someone from abroad."