A petition opposing a British rule change which will make it harder for migrants on low incomes to stay in the United Kingdom has now collected 70,000 signatures in just a few days.

If the petition collects 100,000 signatures the British Parliament will have to debate the policy, which is expected to capture 40,000 migrants including, potentially, New Zealand expats.

Beginning in April, non-EU migrants earning less than £35,000 ($74,400) a year will not be eligible to stay in the country for longer than five years.

The policy targets low-skilled workers who attempt to gain permanent residency, which can be applied for after this period of time.


Most New Zealanders working in the UK are on two-year working holidays. A large proportion of expats are on ancestry visas, which will not be affected, and skilled work permits, which are likely to be above the income threshold.

New Zealand recruitment agencies said some expats on lower incomes such as teachers or nannies could be affected by the change.

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There are about 200,000 New Zealanders living in the UK.

The number of Kiwis travelling there on a long-term basis has fallen from around 18,000 in 2000 to 8500 in 2014, mostly as a result of previous changes which have restricted job opportunities.

A rule change in 2010 required New Zealanders to have a job and a sponsoring employer before they could gain a skilled migrant visa.

In response, some have called for the UK to relax its rules for Commonwealth countries.

London Mayor Boris Johnson has said on several occasions that New Zealanders and Australians should be given the same rights to live and work in the UK as people from the European Union.


New British visa rules

What is changing?

Non-EU migrants working in Britain will be deported after five years if they earn less than £35,000 ($77,400).

When does it come into effect?

April 6.

Who will it affect?

Teachers, nurses, nannies and students are the most likely to be captured by the policy.

What about Kiwi expats?

Possibly a few expats. Most Kiwis travel to the UK on two-year working holiday visas and will be unaffected. Those who can stay for five years or more (ancestry visa holders and skilled workers) are likely to have jobs that meet the earnings threshold.