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Moving to New Zealand may soon be on the cards again for South Africans. Image: Adobe Stock

New Zealand to review suspended immigration programme

South Africans contemplating a move will be pleased to know that Immigration New Zealand may soon resume its residency scheme.

travel new zealand

Moving to New Zealand may soon be on the cards again for South Africans. Image: Adobe Stock

New Zealand inadvertently suspended its immigration programme in March 2020. This was when it closed its borders as a means to fight the spread of COVID-19.

The country did not officially stop taking applications from nationals who were interested in relocating to New Zealand until September 2020. However, it did not accept or process any applications from potential immigrants, who generally require a job offer for applications to be approved.

“When you have a closed border and you operate a labour-market driven policy, it is impossible for most people to find work for the simple reason that employers demand that candidates are in New Zealand,” immigration specialist Iain MacLeod of immigration consultancy Immagine Immigration said.


MacLeod said the country unofficially stopped accepting Expressions of Interest nearly a year ago. an Expression of Interest is the first step to lodging an application for a skilled migrant visa when immigrating to New Zealand.

“It is coming up 12 months since the New Zealand government quietly suspended selections of ‘Expressions of Interest in residence’ from those people wanting to be part of the government’s much-marketed skilled residency programme,” MacLeod said.

However, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) only announced the official suspension of the country’s immigration programme six months ago.


Immigration New Zealand indicated it would review halting of the programme after six months.  March marks the end of this period, meaning the programme may reopen for applications in March.

“Six months ago, when the suspension was confirmed officially, the government announced that they would ‘review’ the decision in March this year,” MacLeod said.


MacLeod said immigration to New Zealand had fallen significantly due to the country’s lengthy border closure. This prevented potential immigrants from travelling to the country to seek an offer of employment. An offer of employment is needed for most applicants to gain sufficient points to be able to process their immigration applications.

“Numbers have obviously been falling over recent months with the closed borders preventing new ‘blood’ getting job offers in New Zealand,” MacLeod said.


MacLeod said Immigration New Zealand would not have sufficient applications to process if it did not start taking applications from immigrants again. He said the department would need to allow Expressions of Interest in migrating to New Zealand to reopen so it can process applications for suitable candidates.

“The immigration department is going to start to run out of work by early 2022 if they don’t reopen the selection process next month. By the end of this year, the number of skilled migrant cases awaiting allocation in their system will be virtually zero if selections don’t resume soon,” MacLeod said.


New Zealand has a quota of 25,000 skilled migrant visas which may be approved in a year. MacLeod believes the drop in approvals for such visas over the past year will result in more applications being approved in 2021.   

“The government won’t reach its annual target or quota of 25,000 people. This, I think, will result in an increase in ‘Resident from Work Visa’ approvals this year and early next,” MacLeod said.

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