Asia is dominating permanent and long term migration to New Zealand — but many are arriving as students or workers.

International student numbers from new migrant source countries, like India and the Philippines, are contributing to net migration numbers hitting record highs, according to a Herald analysis into arrival and departure card data.

Migrants from Asia have also turned the tables on permanent and long term arrivals from Europe, which were double that of Asia in 1979.

Last year, the 41,764 from Asia was about twice the 21,365 coming from Europe.

In 2004, just 611 Indians came to New Zealand to study, but that number was at a record 10,708 last year.

Over the period, student numbers from the Philippines also rose from a mere 64 to 1801, while work visa holders spiked from 56 to 2030.

Those from Asia are also more likely to remain, with departures last year at just 6170 compared to the 7036 European departures.

“This is a story of the rise and rise of Asia, and the shift from our traditional source countries in Europe,” said Massey University sociologist Paul Spoonley.

“New countries are India and the Philippines...despite suggestions that it will tail off and perhaps drop, for the moment, there is no suggestion that this will happen soon.”

Migrants from Asia first peaked in the mid-1990s before dropping off briefly during the Asian financial crisis until the early 2000s.

Since then, it has been steadily rising, including the many who come on study and work visas. Europe peaked around the mid 2000s at around 30,000 and has now dipped to between 25,000 and 30,000.

An exception are the arrivals from Germany, which saw an increase from 1430 in 1979 to 3778 last year.

Nearly 3000 Germans who arrived last year came on a working visa.

Four in 10 permanent migrants now are from Asia, mostly from China, India and the Philippines. Migrants from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea spiked in the 1990s, but the numbers have dropped off.

Professor Spoonley said the data showed immigration to New Zealand had gone through distinct phases.

“After the policy change in 1987, there was a noticeable shift from a Europe-dominant period to an interim which saw arrivals from Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Africa,” he said.

“The post-2000 phase saw arrivals from India and China, now dominant, and they have been joined by those arriving from the Philippines and from a much wider range of countries.”

Professor Spoonley said Australia plays a prominent part of the migration story, with departures significantly higher than arrivals over the years.

“But for the first time since the 1980s, the story has been reversed,” he said.

“The numbers arriving exceeded those going.”

Sai Krishna Peri, 26, a games artist from India, said he chose to study in New Zealand over Canada because it offered better opportunities in his field.

“It is my lifelong dream to be working in the movies, and this is where I think I can make my dreams come true,” said Mr Peri, who came to Auckland last year from Hyderabad on a student visa to do a graduate diploma in creative technologies at the Media Design School.

After completing the course earlier this month, Mr Peri, now on a graduate job search visa, is working as a texture artist at Huhu Studios.

He now considers New Zealand to be his second home, and intends to apply for a resident visa when he qualifies.

Dr Kate McMillan, a Victoria University researcher, said people arriving from Asian countries had been increasing at a slow but steady rate.

However, the profile of these migrants had changed and diversified.

“Where early flows were dominated by refugees from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, contemporary movements include highly skilled professionals intending to live permanently here, young people on working holiday visas...fee-paying students, tourists,” she said.

Asia New Zealand Foundation executive director Simon Draper said New Zealand’s present and future was now tied to Asia.

The foundation had been carrying out its annual Perceptions of Asia and Asian Peoples research since 1997, which found positive feelings here of Asian people and Asia as a whole had increased.

“One of the consistent findings of our research is that the more contact non-Asian New Zealanders have with Asian people, the more positive and confident they feel about Asia as a whole,” Mr Draper said.