New Zealand restricts visas in ‘Kiwis-first approach to immigration’

Concerns over housing and overcrowding leading to calls for immigration controls

The New Zealand government has announced plans to tighten access to skilled work visas to help get Kiwis into jobs ahead of migrants.

Employees in seasonal work such as fruit picking would also have their visas shortened to the length of time they were needed in the country.

The new measures are aimed at controlling record-high levels of migration to New Zealand, amid growing concern about housing shortages, road congestion and overcrowding in Auckland, and other major New Zealand cities.

Last year more than 70,000 people migrated to New Zealand, according to Statistics New Zealand, the majority of them choosing to settle in Auckland, now home to nearly 1.5 million people.


Although New Zealand has not been as popular with Irish emigrants as neighbouring Australia as a place to live and work, the numbers moving there on temporary work visas did rise considerably after the economic crash in Ireland, from 3,131 in 2006/07 to a peak of 4,961 in 2012/13.

A total of 3,505 Irish people were granted temporary visas in 2016, with an additional 483 becoming permanent residents. The highest number of visas allocated to Irish applicants went to carpenters, followed agricultural plant operators, cafe and restaurant managers, quantity surveyors and physiotherapists.

‘Kiwis First’

New Zealand's immigration minister said he was taking a "Kiwis-first approach to immigration", echoing Australian prime pinister Malcolm Turnbull and US president Donald Trump in announcing policies to ensure jobs for Australians and Americans.

Migration has become a hot topic in the lead up to New Zealand’s September 23rd general election.

"It's important that our immigration settings are attracting the right people, with the right skills, to help fill genuine skill shortages and contribute to our growing economy," immigration minister Michael Woodhouse said. That is why we are making a number of changes to our permanent and temporary immigration settings aimed at managing the number, and improving the quality, of migrants coming to New Zealand."


The changes to be implemented later this year include introducing a minimum income requirement, making it more difficult for family members to join visa holders and limiting the amount of time seasonal workers are allowed to stay in New Zealand.

A boom in new arrivals has helped the New Zealand economy race along with some of the strongest gross domestic product growth in the developed world.

But opposition parties and the central bank have called for a review of current policies, citing low wages growth and soaring house prices spurred by the influx.

Many sectors, such as technology and construction suffer from a severe shortage of workers and companies in these areas were recruiting many of their workers from offshore.

Under the changes, employers would need to provide a minimum income of NZ$49,000 (€32,075) for anyone entering on a prioritised “skilled”. Anyone earning more than NZ$73,000 would be classed as highly skilled.

The largest number of migrants to New Zealand come from Britain, China, India, the Philippines and South Africa. Ireland is number 11 on the list.