Labour leader Andrew Little is back-peddling from his questioning whether New Zealand takes too many Indian and Chinese chefs from overseas but the figures may back up his stance.

Almost 10,000 chefs from 88 countries overseas have been given work visas in the past six years and of those 3885 are now residents.

Immigration NZ figures from 2011 to February show 9996 chefs from overseas were given visas. Of those, almost a quarter were from China and 16 per cent were from India - the two largest groups.

There were also 1060 Korean chefs and 345 British chefs.


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Immigration NZ figures also show a total of 20,962 work visas were given to the 10,000 chefs from overseas in the past six years, including renewals.

Of those from China, 233 came in on special chefs' work visas under the China Free Trade Agreement. Those visas are for three years and are capped at 200 at any one time. For chefs under that category, employers do not have to show they have tried to employ a local before recruiting from China and no English language test applies.

The remaining chefs from China entered through the usual work permit process, which does require employers to show they unsuccessfully tried to recruit from within New Zealand before the visa is granted.

Labour leader Andrew Little has called for the immigration flow to be reduced and spoke of the possibility restaurants would be able to find locally-based staff rather than going overseas. Mr Little has since backpeddled on using that as an example after he was accused of targeting Chinese and Indian migrants.

The occupation of chef is still on Immigration NZ's long-term skills shortage list.
In the 2013 Census, 22,300 people gave their occupation as chefs or cooks in 2013, a category which includes bakers and pastry chefs. A further 10,362 were cafe or restaurant managers.

Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment figures show there was an 11 per cent increase in the number of job advertisements for chefs for the first quarter of this year compared to last year.

Number of chefs approved for work visas (including renewals) by country, for the last five years


China - 5,390
India - 3,803
Thailand - 2,154
South Korea - 2,009
Japan - 966
Brazil - 633
Great Britain - 571
Fiji - 566
Philippines - 490
Malaysia - 362
Chile - 317
Italy - 297
Nepal - 280
France - 270