Is New Zealand quietly closing its doors to immigration?

New Zealand’s image as a welcoming, inclusive country seems to have emerged largely unscathed from the mass shootings in Christchurch last month, however visa statistics reveal that the present authorities is starting to fulfil its election promise of reducing the number of new long-time period migrants.

The official goal for residency approvals was set at 45,000 just under years ago, but figures from Immigration New Zealand show that such approvals have declined by about 30 per cent since 2016.

Not like neighbouring Australia, which simply abolished one of its visas for skilled overseas workers a few 12 months ago to tighten immigration controls, Wellington has moved more stealthily.

Since 2016, a string of small regulatory tweaks – together with a tightening of the points-primarily based immigration system; the “non permanent” closure of some visa categories such as the parent visa, which was common amongst Chinese; new minimal earnings thresholds; stricter money laundering compliance; and more rules on property ownership – have made it harder to achieve residency in the country.

By nationality, residency approvals for Chinese, Indian and Filipino applicants are all down about 40 per cent from their peak in late 2015.

A number of visa types, such as the entrepreneur visa, are actually described by immigration consultants as almost not possible to obtain, while even partnership visas are harder to come by, with the rejection rate doubling over the past year amid concerns about faux relationships.

However this decline in approvals may be attributed to fewer applications, because the actual number of residency rejections during the last yr was at a close to historical low.

This has resulted in main shortages of expert workers, which employers and trade groups are now pressuring the government to fill, according to Paul Spoonley, a professor of sociology at Massey University who specialises in immigration and diversity.

Reversing the pattern would require Wellington to loosen its immigration rules, however. Michael Reddell, a former economist on the Reserve Bank of New Zealand and unbiased coverage expert, said this is politically risky because it “would reawaken the debate in regards to the relatively low-skilled nature of much of New Zealand immigration”. Adjustments made to New Zealand’s factors-primarily based immigration system in 2017 effectively blocked many low-expert and lower-earnings applicants.

In the weeks because the Christchurch mosque assaults although, the country has counter-intuitively seen an uptick within the number of people making use of for residency, in line with Immigration New Zealand.

Much of the curiosity has come from the US, where Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s dealing with of the fallout was extensively praised and news of the swift implementation of strict new gun laws was welcomed by the likes of presidential candidate and Democrat, Bernie Sanders.

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