The proportion of new Kiwis coming from the United Kingdom has more than doubled over the past three years, according to new statistics.
The report Migration Trends shows that 31 per cent of the 48,815 people who were granted residency in the last financial year were citizens of the United Kingdom.
Their number as a proportion of all migrants has been rising steadily since the 2002-03 year, when they totalled 14 per cent, behind Chinese and Indian people.
The Department of Labour report on residency approvals also shows that the proportion of Chinese and Indian people getting residency is declining. It pegs the trend to the arrival of the skilled migrant category in 2003, which tightened the English-language requirement and led to accusations of racism.
According to immigration consultant Aaron Martin, current immigration policy "clearly" favours native English speakers. Non-native English speakers must gain a mark of 6.5 in a language test, the definition of which is a "competent user" who has "generally effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings".
Mr Martin, of Auckland firm Malcolm Pacific, says the UK is seen as a comparable labour market with similar social and educational standards.
China, for example, is not viewed as comparable. UK citizens without jobs to go to in New Zealand are more likely than people from elsewhere to benefit from an immigration officer's discretionary powers.
"It all comes down to: Is this person going to have a skill set that will find favour with New Zealand employers?" he says.
Professor Paul Spoonley, a Massey University sociologist, told an immigration conference in September that New Zealand sent mixed messages to countries such as China and India, where most future skilled workers would have to be recruited from.
The report also found that:
* The 77,563 international students who came to New Zealand in the last year represented more than 160 nationalities
* China remains the major source of foreign students, but numbers from China, South Korea and Japan are falling.
* Student numbers from the United States, United Kingdom, India, Germany and Malaysia are increasing.
* Australian citizens made almost 700,000 visits to New Zealand in the last fiscal year