The large increase in the net figure, from 196,000 in 2009, was a result not of an increase of immigrants to the UK but a huge fall in the number of people emigrating to work or retire abroad.
Data from the Office for National Statistics showed the total number of people entering the UK was steady at 591,000 while the number leaving fell to its lowest since 2001 at 339,000.
The figures will be a blow to the government, which has insisted it will keep net immigration to less than 100,000 per year in an effort to keep the UK population down.
The largest number of immigrants – 238,000 – came to study, providing vital funding to UK universities, while a growing number came from eastern and central Europe to work in the UK.
In contrast, British citizens took fewer jobs overseas and opted not to retire in countries such as Spain as the economic climate worsened.
Immigration minister Damian Green said the latest quarterly figures showed falls in the numbers of work and student visas issued but said there was “much more to be done.”