Government's quiet immigration crackdown: 600 fewer residence visas a month

Newshub can reveal the Immigration Minister has ordered his officials to grant 600 fewer residence visas a month.

The minister, Iain Lees-Galloway, didn't bother to announce the changes, and is now denying a cut in the numbers. 

It affects the likes of Nataliya Shchetkova, who is facing deportation. She and her husband moved to New Zealand from Ukraine, and own a restaurant in Auckland's St Heliers. 

Their five-year-old twins were born in New Zealand - but if the family doesn't get residency, they'll go back to a war-torn country they've never seen. 

"It makes me cry," Ms Schetkova said during a plea to Parliament on Wednesday, asking the Government to grant her special permission to stay in the country. 

ACT Party leader David Seymour has been an advocate for the family. 

"We want immigrants like the Schetkovas. Now we've got them, and the Government is trying to send them back to the Ukraine."

It comes as the Government has made a somewhat secret immigration crackdown. 

National set a limit of 95,000 residence visas to be granted over two years - that works out to an average of almost 4000 a month. 

The current Government has cut that significantly - down to a maximum of 60,000 over 18 months. That's about 600 fewer people a month.

When asked why he didn't announce the change, Mr Lees-Galloway told Newshub: "Because it is very much steady as she goes... the numbers in the residency programme are not changing."

National MP Michael Woodhouse said it's "certainly policy by stealth" and that it's "bad for New Zealand economically, culturally and socially". 

The Government has also changed which immigrants it wants to grant residency to. 

Under National, 60 percent were granted to skilled migrants, 32-33 percent were granted to family members of migrants, and 7-8 percent went to refugees.

This Government has cut the number of skilled migrants, dishing up more residencies to family members and refugees. 

"It's surreptitious - employers don't even know about it," Mr Woodhouse said. 

Both Labour and New Zealand First were very vocal about cutting immigration in opposition, which makes it all the more puzzling that there was no one shouting these changes from the rooftops.

Even to the extent that the Immigration Minister is even denying anything is happening.