Britain admits almost three times more migrants from outside the European Union than any other member state, it has emerged.
The disclosure will raise fresh questions over David Cameron's much-repeated pledge to bring annual net migration down to tens of thousands. The latest official estimate is 243,000 in the 12 months to March, up from 175,000 during the previous year.
Eurostat, the European Commission's statistical body, said nearly 2.4m resident permits were issued by EU countries last year, 30.7 per cent of them to people heading for Britain.
A total of 724,200 people from outside the EU were given permission to remain in the UK, a 15 per cent rise on the previous year.
It was nearly three times as many as the 279,300 admitted to Poland, which was the second most popular destination. Italy accepted 244,000, France 212,100 and Germany 199,900 and Spain 196,200.
The figures include anyone issued with visas for three months or more, and a large number of the new arrivals in Britain came for short spells to study, work or visit relatives.
The largest numbers of visas were issued to Indians (460,000), Americans (105,000) and Filipinos (87,000).
About one-quarter were coming to study, while just over 100,000 were taking up jobs in Britain.
The Tories cite an influx from struggling eurozone countries such as Spain and Italy when they explain why they have failed to hit their target. But their critics will seize on the latest figures to suggest migration from outside the EU is rising as well.Reuse content