International migration statistics give the latest outcomes-based measure of migration, which includes estimates of migrants entering or leaving New Zealand.

Impact of COVID-19 on international migration

Since January 2020, governments have imposed international travel restrictions in multiple countries, due to the spread of COVID-19 around the world. In March 2020, the New Zealand government introduced further measures to protect New Zealanders from the COVID-19 virus, effectively limiting travel to New Zealand and travel within New Zealand.

See Implications of worldwide travel restrictions on recent migration estimates.

Key facts

The comparisons between the October 2019 and 2020 months and years use the latest provisional estimates for each period.

The provisional estimates have 95 percent confidence intervals (±) beside them – the wider the interval, the greater the uncertainty about the estimate. However, these intervals reflect the model uncertainty, not the extent of future revisions to provisional data.

Provisional migration estimates are revised each month until they are finalised after 16 months. Migration data transformation has more information about the migration estimates, including the 12/16-month rule.


Year ended October 2020 (compared with year ended October 2019) provisional estimates were:

  • migrant arrivals – 117,300 (± 1,200), down 23.5 percent
  • migrant departures – 57,800 (± 500), down 35.3 percent
  • annual net migration gain – 59,500 (± 1,300), down from 64,000 (± 200).


October 2020 month (compared with October 2019 month) provisional estimates were:

  • migrant arrivals – 2,600 (± 200), down 84.7 percent
  • migrant departures – 1,700 (± 200), down 74.9 percent
  • net gain – 900 (± 200), down from 10,200 (± 200).

Implications of worldwide travel restrictions on recent migration estimates

  • Many visitors to New Zealand, travelling on a range of visa types, have been unable to depart (estimates as at 4 December 2020 are 70,000–100,000 visitors in New Zealand; see also 25 March 2020 discussion in About 250,000 visitors in New Zealand). Migration estimates could be revised up or down depending on whether these people stay in New Zealand or head back overseas. Their prolonged stay in New Zealand is currently contributing to high estimates of migrant arrivals and net migration between late-2019 and March 2020.
  • The travel of New Zealand residents has been curtailed, resulting in relatively fewer short-term and long-term (migrant) departures of New Zealand citizens in recent months relative to the same period a year ago.
  • In addition, estimated migrant arrivals of New Zealand citizens was higher than usual up to March 2020. If these people subsequently depart rather than staying long-term, then provisional migrant arrival estimates for these months are likely to be revised down.

Migration Data Transformation project – Comparison of provisional and final migration estimates: August 2017–October 2020 has a monthly summary of the number of border movements, the number requiring modelling as migrants or non-migrants, and the history of revisions to migration estimates.

Why migration estimates change

The outcomes-based measure of migration with provisional and final estimates is the official way we measure migration in New Zealand (see also International migration uses new official measure).

To classify a border crossing as a migrant movement, we need to observe up to 16 months of travel history and it takes 17 months before final migration estimates are available, using the 12/16-month rule.

To produce timely results, we use a statistical model to produce provisional migration estimates. As new data becomes available each month, the provisional migration model has more information about the border crossings it is trying to estimate. This causes shifts in the estimated number of migrant arrivals and migrant departures, and thus changes in the net migration estimates.

Early and provisional international travel data

Each week, Stats NZ releases early and provisional international travel statistics – international travel (provisional) – to facilitate analysis of the COVID-19 international pandemic and the impact on New Zealand’s inbound and outbound tourism sectors. This includes:

  • weekly travel data for short-term overseas visitor and New Zealand resident arrivals
  • arrivals and departures data based solely on border-crossings into and out of New Zealand
  • stock estimates of visitors in New Zealand, and New Zealand residents travelling overseas, based on arrivals and departures.

Provisional daily border crossing data are also being updated daily on the Stats NZ COVID-19 data portal.

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