A paper released by the Home Office also proposes stricter limits on other kinds of family migration, The Guardian reported. Immigrants would be encouraged to send elderly relatives money instead of bringing them to Britain, for example.
The coalition government is trying to cut net migration to no more than 100,000 people a year.
Under the proposal, the unemployed and those with annual incomes of less than 5,000 pounds (about $8,000) would be unable to sponsor spouses or partners. Spouses and partners would have to wait five years, up from two, to apply for permanent residence.
Immigration Minister Damian Green said the government wants to send a message: "If you can't support your foreign spouse or partner, you cannot expect the taxpayer to do it for you."
The paper called for better investigation of possible fraudulent marriages. The government said the new rules would take effect in the fall.