Annual net migration continued to fall steadily, down to a provisional net gain of 44,100 in the year ended December 2020, with COVID-19-related border and travel restrictions limiting migrant arrivals and departures since March, Stats NZ said today.

“Monthly net migration since March 2020 is a trickle compared with levels seen in recent years and as a result, annual net migration is falling,” population indicators manager Tehseen Islam said.

“Far fewer migrants arrived or left the country in 2020, compared with recent years.”

Indians formed the second largest group of migrants (9400) to have entered and the third-largest group (3900) to have left the country in the year as per the data revealed by Stats NZ.

New Zealand citizens were the largest group in the arrivals (33,500) and departure (11,700) from New Zealand during the same period.

The travellers from the United Kingdom were the third largest group of arrivals (4000), while the Chinese citizens were the second largest group (5900) to have left NZ ahead of Indian citizens.

Who is migrant?

Notably, ‘Migrant arrivals’ are overseas residents, including New Zealand citizens living overseas, who cumulatively spend 12 of the next 16 months in New Zealand after arriving.

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

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.

The classification of travellers as migrants is based on their time spent in and out of New Zealand, not what visa type or passport they cross the border on, and not on their responses on arrival cards.

Given this, we need to observe up to 16 months of travel history, using the 12/16-month rule, to definitively classify a border crossing as a migrant movement.

Non-New Zealand citizens include people arriving on a residence, work, or critical purpose visas; Australian citizens and permanent residents; and others who meet border entry criteria.

Annual net migration falls

Meanwhile, in the year ended December 2020 (compared with the year ended December 2019), provisional estimates showed that migrant arrivals were down to 85,800 (down by 48.4 percent) and migrant departures down to 41,600 (down by 55.4 percent).

The annual net migration gain was 44,100, down from 73,100.

Since border restrictions in March 2020, the net migration gain has been driven by New Zealand citizens.

The small net migration gain overall of 5,700 from April 2020 to December 2020 was made up of a net gain of 12,600 New Zealand citizens and a net loss of 6,900 non-New Zealand citizens.

This is an average gain of about 600 people a month and well below the average monthly gain of 6,300 from the same nine months in 2019.

Migration estimates, available from 2001 onwards, show both annual migrant arrivals and migrant departures in the year ended December 2020 are the lowest of any annual period.