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Migration remains at high levels

Migrant arrivals have continued to increase, reaching almost 150,000 in the year ended March 2019, however, more people are also leaving New Zealand long term, Stats NZ said today.

“The number of migrant arrivals for the year ended March 2019 is actually higher than when net migration peaked at almost 64,000 in the year ended July 2016,” population insights manager Tehseen Islam said.

“However, migrant departures have continued to rise since mid-2016, bringing net migration to its current level. Net migration remains at historically high levels, but lower than the 2016 peak.”

Annual net migration was provisionally estimated at 55,400 (± 900) in the year ended March 2019 compared with 50,600 in the previous year.

The top source countries for arrivals were:
• Australia (26,300 – 15,800 of whom were New Zealand citizens)
• China (15,700)
• India (11,800).

Migrant arrivals and departures include the flows of New Zealand citizens, as well as the flows of non-New Zealand citizens, as both affect the population living in New Zealand.

“While most migrant arrivals are overseas citizens, about one in four were New Zealand citizens in the year ended March 2019, returning after being away from New Zealand for more than a year,” Mr Islam said.

Migrant arrivals are people who have been living overseas, including New Zealand citizens, who cumulatively spend 12 of the next 16 months in New Zealand after arriving.

Migrant departures are people who have been living in New Zealand, including non-New Zealand citizens, who cumulatively spend 12 of the next 16 months out of New Zealand after departing.


There were 10,400 more migrant arrivals of non-New Zealand citizens in the year ended March 2019 compared with the year ended March 2018. Migrant arrivals of New Zealand citizens were down 800, resulting in an overall increase of 9,600.

There were 4,000 more migrant departures of New Zealand citizens in the year ended March 2019 compared with the year ended March 2018. Migrant departures of non-New Zealand citizens were up 800, leading to an overall increase of 4,800 departures.

Why are we talking about migration for March 2019?

Annual arrival and departure data are subject to notably less revision at 5–6 months after the reference period. By this time there is more certainty about whether travellers are short-term or long-term (migrants), according to the 12/16-month rule.

The first provisional estimate of net migration for the March 2019 year (published in May 2019) was 56,100 (± 1,600). Over the past five months, this figure has been revised each month and is now 55,400 (± 900). Revisions for migrant arrivals and migrant departures can move in either direction. If they move in opposite directions, the estimated net migration figure is subject to larger changes.

The uncertainty bounds reflect the model uncertainty, not the extent of future revisions to the estimates.

Year ended August 2019 – provisional migration estimates

Some users of migration data may still want to look at the most recent provisional data. These give a timelier indication of migration levels, although have higher uncertainty and are therefore subject to larger revisions than provisional estimates for earlier periods.

Provisional estimates for the year ended August 2019:
• migrant arrivals – 149,800 (± 1,600)
• migrant departures – 96,000 (± 1,100)
• net migration gain – 53,800 (± 1,800).

Migration estimates for the year ended April 2018 have now been finalised with a net migration of 49,900.

We encourage customers to make their own judgement on whether to use the initial provisional migration estimates which have higher uncertainty, or provisional migration estimates 5–6 months after the reference period which have lower uncertainty. The uncertainty reflects the number of migrant outcomes that need to be modelled, compared with those which can be definitively classified according to the 12/16-month rule.

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