Migration Trends 2006/07
Migrants’ Movement patterns
One measure of a migrant’s successful settlement and contribution to New Zealand is the extent to which they remain in a country in the years following arrival or approval. In 2005, the Department of Labour studied migrants’ movement patterns into and out of New Zealand.  One of the key findings from this study was the confirmation that there is a consistent loss of permanent migrants from New Zealand over time.
People may leave New Zealand for many different reasons, only some of which relate to ‘unsuccessful’ settlement. Some reasons may relate to family ties or business commitments, while other migrants may intend to live and work in New Zealand for a period rather than settle permanently. Department of Labour research has shown that most migrants are not highly mobile – the People on the Move study showed that 79 percent of migrants approved between 1998 and 2004 had had fewer than three spells of absence from New Zealand. Conversely, a small proportion of migrants were highly mobile, spending significant periods out of New Zealand. This level of mobility is consistent with international movement patterns, where large numbers of people are circulating between countries.
In the following analysis, the cohorts of migrants approved for residence during the calendar years 1998–2006 were tracked using data from the Immigration database.  The analysis looks at those migrants who arrived to take up residence, migrants who have left New Zealand permanently, and a time-series analysis showing movement patterns over time. For the purpose of this analysis, long term absent (LTA) refers to a person who has been out of the country for six months or more. A sizeable lead time is needed when undertaking this analysis. People approved at the end of a calendar year would have had up to a year to arrive, meaning that a person approved for residence at the end of 2004 could potentially have arrived as late as the end of 2005.
The number of residence approvals in a given cohort in this analysis is based on the number of applications completed within the calendar year, as opposed to the number of applications decided.  Previous studies have shown a high level of accuracy with the data, but there are some known technical issues involved in matching a person’s movements in the Customs and Immigration computer systems.  These issues mean that the following analysis should be seen as indicative of patterns of absence rather than being definitive.
Characteristics of migrants who did not take up residence
Most migrants approved for residence between 1998 and 2005 arrived in New Zealand to take up residence or were in New Zealand at the time of approval. Of the 319,376 people approved during this period, 312,806 (97.9 percent) took up residence.  Since 1998, the proportion of people not arriving to take up residence has decreased, from 3.5 percent of the 1998 cohort to less than 1 percent of the 2005 cohort. This reflects the growing proportion of people who are in New Zealand on a temporary permit at the time their residence permit is granted.
Between 1998 and 2005, 6,570 approved people did not arrive to take up residence. A comparison of residence categories showed that GSC approvals had the highest rate of non-arrival. Over the eight-year period, the GSC accounted for 42 percent of all approvals, but represented 59 percent of non-arrivals. Over the same period, Partnership approvals were 17 percent of the total, but accounted for just 9 percent of non-arrivals. For most other categories, the proportion of non-arrivals was similar to the proportion of people approved. Table 8.1 provides a breakdown of non-arrivals by residence approval category.
For most of the main nationalities of approvals between 1998 and 2005, less than 2 percent of people approved for residence did not arrive in New Zealand. The main exceptions were India (3.8 percent of approvals did not arrive) and South Africa (2.3 percent did not arrive). For both countries, the majority (over 88 percent) of non-arrivals had been approved through the GSC. Table 8.2 provides a breakdown of non-arrival rate by nationality.
|Nationality||Total approvals 1998–2005||Non-arrivals||Non-arrival rate|
Residence approval categories of long term absent migrants
Table 8.3 combines residence approval categories into six main groups and shows the proportion absent for six months or more as at 31 December 2006. This table shows a wide variation in the proportions of migrant absenteeism for different cohorts and different category groups. Migrants approved through the Business categories have the highest rate of long term absence, with approximately one-third of business migrants leaving permanently.
The rate of absence is approximately one in five for migrants approved through the Parent Category and the Skilled categories. Absence rates are lowest for migrants approved for residence through other family categories and through the International/Humanitarian Stream.  Appendix O details the rates of absence by nationality for the largest source countries from 1998 to 2005.
