Restaurant owners allowed to stay

A pair of Ukrainian restaurant owners have been granted a 12-month reprieve by Immigration NZ, which will allow them to apply for residency again.

Nataliya Shchetkova and husband Alex Derecha, owners of La Vista in St Heliers, came to New Zealand from Ukraine in 2013 in order to buy a fine-dining restaurant. The couple had twins not long after their arrival. The pair originally had plans to purchase a 140-seat French restaurant, through which they planned to get their residency, but due to an eight-month wait for the first visa, it had already sold. The restaurant they chose to buy was smaller, but the couple has increased it since they took over and were hoping to gain residency. The restaurant employs 26 staff, 17 of which are fulltime, and had a $1.6 million turnover in 2018.

However earlier this year Immigration New Zealand decided that the restaurant did not add significant value to the country, and the couple would have to leave. After a protracted battle and a petition which garnered over 15,000 signatures, Associate Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi intervened. He wrote to the family to let them know that they would be allowed to stay for twelve more months and reapply for residency later.

“I can’t say it’s a 100 per cent victory but if you compare refusal to a 12-month work visa it is a win,” Shchetkova said. “We want to stay, we’re happy to be here and we want to keep doing what we’re doing now.”

“We are so happy. My children are going to celebrate; it’s the school holidays tomorrow. When I was leaving for work I heard they were arranging to have a picnic tomorrow morning with their school friends.”

ACT MP David Seymour, who supported the family throughout the ordeal and organised the petition, was also happy with the news.

“The family made New Zealand their home six years ago, built a successful business employing 26 people, and now have strong connections in their community. As a country, we must be welcoming of hardworking and entrepreneurial migrants.”