Migration Trends report

Migrant Trends 2016-2017 is the 17th in an annual report series examining trends in temporary and permanent migration to and from New Zealand.

Net inward migration continued to grow

New Zealand experienced a net gain of 72,300 permanent and long-term migrants in 2016/17, which was 4.7% more than in 2015/16. This was the fifth consecutive year in which migration increased and the highest net gain ever recorded.

This gain was due to a decline in the number of New Zealand citizens departing overseas (particularly to Australia) and an unprecedented increase in the number of non–New Zealand citizens arriving from overseas.

New student visa approval numbers fell slightly but remained high

A total of 75,578 student visa holders were present in New Zealand on 30 June 2017. This was 1% less than the year before. The main contributor to this decline was a decrease of 3% in the number of new student visas approved in 2016/17.

This decrease was driven by a 32% decline in new approvals from India (our second largest source country), which more than offset a 5% rise in new approvals from China (our largest source country).

Despite this decline, at 48,167, new approvals remained just over 50% higher than they were in 2012/13.

Temporary worker numbers continued to grow

At 152,432, the number of temporary workers present in New Zealand on 30 June 2017 was 16% higher than the year before. This growth was driven by:

  • 34% growth in the number of Study to Work visa holders
  • 17% growth in Essential Skills visa holders
  • 12% growth in Family work visa holders
  • 8% growth in Working Holiday Scheme visa holders.

New work visa approvals grew 8% in 2016/17, which was the seventh consecutive year-on-year increase.

Fewer parent category and skilled migrant category approvals were the main drivers behind a decline in residence approvals

The number of people approved for residence in 2016/17 fell 8% to 47,684 following a 21% increase the year before. The decrease was driven by Parent Category approvals, which fell 63%, and Skilled Migrant Category approvals, which fell 6%.

In October 2016, the Parent Category was closed to new applicants and the number of points required for applicants’ automatic selection to the Skilled Migrant Category was increased from 140 to 160.

Over two-thirds of student visa holders and three-quarters of work visa holders had left New Zealand 5 years after the end of those visas

Among those migrants whose last student visa ended between July 2006 and June 2012:

  • 28% had a resident visa
  • 3% were still on a work visa
  • 68% were not in New Zealand 5 years later.

Among those migrants whose last work visa ended between July 2006 and June 2012, 24% remained in New Zealand on a resident visa while 75% were not in New Zealand 5 years later.

Retention rate of residents was high and had been slowly increasing

Most migrants granted residence stay on in New Zealand on a long-term basis, and this ‘retention rate’ has been slowly increasing.

Of those people granted residence in 2001/02, 79.6% were still in New Zealand after 5 years compared with 89.1% of those granted residence in 2011/12.