Home Secretary John Reid has outlined plans to toughen border controls as part of changes he says will make the UK immigration system work properly.
More resources are being released to frontline immigration staff
There will be uniformed immigration officers at ports and airports - and by 2014 passport checks to ensure there is a record of who has left the UK.
Mr Reid said he was putting forward long term solutions "not quick fixes".
Shadow home secretary David Davis said "determination and resources" were needed, not more "tough talk".
Liberal Democrat spokesman Nick Clegg said people would not understand why it had taken the government nearly a decade to take action - and why it would take a further eight years to have the full border controls.
In a Commons statement, Mr Reid said the shake-up was a response to recent events which had "highlighted weaknesses" within the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND).
His predecessor Charles Clarke was sacked by Tony Blair after more than 1,000 foreign criminals were freed at the end of their prison sentences without being considered for deportation.
Mr Reid told MPs that under the reforms, foreign national prisoners would be required to give evidence of nationality during contact with the criminal justice system, and criminality would be more clearly linked to deportation.
The UK's borders would be strengthened, with "tougher" checks abroad so only those with permission can travel to Britain, ensuring the numbers of people leaving were monitored.
There will be more enforcement powers, resources and new technology available to frontline staff.
The amount spent on enforcing immigration rules will be doubled by 2009-10.
Travellers from the highest risk countries will require biometric ID papers by 2008, he said.
Embarkation controls which were partially lifted under the Conservatives in 1994, before being removed altogether when Labour came to office, will be reinstated by 2014.
Count everybody in and out of Britain by 2014
Border checks on people before they travel to the UK, including through the use of biometric visas
Give uniforms to immigration officers at ports and airports and give them more resources for surveillance
Ask people from the "highest risk countries" for biometric ID documents by 2008
By 2011, all non-European Economic Area citizens will have to have secure IDs before they are allowed to travel to Britain
Approve or remove 90% of asylum claimants within six months by end of 2011
Clear backlog of unresolved cases within five years or less
Expand detention and tag or monitor all asylum claimants
Double spending on enforcing immigration rules
Make people reveal their nationality if they go to court
Ministers will consult on making it easier to deport people under UK law, taking greater account of the threat to national security.
Employers of illegal workers will be penalised and the assets of persistent offenders seized.
And the public will be encouraged to use the Crimestoppers telephone number to report companies employing illegal workers.
Nine out of 10 asylum seekers will have their cases decided and concluded within six months of arriving in the UK.
All those who need to be deported will be removed within six months of arrival by the end of 2011, he said.
There will be no amnesty for people staying in the country illegally.
A points-based entry system will enable students and those with skills required in Britain to visit or stay under "managed migration", Mr Reid said.
The IND's performance will be assessed by a new single immigration regulator and the government will consult on setting up a new migration advisory committee to advise on skills gaps.
And Stuart Hyde, an assistant chief constable with West Midlands Police, has joined IND as a new senior director for enforcement.
Mr Reid stressed: "This is a long term investment - it will require endurance and persistence. It is not a quick fix."
Mr Davis said he had sat opposite three home secretaries and each one "has talked tougher than the one before".
He accused Mr Reid of announcing "yet another restructuring of the IND".
"This is nothing new - we have been here before," he said.
"I've listened time after time to talk of crackdowns, consultations, initiatives, action plans on areas from bogus language schools to sham marriages and still we're faced with the current shambles.
"The government cannot cope with its own past. The serious problems faced by the IND aren't going to be solved by yet another re-shuffling of the deck."
For the Lib Dems, Mr Clegg said ministers' pledge to clear the backlog of asylum cases would be just "paper shuffling" unless failed claimants were deported.
"After a decade without embarkation controls the government has now announced a further eight-year delay before controls are fully operational," he added.