Migrants are once again setting their sights on New Zealand and the country has enjoyed its highest net migration gain since 2002/03, a new report reveals.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment's Migration Trends and Outlook report, released today, shows net migration has rebounded from a net loss of 3200 in 2011/12 to a net gain of 38,300 in the 2013/14 year.
The report, which updates trends and compares recent immigration patterns with those identified in previous years, shows the number of skilled migrant residence approvals increased 12 per cent after showing decreases in the previous four years.
The number of work migrants at 155,794 are up 7 per cent, and people approved for resident visas increased 13 per cent to 44,008.
International students are also back, with a 15 per cent increase last year to 73,150, after decreases the two previous years. More than half of all students were studying here for the first time; India in particular had 76 per cent more new students here compared with the previous year.
International students from India were up 63 per cent, mainly due to the doubling of full fee-paying students in private training establishments.
China is still the most significant source of international students.
Immigration expert and Massey University sociologist Paul Spoonley said net migration gain was now a more significant factor than natural increase for New Zealand's population growth.
"Immigration is now a major contributor to both labour supply and population growth. Auckland is the big winner although Canterbury also had a net gain," said Professor Spoonley. Canterbury had the second highest regional net migration gain of 5600 people, and nearly one in five principal applicants under the skilled migrant category specified Canterbury as their region of employment.
The number of temporary workers increased across all three main work categories, with a 12 per cent increase in the working holiday scheme, 18 per cent in essential skills and 5 per cent in the family policy.
More than 40 per cent or more than 20,000 of residence approvals involved migrants approved under the skilled migrant category last year.
"The latest figures confirm a couple of trends; the growing reliance on temporary workers who then provide a pool for permanent residents and workers," Professor Spoonley said.
China, at 17 per cent, is still the largest source country for permanent migrants, but the largest growth in arrivals are from India, where 14 per cent come from.
The United Kingdom, which until recent years was New Zealand's largest migrant source, is third on 12 per cent.
Net migration gain was due to low net loss of New Zealand citizens (12,100) combined with a large net gain of non-citizens (50,400).
"The pattern of migration has changed significantly in the last year, with a big increase in the number of arrivals and a dip in departures especially to Australia," Professor Spoonley noted.
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said the figures clearly showed New Zealand was a favoured destination for skilled migrants.
"It is also encouraging to see an increase in the number of international students approved to study in New Zealand after decreases in the previous two years," he said.
A second report, the Migration Trends Key Indicators, also released today, showed the number of international students approved to study was up 22 per cent between July and December last year.
Residency chance draws student
Indian student Jaysukh Shiyani, 24, wanted to study in Canada, but chose New Zealand after he found out it was easier to get residency here.
He signed up for a computer networking course at Cornell Institute, and came to Auckland last week with his two friends Gaurang Ajani, 22, and Krupal Patel, 22.
"After graduating, I want to work and get international experience, and I found it was easier to get a work visa and then permanent residence here than in Canada," said Mr Shiyani, a Gujarati.
"It is my intention that I want to stay on in New Zealand if I can get that chance."
Fellow student Mr Ajani said their experience of Auckland since they arrived had been "very good". "The weather is good, and there are a lot of Indian people here so I think we can get good community support," he said.
The Migration Trends report said international students have become an important source of skilled migrants.
By June 30 last year, 16 per cent of students who started studying in the 2008/09 year had transitioned to residence and 42 per cent of skilled principal migrants were also former international students.
Today more than 2000 foreign students will receive a special welcome to Auckland with a powhiri at the launch of a new Auckland international programme.
The pilot programme developed by Study Auckland, called INAKL, is focused on improving the experience of international students studying in the city.
"The students can be great ambassadors for Auckland, particularly with global access to social media," said Auckland Tourism's Brett O'Riley.