New Zealand Tightens Visa Rules as ‘Unsustainable’ Migration Soars

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New Zealand’s conservative government announced Sunday it has tightened work visa rules as “unsustainable” migration levels soar to near-record highs.

Low-skilled applicants now have to fulfil English-language requirements and are allowed to stay for three years – down from five previously – amid fears that high immigration levels are driving up house prices.

“Getting our immigration settings right is critical to this government’s plan to rebuild the economy,” said Immigration Minister Erica Stanford.

Close to a record 173,000 non-citizens migrated to New Zealand last year.

New Zealand, which has a population of 5.3 million, has been experiencing a surge in migration since the end of 2022 driven by moves from the previous left-wing Labour government of now departed Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Christopher Luxon declared last year the country’s high net migration rates did not “feel sustainable at all” and promised to act.

Now he has fulfilled that commitment.

The Associated Press

New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon gestures during his first post-Cabinet press conference at Parliament in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023. (Mark Mitchell/New Zealand Herald via AP)

The country’s immigration system had been closed “at a time when employers were looking for workers [during the pandemic]… and then Labour opened the floodgates just as the economy was starting to slow,” Luxon, who leads the conservative National Party, told Radio New Zealand in December.

“We’re inheriting a system that’s been a complete hash,” he had said.

Some policymakers have warned that the new arrivals may further drive up rents and house prices.

According to government data, citizens from India, the Philippines and China were the top three sources of inward migration from foreign nationals in 2023.

Neighbouring Australia, which has also seen a big jump in migrants, has said it would halve its migrant intake over the next two years.

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