New data from Statistics New Zealand shows the number of South African nationals who have gained residency in the country has risen sharply in recent months as global lockdown restrictions ease.
The statistics body’s data shows that the number of South Africans who were accepted on business or skilled residency visas increased to 4,395 in December 2021, up from as few as 30 visas in September 2020 at the height of the Covid pandemic.
Similar jumps were seen in other visa categories and for other countries – indicating that New Zealand cleared a backlog in applications as travel restrictions were eased.
Around 1,580 South Africans gained residence in March 2022, indicating that some normalisation has begun to take place – although this is still well above the average 500 monthly residencies recorded pre-pandemic.
New Zealand is historically a popular destination for emigrating South Africans – typically only behind the United Kingdom and Australia. A 2021 United Nations migration report recorded approximately 73,850 South Africans living in New Zealand as of 2020 (5.3% of New Zealand’s migrant stock).
South Africans choose to move to New Zealand for numerous reasons, most notably because it is deemed safe, child-friendly, and has 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.
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.”
However, the country is also in the process of reviewing its general immigration policies as the country sees more workers than its infrastructure can currently accommodate.
“Immigrants make a positive contribution to New Zealand, bringing diversity and much-needed skills. As taxpayers, immigrants also have a positive impact on the Government’s finances,” the country’s productivity commission said.
“Yet, New Zealand has struggled for a long time to absorb and accommodate more people well. Infrastructure and housing supply has not kept up with rapid population growth, creating pressures that affect the wellbeing of both migrants and New Zealanders.”