In general, the rate of absence increases with the length of time since residence, with the earliest cohort having the highest rate of absence. As at December 2006, 25 percent of migrants approved in 1998 had been absent for six months or more, compared to 6 percent of the migrants approved in 2005. Migrants approved in the more recent cohorts have had less time in New Zealand, and are therefore less likely to have left New Zealand long term.
|Residence approval group||% long term absent by cohort as at 31 December 2006|
|% LTA at Dec-06||25%||22%||21%||19%||18%||13%||8%||6%||16%|
|Number LTA at Dec-06||6,002||6,303||7,302||9,271||8,534||5,786||2,841||2,959||48,998|
* The 2006 cohort is excluded from this analysis because migrants in that cohort have had insufficient time to arrive in New Zealand.
This time series analysis assesses migrants’ administrative data at the first of each month to determine if they were in New Zealand (onshore). This analysis provides a useful indicator of movement patterns and long term absence from New Zealand.
Figure 8.1 shows the proportion of migrants who had arrived in New Zealand and were onshore at a given date. Each line represents a separate cohort of migrants approved between 1998 and 2005. From 2002 onwards, there are higher proportions of migrants onshore at the beginning of the analysis. This reflects the increasing number of migrants approved onshore.
The figure also shows that, for each cohort, there was a steady decrease over time in the proportion of migrants onshore. This indicates a persistent trend of migrants leaving New Zealand – some temporarily, others permanently. As at December 2005, 70 percent of the 1998 cohort was onshore. For those people approved in 2005, 92 percent were in New Zealand as at December 2005.
Figure 8.1 also highlights seasonal patterns in migrants’ movements to and from New Zealand. For each cohort, there is a drop in onshore rates around December and January, which shows the number of migrants travelling overseas during the Christmas holiday period.
Figure 8.1 Proportion of migrants onshore at monthly intervals: 1998–2005*
* The onshore rates are a proportion of those who arrived to take up residence.
- People approved for permanent residence have 12 months to arrive in New Zealand to take up residence, unless they are already onshore when they are approved. An analysis of people approved between 1998 and 2005 showed that 98 percent of approved migrants took up residence in New Zealand.
- For many migrants, settlement in New Zealand is not permanent. Sixteen percent of people approved for permanent residence between 1998 and 2005 had been out of New Zealand for six months or more as at December 2006.
- Over time, the proportion of people absent from any one cohort increases. At the end of December 2006, 25 percent of people approved in 1998 had left New Zealand and been absent for six months or more.
- Business migrants had the highest rates of long term absence – approximately one-third leave New Zealand long term. Approximately one in five skilled migrants, and those approved through the Family Parent Category, leaves New Zealand long term.
- Long term absence rates differed for different nationalities. Migrants from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia had relatively high rates of absence.  In general, many of these migrants had been approved through categories with high rates of absence, particularly the Business or Skilled categories.
- A time series analysis showed that migrants’ movements into and out of New Zealand exhibit seasonal patterns, with a high number of migrants making short term trips abroad around the Christmas period.
 Shorland, P. (2006). People on the Move: A study of migrant movement patterns to and from New Zealand. Department of Labour. Wellington.
 The total cohort numbers in this analysis are slightly lower than the cohort numbers in the People on the Move study. This is because the method of analysis used here removes duplicate records and retains the most recent record. A small number of people approved for residence in any given cohort may be approved for residence a second time. This can occur if the person is approved for residence but does not arrive in New Zealand, and later applies again. By using the most recent record in this analysis, the record in the earlier cohort is discounted.
 An application is decided once a decision has been made to approve or decline it, whereas an application is completed when the visa or permit label is issued in the applicant’s passport. Using the completed date provides more accurate data for calculating long term absence.
 These technical problems include:
- the administrative process of client linking, which can mean that a client’s original identity is not matched up with their later movement records – this can be a problem where a person uses two different passports
- duplicate client records, which can prevent correct application matching to movements
- some instances where movement information is not successfully passed between Customs and Immigration, or is not successfully outputted by the Immigration system.
 The 2006 cohort is excluded from this analysis because, at the time of writing, the people in this cohort had not had 12 months to arrive in New Zealand.
 In this analysis, the Family Other group includes people approved for residence through the following categories: Family Child Dependent, Family Child Adult, Family Sibling, Family Quota and the Humanitarian Category.
 Appendix O details the rates of absence by nationality for the largest source countries from 1998 to 2005.