International Travel and Migration

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International travel and migration statistics measure the number and characteristics of international arrivals into New Zealand, and international departures from New Zealand.


The purpose of international travel and migration statistics is to count passengers arriving into and departing New Zealand. Passengers are split into one of three passenger types: overseas visitors, New Zealand-resident travellers, and permanent and long-term migrants.

As the principal agency responsible for processing and publishing international travel and migration statistics in New Zealand, Statistics New Zealand seeks to provide information that meets the contractual, public policy, and community requirements for up-to-date official statistics at the local, regional, and national level.

Arrivals and departures of overseas visitors and New Zealand-resident travellers are key indicators of tourism and travel. Permanent and long-term migration is a component in New Zealand’s population change (along with births and deaths), measuring changes in the characteristics of the population as well as population size.

Citation Information


International Travel and Migration

Alternate Title

External Migration, Migration, ITM


Statistics New Zealand


Statistics New Zealand

Coverage Information

Temporal Coverage

  • 1860 to present

Topical Coverage

  • Tourism
  • Migration
  • Population
  • Migrants
  • Immigration
  • Immigrants
  • Emigration
  • Emigrants
  • Tourists
  • Visitors
  • Travel
  • Travellers
  • Arrivals
  • Departures

Landing pages



Significant events impacting this study series

1860 – first reliable coverage of New Zealand's international arrivals and departures. Earlier data did not cover all of New Zealand's provinces.

April 1921 – arrival and departure cards are introduced. Passengers are split into three passenger types - overseas visitors, New Zealand-resident travellers, and permanent and long-term migrants.

1942–1945 – limited detailed data during WWII.

April 1975 – sampling of arrival and departure records begins. Some detail is only captured from a sample of arrival and departure cards, and statistics are produced by multiplying the results by the sample ratio.

April 1978 – detailed international travel and migration statistics for this month onwards are available in electronic format. Most earlier detail is only available in hard-copy reports.

July 1979 – sampling of permanent and long-term migrants ends, with detailed data now collected for every migrant.

September 1997 – the New Zealand Customs Service begins supplying Statistics New Zealand with passport and flight data electronically for all arrivals and departures. Statistics New Zealand holds a record for each passenger movement from this date. Some detail continues to be collected from arrival and departure cards for only a sample of passengers.

June 2004 – Statistics New Zealand begins using scanning and image-recognition technology to automatically capture most of the required information from arrival and departure cards.

July 2008 – the name "International Travel and Migration" is adopted, replacing "External Migration", which had been used since 1921. The new name better reflects that the statistics include short-term travellers as well as permanent and long-term migrants.

July 2013 – New simplified departure card is released. Some changes to arrival and departure information as a result.

August 2016 – New processing system is introduced (See 'Data Collection' 'International travel and migration processing system changes in August 2016' for more information).

Usage and limitations of the data

International travel and migration data is based on passport and flight details, and responses given on arrival and departure cards. Responses to some questions are the passenger's intentions, which may change. Published figures are not revised to account for changes in intention.

Main users of the data

International travel statistics are of interest to tourism-related businesses, travel agents, and regional and national tourism organisations.

International migration statistics are of interest to economists, labour market analysts, the housing/construction industry, and local councils.

Statistics on all arriving and departing passengers are of interest to airlines, airports, and airport businesses (such as duty free stores).

International travel and migration statistics are also used as inputs into a number of other statistics, such as the International Visitor Survey, New Zealand's population estimates, balance of payments, and gross domestic product.


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