Why New Zealand: International migration decision-making and destination selection

Contact: Aidan Tabor


How do people make the decision to migrate internationally, and why do they choose New Zealand?


To explore these questions, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 pre-departure and 26 post-arrival migrants from India, South Africa and the United Kingdom/Ireland, including both couples and individuals.


The findings support the view that the migration decision process contains three distinct decisions:

  • whether to go
  • where to go
  • when to go.

Regarding the question of whether to go, Indian and British participants had very similar reasons for leaving their country of origin: lifestyle and work/life balance, opportunities for work and children, as well as the environment.

South Africans were overwhelmingly concerned with quality of life, particularly safety and lifestyle.

Nearly all the migrants had considered and rejected the idea of moving to Australia and/or Canada. New Zealand was selected as a destination of choice due:

  • quality of life
  • climate
  • accessibility of nature
  • career opportunities
  • visa process transparency
  • cultural similarity
  • the perception that migrants were welcome.

Unlike much of the decision-making in the research literature, this decision process was a negotiation between partners that occurred over a long period of time, quite often years. The negotiation continued into the settlement period for most of the couples as they considered return or onward migration.

Implications from this study focus on how New Zealand can attract skilled migrants.