The number of people born overseas settling in the UK grew by 290,000 in the year to June 2008 meaning one in nine people now resident in Britain was born abroad.
But there are signs the weakening pound and a squeeze on jobs could be stemming the tide of workers from Eastern Europe.
Figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show 6.5 million people born overseas were resident in the UK in the year to June 2008, an increase of 290,000 on the year to June 2007.
The Annual Population Survey showed 4.1 million foreign nationals resident in the UK in the year to June 2008, compared with 3.8 million in the year to June 2007.
But estimates published by the ONS show the number of short-term migrants entering England and Wales for employment or study purposes for stays of between one and 12 months fell to 374,000 in the year to mid-2007, a 13% decrease from the mid-2006 estimate.
The report comes as separate figures revealed 680,000 people from EU countries in eastern Europe, as well as Malta and Cyprus, came through UK airports and ports in the three months ending in December.
This compares with 795,000 in the last quarter of 2007 and represents a drop of 15 per cent. It is also far lower than the 980,000 figure for the three months up to September last year.
The data–which include workers, business people, students and holidaymakers–suggest the lure of Britain as an open-jobs market with easy-to-find work is fading as unemployment rises here.
The Government has been criticised for hugely underestimating the number of eastern Europeans who would come to the UK after their countries joined the EU following the major accession treaty in 2004.
With dole queues now lengthening, the Government is facing increasing pressure to safeguard jobs for local workers, in the wake of a series of wildcat strikes over the use of foreign workers at a refinery in Lincolnshire.
The Government is unable to stop most EU citizens from seeking work here but Jacqui Smith highlighted at the weekend moves to tighten immigration rules for overseas citizens, from outside the EU, wanting to come to the UK.
The Home Secretary suggested that families may be kept out unless wives and other dependants are prepared to work.
Miss Smith echoed Gordon Brown’s controversial promise of ‘British jobs for British workers’, saying the changes were based ‘on a judgment about what is best for the British economy, for British workers.’
Her new rules are expected to cut the number of migrants coming to Britain under the new points-based work permit system by more than 12 per cent. Last year a record number of work permits, 151,000, were handed out.
The latest move comes amid deepening tension over scarce jobs going to foreign workers and follows the wave of wildcat strikes over the employment of foreign workers at the Lindsey oil refinery in Lincolnshire.
Miss Smith called for an inquiry by the Home Office’s Migration Advisory Committee into ‘the economic contribution made by the dependants of points-based system migrants and their role in the labour market’.
New figures today also revealed more than 66,000 people, including failed asylum seekers, illegal immigrants and foreign criminals, were removed from the UK or left voluntarily last year, according to Home Office statistics.
Some 66,275 people with no legal right to stay in the country were removed or left in 2008, up 5% from 2007 when 63,365 people left, the Control and Immigration statistics show.
About half of the total (32,155) were initially refused entry on arrival.