There are now fewer eastern European migrants looking for jobs in the UK than at any time since the EU accession wave in 2004, official figures show.

According to statistics from the Home Office, just 40,000 work applications were received from eastern Europeans between April and June this year. This is a drop of 14,000 on the same period last year and a fall of 9,000 on the first three months of 2008.

The Home Office said the decline can be attributed to the fall in applications by Polish nationals, which fell from 38,000 in the second quarter of 2006 to 25,000 this year.

Applications from Bulgarians and Romanians also fell to their lowest level since the countries joined the EU in January last year, the data shows.

Immigration minister Liam Byrne said: "I have made it repeatedly clear that people who come here must earn the right to stay, work hard and play by the rules."

The news comes ahead of the introduction of new laws on the employment of migrant workers from outside the European Union.

From November, any companies wishing to recruit non-EU workers will have to apply to the UK Border Agency for a licence.