More than 250,000 Americans have investigated whether they qualify to move to New Zealand since the coronavirus pandemic took hold this year.
Hundreds of thousands of foreigners from other countries are also inquiring about living here or applying for residency as the deadly pandemic sweeps the globe.
With international death rates steadily climbing, our Pacific island nation is quickly becoming an attractive haven to live.
Massey University’s Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley said the pattern was likely to accelerate as the situation deteriorated overseas.
“Middle class, professional America is saying, ‘Well, where do we go for our own safety and the safety of our families?'”
The pandemic has so far infected nearly 4.5 million Americans and claimed 151,000 US lives.
New Zealand now has just 23 active case, all in managed isolation, and has recorded 22 deaths.
Last month 112,800 more Americans visited Immigration New Zealand website compared with the same time last year, a 160 per cent spike.
This was the equivalent of one US user clicking on the site every 30 seconds.
And 46,800 British citizens visited the site last month, up from 27,100 a year earlier.
The upward trend is matched by a sudden surge internationally in Google searches last month using key words “move to New Zealand”.
Immigration NZ figures also reveal that nearly 10,000 people were granted applications to move here from across the globe in the past two months alone.
Last month saw the largest number of approved residence applications this year – the majority from India and South Africa – with 7085 people welcomed to our shores. It is almost double that from the same time last year.
Despite borders remaining closed to most travellers, Immigration NZ says the volume of visits to its New Zealand Now website started to surge in April. The timing coincides with international reports about how our strict lockdown measures were stamping out coronavirus.
But the major rush came last month as America was hit by a resurgence in cases, with the infection curve rising in 40 out of 50 states.
Across the Atlantic Britain was also fighting an uphill battle against the virus, recording the world’s second-highest number of Covid deaths.
Spoonley said the number of US citizens looking to emigrate to New Zealand tripled after Trump’s election in 2016, with a number of “push and pull factors” motivating Americans.
“Push factors are the [US Government’s] inability to handle a public health challenge like Covid-19, combined with civil unrest,” he said.
“And then the pull factor is that New Zealand is seen as a calm, well-ordered, environmentally attractive country that has dealt with Covid-19 incredibly well.”
Spoonley said the spike in New Zealand’s appeal won’t be limited to the US.
“I absolutely anticipate more interest from places like the UK, Germany and Singapore looking to New Zealand as a migrant destination.”
Leading US forensic pathologist Dr Judy Melinek felt so unsafe at her job in San Francisco she moved to New Zealand to take a job in Wellington this month.
Leading the Covid-19 response for a sheriff-coroner office in Oakland, she became increasingly frustrated with the handling of the pandemic – both by state officials and by Trump.
“I was frustrated and disappointed by the American response to the pandemic and personally I didn’t feel safe at work,” she told the Herald this month.
She labelled Trump’s handling of the pandemic “a disaster,” and said the country needed a plan and to communicate it to Americans, in the vein of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
“You guys are the role model … she and her response to Covid-19 is the reason why we’re in New Zealand and why we relocated.”
An Immigration NZ spokesperson agreed New Zealand was a “great place to be right now”.
“But the borders are still closed. And it’s important for context that it doesn’t necessarily translate to more visa applications.”
While people could still apply, the border remained closed to most barring those granted exceptions, and New Zealand citizens or permanent residents.