Smarter Immigration

Aotearoa New Zealand is a special place. Part of that charm is our remoteness, the beauty of our natural environment, and perhaps most important of all, our low population.

Immigration is important to New Zealand’s development – the fact that around 25% of our workforce wasn’t born here is testimony to that. Migrants can be beneficial to an economy, particularly if they are highly skilled. Used properly, immigration will help underwrite economic growth and prosperity, and help us manage the pressures of an ageing population. 

The TOP test for immigrants is: if you can improve our standard of living we welcome you. If not, thanks but no thanks.

Immigration should not be driven by student visas, nor reciprocal visitor working visas it should only be about whether the immigrant benefits us. Of course migrants accepted for humanitarian reasons are a separate issue.

We need to focus on skilled people that are looking for a more liberal and tolerant society in the wake of Brexit, Trump and the march of ugly nationalism engulfing Europe. We must seize this opportunity to make New Zealand the place where ‘talent wants to live’. Why “talent”? Because it creates jobs and incomes for New Zealanders.

TOP will make it quicker and simpler for truly skilled people to live and work here. This will require changes to our visa regime, and international brand. The latter needs to present us as a tech-savvy nation with great lifestyles, to markets such as Europe, the UK, Asia and the US.

There’s a big downside from too many migrants, particularly if they are working in low-skilled jobs. Establishment parties have wrecked New Zealand’s immigration policy by making it a tool of  what they believed was a lucrative foreign education industry. But we’ve ended up selling low quality education packages to desperate economic refugees from India and China. Foreign students have been granted the right to work here while studying and they then stay on in jobs (any jobs that is – glorified dishwashers is a favourite) to get more points to qualify for residency. Government has lifted points for work experience to 60 of the 160 required! It’s a policy rife with rorts, there’s a steady stream of them being reported or investigated. This is not trivial as Ministers are claiming, the regime is rotten.

Details of the failure of immigration policy are in our Immigration Description paper. 

Download the full immigration policy

TOP’s Immigration Policy


  1. Remove the need for highly skilled migrants to have a job to come to. Skilled migrants would be allowed to come on a trial basis but they could only stay if they find skilled work and can demonstrate their benefit to the country.
  2. Reform the study-to-work-to-residency regime for foreign students so only jobs that meet a genuine skill criteria are recognised for residency points. Programmers fine, dishwashing not.
  3. Market New Zealand in key source markets such as the UK, Europe, Asia and US (taking advantage of Brexit, nationalism & Trump) as a tech savvy nation with an attractive lifestyle.
  4. Develop reciprocal business/high skilled visas – these allow someone to show up and do business for a greater length of time than a visitor visa. At the end of a probation period apply a test of their contribution to NZ before approving residency.
  5. Deploy a Technology advisor to the PM’s office (much like the position of Science Advisor) whose role would be to promote opportunities for increasing the rate of technology transfer to New Zealand. The options would include a special immigrant category for those skilled applicants whose expertise can demonstrably enhance New Zealand’s technological progress.

To reflect the importance of salary level, English language skills, and the ability of migrants to contribute to the economy. Ensure the market rather than the bureacrats makes the final selection from those eligible.

Make it harder and longer, easier only for those with proof of contribution to New Zealander’s lives. We will review the criteria for ‘skilled workers’ to ensure that residency will not be available to those using it as no more than a liferaft. PR applicants will need to demonstrate a contribution of at least 5 years paid work in New Zealand (current qualification is 2 years residency only). This will cut off the loopholes used by student and working holiday visa holders to gain residency.

Applicants for Permanent Residency must demonstrate an understanding of our Constitution and the status of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Ensure our quota is near that of other developed nations on a per capita basis, recognising that it is better for refugees to remain in the vicinity of their home country (they mainly want to go home).

Any immigrant who is exploited and is found to have grounds will get an amnesty for a limited time to find other work. Penalties for the employer must be tough.

Refine the reciprocal agreements, ensure a close balance in the number of working visas between New Zealand and each of the countries we have working visa arrangements with.

Introduce a public nation-wide register of vacancies and job-seekers so the labour market works more effectively (standard practice in the OECD). The skill shortage list should actually be based on some information about the job market rather than just pressure and lobbying from employers. Then facilitate access to suitable migrants through this facility.

Increase the qualifying period for New Zealand Superannuation from 10 years to the OECD average (25 years) and relax the age limits on residency commensurately (so we don’t turn away highly skilled people that are self sufficient because of their age).

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