Brexit will spell the "end of freedom of movement as we know it" - but the numbers will not just suddenly fall once Britain leaves the European Union, the Home Secretary has said.
Amber Rudd said the Government was "against cliff edges" - appearing to back Brexit Secretary David Davis' suggestion that the door will not "suddenly shut" - as she revealed businesses and other stakeholders would be consulted in the summer on new immigration controls.
She also appeared to back his suggestion that it will take "years and years" for British workers to fill the low-skilled jobs left by EU migrants.
Ms Rudd confirmed reports that ministers are considering plans to limit benefits for new immigrants, but insisted it is one of a number of options the Home Office is looking into.
She said: "We are working on a range of options. It would be a mistake for me to go any further than that. We are looking at all the different options.
"How they are implemented and how long it will take will depend on the final arrangement and how we set it up," she told ITV's Peston on Sunday.
Earlier this week, Mr Davis' comments during a visit to Estonia raised questions over Theresa May's pledge to use Brexit to take back control of immigration and reduce net migration to the tens of thousands.
He warned: "In the hospitality sector, hotels and restaurants, in the social care sector, working in agriculture, it will take time - it will be years and years before we get British citizens to do those jobs.
"Don't expect just because we're changing who makes the decision on the policy, the door will suddenly shut: it won't."
The Prime Minister has consistently said the UK wants to continue to attract talent, but the focus has been on highly skilled workers in industries such as finance and technology - not care workers, fruit pickers and barristas.
Mrs May has made it clear that transitional arrangements may need to be imposed on certain parts of the economy, especially where there are skill shortages, after Britain formally withdraws from the EU.
Ms Rudd's comments come amid reports that new arrivals could be given five-year working visas if they have a job, but be banned from claiming any benefits during that time.
According to The Sunday Times, ministers are also discussing plans for the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to decide on how many visas are issued to workers in key industries such as health and hospitality, which are heavy reliant on immigrants, to take the political sting out of the issue.
Ms Rudd said Mrs May also considered guaranteeing the rights of all EU nationals who are resident in the UK - if a similar deal is reciprocated for British expats in Europe - a "priority" when she triggers Article 50 to formally begin Britain's exit negotiations.