Ukrainian family still waiting

A pair of restaurant owners are still awaiting an answer on their visa status and face a lengthy wait until the situation is resolved.

"This is the [reason] I can't sleep, this is the thing which worries me a lot,” said Nataliya Shchetkova, who owns St Heliers restaurant La Vista with her husband. “I can't stop thinking about it. It's a hard time right now as [we feel] we're like suspended. Our routine work helps us to keep moving.”

The family has twice renewed their entrepreneur visa – the maximum number of times it can be done – and then applied for residency. However, the application was denied as Immigration New Zealand decided that the business did not add significant value to the country. La Vista had a turnover of $1.6 million last year and employs 26 staff, 17 of which are full time.

The plight of the Shchetkova family has seen a petition circulated, which has so far gained almost 15,000 signatures. However, they are not sure that this will be enough.

“I'm scared to say but with this level of support from the people around, it gives me hope that it could really happen,” Nataliya said. “People want us here and we are decent, good people and we contribute to the community. We really want to keep doing it for our whole life. We want to call New Zealand our home. We want to find our home here.”

ACT Party leader David Seymour is championing the cause, and said he was astonished that Immigration New Zealand did not acknowledge the importance of the business.

“These are exactly the type of immigrant that New Zealand says it wants,” he said. “They've built a business, they've employed people, given to charity and are loved within their community and their kids are doing well at school.”

“It's easy to sit in an office at Immigration NZ and say 'Oh, they're not making enough amount of profit' but the reality is you can have a highly successful business that doesn't turn a profit for years - look at Xero, they are supposedly one of the most successful businesses in New Zealand and they still haven't made a profit.”

Seymour said that a technical botch-up could lead to the family being forced to return to Ukraine while it is in a state of “proxy war.”