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More migrants head back overseas

21 May 2018

Annual net migration is down 4,800 from a high point a year ago, largely because more non-New Zealand citizens are leaving the country, Stats NZ said today.

New Zealand saw a net migration gain of 67,000 migrants for the April 2018 year. This is lower than the net migration gain of 71,900 in the April 2017 year and returns to a level last seen two years ago. The gain for the April 2018 year was made up of 130,500 migrant arrivals and 63,400 migrant departures.

“Interestingly, the number of arrivals increased in the April 2018 year, so it is the larger increase in departures that drove the lower net migration level,” population insights senior manager Brooke Theyers said.

More than 98,000 non-New Zealand citizens arrived in the April 2018 year. However, more than 30,000 non-New Zealand citizens left this country over the same period, up 23 percent on a year earlier. This resulted in a net migration gain of non-New Zealand citizens of 68,100.

Conversely, the net migration from New Zealand citizens was a loss of 1,100 – made up of 32,100 arriving and 33,200 departing.

More migrant workers arrive, fewer resident visas

In the April 2018 year, migrant arrivals on work visas rose 5 percent to 46,400, while there was a 14 percent fall in arrivals on residence visas, compared with a year ago.

“The number of migrants coming to New Zealand to work has been generally increasing since the September 2010 year, and work visas have become the largest visa type from the March 2015 year,” Mrs Theyers said. “Migrant arrivals of New Zealand and Australian citizens have also been increasing since September 2012, but this increase has not kept pace with the increase in work visas.” The countries that were the biggest sources of work-visa migrants were the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.

A residence visa allows migrants to live in New Zealand permanently. There were 14,300 arrivals on residence visas in the April 2018 year, down from 16,700 in the April 2017 year.

The source countries with the largest decreases in residence-visa migrants to New Zealand for the April 2018 year were:

• China (2,800 – down 700)

• United Kingdom (900 – down 500)

• India (900 – down 400)

• Philippines (700 – down 300).

The number of student-visa migrants stayed almost the same in the April 2018 year (down 100, to 23,700), while the number of New Zealand and Australian citizen migrants increased (up 600, to 38,700).

International migration statistics currently rely on intentions and length of stay provided on passenger cards at the time of travel. Migrants are those intending to stay or be away for one year or more. However, we know intentions and plans can change, which is accounted for in the outcomes-based measure of migration. This measure defines migrants by how long they actually stay in New Zealand, rather than how long they originally intended to stay.

Outcomes-based net migration updated

An update to the outcomes-based measure of migration (the ‘12/16-month rule’) released today brings the series forward to December 2016.

We introduced this measure in May 2017. It looks at the travel history of a passenger over a 16-month follow-up period, and assigns a classification depending on how long they spent in New Zealand. For example, for an overseas visitor arrival, if their cumulative length of time in New Zealand over the next 16 months is 12 months or greater, they are classified as a migrant arrival.

The 12/16-month rule showed net migration in the December 2016 year was 63,700, compared with 70,600 as defined by the PLT migration measure.

The 16-month follow-up period results in a 17-month lag in producing migration figures by the 12/16-month rule. This lag is the main obstacle for producing timely outcomes-based migration statistics. Solving this is a key component of our project to remove the reliance on traveller cards, which we use to produce the current permanent and long-term (PLT) measure of migration.

We intend to use the outcomes-based measure of migration to formally measure migration in the future, and we are working towards producing a provisional measure of migration that will ensure a timelier statistic.

Authorised by Liz MacPherson, Government Statistician, 21 May 2018

For more information about these statistics:

• Visit International travel and migration: April 2018

• See CSV files for download


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