Approximately 5,000 people have become residents in New Zealand under a fast-track government scheme launched in December 2021, with migrants from India, South Africa, and the Philippines topping the approvals list.
State broadcaster Radio New Zealand reports that almost 30,000 people have to date applied for the one-off residence visa, and up to 165,000 may be eligible by the end of the year.
South Africans are eligible for the visa if they are already settled in New Zealand (three years-plus), are considered skilled workers based on wages, or if their jobs are on the scarce skills list.
Families whose expressions of interest included older teenage children – who could not work or go on to university as domestic students without a residence visa – were among those prioritised in the first applications in December.
The second phase of the scheme is expected to start in March 2022, with applications expected to increase significantly.
Data from New Zealand Immigration shows that 565 South Africans were accepted for residency in New Zealand in 2021/2022 – a significant decline compared to the previous year where residency was granted to more than 1,700 South Africans in 2020/2021.
How many South Africans are moving?
While South Africans are near the top of the list for residency applications, the data is not reflective of the number of people arriving in New Zealand on other visas prior to the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The most recent pre-pandemic data from 2019/2020 shows South Africans make up 10% of the total number of migrant arrivals, with more than 60,000 South Africans estimated to be living in the country.
New Zealand is historically a popular destination for emigrating South Africans – typically only behind the United Kingdom and Australia.
South Africans choose to move to New Zealand for numerous reasons, most notably because it’s deemed safe, is child-friendly, and for job opportunities.
Historically these South Africans have entered the country on residence and work visas, however, the data shows that there has also been an increase in student visa arrivals in recent years.
Skills in demand
The New Zealand government forecasts that it will need approximately 47,000 additional workers a year well into the coming decade.
“The majority of the new jobs will be in highly skilled occupations, and it’s expected most will have to be filled by people from overseas countries – including South Africa,” it said.
“Job openings will grow for virtually every kind of work. But the largest increases will be in business services, construction/utilities, health care/social assistance and education.”
Prospects are particularly strong if your skills are on any of the Essential Skills in Demand (ESID) lists of skill shortages updated regularly by Immigration New Zealand.
“However, if your job or profession is not on a shortage list, don’t be disheartened. There are lots of opportunities in New Zealand for people with skills,” it said.
You can find New Zealand’s updated skills shortage list here.