Survey finds Government’s Ukraine visa policy lacking with fewer than 160 arrivals

13 Jun 2022 by World Vision
Survey finds Government’s Ukraine visa policy lacking  with fewer than 160 arrivals

Valeriya and her daughter

World Vision and Mahi for Ukraine are calling for significant changes to the Government’s Ukraine visa policy after a survey revealed major barriers around application, with only 14% of eligible visas issued so far.

In March, the Government introduced the 2022 Special Ukraine Policy in response to the crisis in Ukraine, which has seen nearly six million people flee the country and more than seven million people internally displaced within Ukraine.

However, fewer than 160 Ukrainians have arrived in New Zealand on the special visa since its introduction.

World Vision and Mahi for Ukraine conducted a survey of nearly 200 Ukrainians living in New Zealand and found that more than a third had not applied for the special visa due to barriers, such as the cost of living in New Zealand, housing costs, and the cost of flights.

World Vision’s Head of Advocacy and Justice, Rebekah Armstrong, says there are barriers around the application process and aspects of the policy need to be amended

“The Special Ukrainian Policy represents a potentially generous humanitarian intervention from the New Zealand Government to Ukrainian people in devastating crisis. However, the policy is not fit for purpose and needs to urgently be amended so that Ukrainian refugees; displaced people; families torn apart; and particularly at-risk children can access it and resettled in New Zealand where they can be free from conflict .” she says.

Armstrong says concern about the low number of applications for the special visa prompted World Vision and Mahi for Ukraine to conduct the survey which revealed:
• 85% of survey respondents have family members in Ukraine eligible for the special visa
• A third of respondents have not applied for the special visa due to specific barriers.
• The most commonly identified barriers to application were the cost of living in New Zealand, the cost of housing in New Zealand, and the cost of flights to get to New Zealand.
• Two-thirds of respondents want to sponsor other family members and friends who currently fall outside of the visa eligibility criteria.

Mahi for Ukraine spokesperson, Kate Turska, says sponsoring family members to leave Ukraine puts severe financial pressure on New Zealand Ukrainian citizens and residents, especially when the cost of living in New Zealand is so high.

“The New Zealand government provides no extra support for those arriving here from Ukraine – most of Ukrainians turn up with nothing more than the clothes on their back. It is up to the sponsor to feed, clothe and house everyone and to pay for other costs, such as healthcare.

“Many of the people our community is sponsoring are elderly or underage. They are unable to work and it can be an onerous burden which is financially beyond the means of many sponsors. It’s a heart-breaking situation for sponsors to find themselves in – especially when many of their family members would meet the definition of a refugee,” she says.

Valeriya Horyayeva has recently settled in Nelson with her four-year-old daughter after fleeing her hometown of Sumy in Ukraine in March.

She’s grateful she can share her mother’s home and that they local community have welcomed her with donations of clothes and other essentials, but she says for many Ukrainians, especially those who are older, resettlement can be difficult.

“It is so expensive to come to New Zealand from Europe and when you get here the cost of living is huge. So many Ukrainians have left with nothing more than the clothes on their back. They arrive in New Zealand with so little and have little support here so it would be good to have more assistance for those that need it,” she says.

Armstrong says many Ukrainians living here are also keen to see the government broaden the eligibility criteria for the policy so that all Ukrainian nationals who have a New Zealand sponsor would have the option to re-settle in New Zealand.

“We are hearing many tragic stories of extended family members who are excluded by this policy – nieces and nephews, uncles and aunts, sisters and brothers-in-law, cousins. Families in New Zealand are powerless to help their loved ones because the visa policy is so limited,” she says.

Armstrong says World Vision and Mahi for Ukraine acknowledge the steps the Government has taken thus far to support those fleeing Ukraine but believe it’s necessary to go further.

“We’ve undertaken this survey to provide the Government with information and evidence about how this policy can be improved to offer greater support for those caught up in this conflict. There are a few very easy steps that can be taken to ensure this policy effectively supports the 4,000 people it is designed to assist,” she says.

Armstrong says the two organisations would like to see the Government offer greater support around resettlement, along with extensions to the eligibility criteria to enable more people to apply for the special visa.

The survey will be provided to the Minister of Immigration, the Hon. Chris Faafoi and includes the following recommendations:
• Expand the visa scope so that applicants are able to sponsor non-immediate family members (cousins, aunts, grandchildren and relatives through marriage)
• Allow Ukrainians living in New Zealand who are not residents or citizens to access the policy and sponsor family to come here.
• Consider establishing a humanitarian relocation support fund to assist with resettlement costs.
• Establish settlement support for recipients of the Special Ukraine Policy to assist Ukrainians with accommodation, essentials, and employment.

The full report is available here: