Only 14% take up Ukraine special NZ war visas

Escaping Ukraine to New Zealand is next to impossible because of the requirements and cost involved.

The war in Ukraine has forced nearly six million to flee the country and has displaced more than seven million internally.

New Zealand hung out the welcome mat in March, when the Government provided 4,000 special visas for family members of Ukrainians living here.

This visa allows Ukrainian-born New Zealand citizens and residents here to bring in members of their Ukrainian family whose lives are at risk because of Russia’s war.

So far, the take-up has been poor.

A World Vision and Mahi survey found fewer than 160 people have arrived on the special visa because of barriers around the application process – just 14 per cent of eligible visas have been issued so far.

Immigration New Zealand says that, since the survey, an additional 34 people have arrived on the visa.

World Vision and Mahi want our Ukraine visa policy to be amended.

“The policy is not fit for purpose and needs to be amended urgently so that Ukrainian refugees, displaced people, families torn apart and particularly at-risk children can assess it and resettle in New Zealand where they can be free from conflict,” says Rebekah Armstrong, World Vision’s head of advocacy and justice.

Concern over the low number of applications for the special visa prompted World Vision and Mahi to conduct the survey.

The survey found that New Zealand’s cost of living and housing, and the costs of flights are barriers preventing a third of potential applicants from applying.

The survey findings will be provided to the Minister of Immigration. Accompanying it will be a call to establish a humanitarian relocation support fund and settlement support to assist with accommodation, essentials and employment for those escaping Ukraine.

So many Ukrainians have left with nothing more than the clothes on their back, says one recent arrival, Valeriya Horyayeva (pictured), who was reunited with her mother in Nelson.

“They arrive in New Zealand with so little and have little support here, so it would be good to have more assistance for those who need it.”

Older people especially need resettlement help, she says.

Mahi for Ukraine spokeswoman Kate Turska said Ukrainians here sponsoring families were put under severe financial pressure.

“It is up to the sponsor to feed, clothe and house everyone and pay for other costs such as healthcare,” she says.

“It’s a heartbreaking situation for sponsors to find themselves in, especially when many of their family members would meet the definition of a refugee.”

Immigration NZ says it prioritises urgent visa applications from Ukrainian nationals.

As of June 7, INZ had received 882 sponsorship requests, 877 visa applications and had granted 729 visas under the 2022 Special Ukraine Visa category.

“Eligibility requires the sponsor to have been born in Ukraine or to hold or have held Ukrainian citizenship or permanent residence, and the applicant to be a normal resident of Ukraine, including Crimea, as of January 2022,” INZ says.

“There are currently no plans to change the criteria.”



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