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The number of overseas students in New Zealand is down by more than 27,000 in the last 12 months, while overseas worker numbers have declined by 31,000

The number of overseas students in New Zealand is down by more than 27,000 in the last 12 months, while overseas worker numbers have declined by 31,000

The number of people in New Zealand on student or work visas continued to decline in March, according to the latest figures from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

They show that there were 54,615 people in this country on student visas at the end of March, down by 3744 (-6.4%) since the end of February, and down by 27,384 (-33.4%) since the end of March last year.

The number of overseas students in this country has now declined for 13 consecutive months and is now at its lowest level for the time of year since MBIE's visa population series began in 2009, but only just.

The number of overseas students in this country has more or less gone back to where it was eight years ago, when there were 56,481 overseas students in the country at the end of March 2013, just slightly above 54,615 at the end of March this year (see the first graph below for the trend).

The number of people in the country on work visas has also declined, but at a slower pace.

According to MBIE, there were 190,200 people in NZ on work visas at the end of March, down by just 855 (-0.4%) compared to the end of February, and down by 31,086 (-14%) compared to March last year.

Although that is a significant decline, it means there are still more people in this country on work visas than there were just three years ago.

In March 2018 there were 182,859 people in this country on work visas, which was 7341 less (-3.9%) less than there were at the end of March this year (the second graph below shows the trend).

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Bad news for tertiary educators (and secondary and even primary), overseas students have been the cash cows for them.

Presumably the Govt is making provisions for compensating these Educational facilities accordingly. Or some schools will be running huge operational funding shortfalls. Sounds like the DHB's

Govt has done very little on that front, actually.

They still enrol for courses via distance learning

Our stranded student from overseas will be leaving next week having been looking for an affordable flight since early last December. It would be interesting to see the breakdown of work visa returnees - my guess is students from high risk / heavy lockdown countries will be staying in NZ for as long as possible. In their shoes I would.


Until they couldn't afford to stay anymore. It aint cheap to live in New Zealand if you are not working full time.


It isn't that much cheaper for many of us working full time in fact.

There will be an exodus to Aus once the border is opened

The border to Aus is already open.

You have misunderstood. At college two girls from a Pacific island; they completed year 13 and both received NCEA results that permitted them to study in NZ universities. All they wanted to do was go back home but flights go via Australia so at that time they would have needed quarantine in both Australia and back home. One girl comes from a family with considerable wealth and after two months and three attempts she got home but the other is the only daughter of a single working mother. Her mother could afford a regular airfare and one period of quarantine (it is billed) but not the airfares that were over quadruple nor the multiple quarantines. Both girls had free accommodation and food from my family. They did not work and cannot afford to return to NZ to study at university.
The foreign students in NZ have a range of circumstances - those like the ones I've described take no money nor jobs from NZ and then there are those in pseudo-education at PTEs who are here only to gain residency, escape conditions back in country of origin and steal jobs from our low-paid.


It is very hard to get a reliable picture of what is really happening without seeing the 'flows'as well as the 'stocks'. There will be flows of students becoming work visa holders, visa holders becoming residents, and residents becoming citizens.
There are also lots of anomalies in the immigration stats, for example with people who left for intending long-term departures on OE in early 2020, then cutting that short and being recorded when they came in as having been short term departures. We now also have a cohort of intending OE departures who did not depart, and we don't know what they will now do over the coming year as UK and USA reach herd immunity in coming months together with the ANZ bubble.
We also have a lot of work visa holders who came here having been encouraged there would be a long term future and now caught in somewhat of a void. My own view is that having encouraged them, we do have some responsibilities to them. They are real people, not just statistics.

We'll said Keith

Well said and concluded Keith. Excuse my cynicism, but unfortunately these people were looked at as an economic input before Covid. The ruling elite had an easy ride when showing the GDP report card.

Given the relatively high level of work visa


“We also have a lot of work visa holders who came here having been encouraged there would be a long term future”

And that’s something that needs to be put an end to – now, before the borders reopen and the nonsense fires up once again.

It seems every immigrant application, every category and every immigration lawyer/advisor no matter what, is perceived as a pathway to residency and ultimately citizenship.

So stop incentivising and encouraging the madness – it’s our door after all.

Has Ardern got the spine for real and meaningful change though?


Since so many are rejected it is immoral to put the temptation in their way. Our govt should not permit a system that encourages dishonest agencies in other countries.
Why does studying in NZ give a work permit that lasts for year(s) after completion of studies? Why does it permit partner and family to work? Clearly they are bribes to get foreigners to buy our NZ education whether rubbish PTE diploma or excellent Uni PhD.

“My own view is that having encouraged them, we do have some responsibilities to them”

Fair enough – so remove the encouragement – and once done, by implication, remove the responsibility.

Let’s do this!!

So assuming about $150 per week per student (which seems ver conservative) That is $4,050,000 less in rental income per week. Or $210 million less annually. Nothing to sneeze at.

From April 2020 to March 2021:

Total Arrivals = 126,342
Total Departures = 190,680
Net loss = 64,338.

March 2020 loss was 62,991 so total of 127,329 loss across the borders in 13 months.

Net loss of 64,338 - is that equivalent to 16,000 houses in just a year and mainly in our big cities. Better than Kiwibuild.

That's why house prices have plummeted over the last 12 months...

CBD apartment prices and rents have plummeted (I speak from personal experience ~ 20% down for both). Isn't that where most of these students lived?

Well in your comment at 3:37 you were speaking about houses not apartments
"that equivalent to 16,000 houses in just a year"
That's why I replied about houses

Houses could have been better expressed as homes. Insufficient new builds in the right places, low Interest rates and increased savings (because expensive foreign holidays are out) have made NZ house and apartment prices on average go up. However Auckland CBD has bucked that trend.

Again you miss to understand the most basic concepts in economy, the reason for prices going up has been the market manipulation, read my comment below.

Add that to the +10K houses/month we are building just in Auckland, the market seems to have priced the lower rates and it is ripe for correction, specially after the latest changes that have made investors go mad.

Yeah – although hard to gauge the nature of the arrivals/departures March 2020 and to a lesser degree April 2020.

I think May on wards numbers settled down and from then to end March 2021 around a 40,000 net loss.

That 40,000 net loss may be a little more indicative of possible reduced infrastructure stresses etc. – but then again the longer term intent of arrivals coupled with various extensions to holiday visas and so on with departures makes it somewhat difficult to draw any real conclusions.

These losses were largely departing tourists. The outflow of tourists started in March 2020 with very modest inflows that month but big outflows. This continued in the following months, particularly for April. So the overall losses are largely a reflection of the tourism balloon emptying out.

Yes that's true. Tourists sleep in beds too right? How many of them in Air BnB?

“Tourists sleep in beds too right? How many of them in Air BnB?”

Well, maybe quite a few Australians shortly – and really, so what?

The solution to our mass immigration/lack of population policy mess is not this relatively short term border closure carry-on – to think that’s the panacea is just plain wrong.

It requires a mind-set change, a policy change and an actual vision for New Zealand’s long term future that doesn’t involve a continual flood of foreigners looking for saviour.

Throw this quick fix, wide open door, anything goes immigration nonsense in the trash – where it belongs.

Why does NZ stats still show a positive net migration?
This is only to Dec 2020 but did we really have that bigger change in Jan-Mar 2021?
Is the difference as per earlier comment that your numbers include tourists? I cant work out the massive discrepancy...


and if the remaining 230,000 were also to leave - would this not end our housing crisis overnight !

A trimmed down Academia - would not cost too many jobs -- and most of those visa holders are not in our tope end need roles -- Drs, senior health professionals, engineers etc -- but much lower level occupations -- like chefs, tour guides, young people travelling --

Add in no need to provide healthcare for these 230,000 people, travel infrastructure and othere essential services -- and hey presto maybe the breather that the country needs to catch up !

Well, I for one, don't want people to leave.

Slowing or pausing the rate of population increase via migration is, IMO, very different from wanting to drive recent arrivals away.

No because houses will be left vacant, as super low interest rates allow that. That's why build build build is a joke, and a drain on the environment which govt pretends to care for


I asked a 25 year old what she will do when things open up. "Leave! As long as i suspect there isn't rolling lockdowns, I really want to see Europe." She's spent the last 18 months trying to buy a house with her brother and is done with that. Smart kid and we will miss her but I suppose (hope) she'll be back.

Argh - a fine illustration of the demographic slide we are on.
Pretty soon the only pants in the shops will be brown slacks.


A great illustration of how work visa holder numbers went up under the Labour / NZ First government, as part of their solution to the 'housing crisis'.

Don't worry, Immigration NZ are still stamping out visas so there will be plenty of people ready to fill the hole when borders reopen.

“Immigration NZ are still stamping out visas”

Well, that’s their job – after all, all they do and implement is following policy guidelines – the reality is that the impact of their actions is ultimately of no concern to them – that’s how the machine works.

The key is a policy and guidelines reset –and that comes from Government – it’s they that set the ground rules.

Change needs to be initiated by them – until then Immigration NZ are just stuck with implementing the nonsense they’ve been blindly given.

Yet another immigration news in the property section.


Good news, then. I have some experience with one Auckland private institution. Totally corrupt and little more than a mechanism to get people residency. Tutors pressured to provide false grades, non compliance with NCEA standards until absolutely forced to, cash bribes, and completely foreign-owned. To be fair to the regulators, the place came under intense scrutiny and almost had to shut its doors. Its courses were unbelievably low grade ESL and business studies. We do not need such rorts.

It's all sacrificed to the GDP God. If it increases GDP it is good.

This mindset needs to change.