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World Vision’s advocacy for the settlement of Ukrainians in New Zealand

03 Apr 2023
World Vision’s advocacy for the settlement of Ukrainians in New Zealand

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has resulted in the largest human displacement crisis in recent history, with approximately 14 million Ukrainians forced to flee their homes in search of safety.

Shortly after the war broke out, World Vision, alongside NGOs and the Ukrainian community, sent an open letter to the Government urging them to create a visa to allow 4,000 Ukrainians to seek refuge in New Zealand with their families.

In response, the Government introduced the Special Ukraine Policy, a visa that would allow Ukrainian citizens and residents of New Zealand to sponsor their Ukrainian whānau to come to New Zealand for two years. However, despite the allocation of 4,000 spots, few Ukrainians were coming to New Zealand. We decided to find out why.

In April 2022, we partnered with Mahi for Ukraine and surveyed nearly 200 Ukrainians in Aotearoa to understand barriers to the visa. As outlined in our report to the Government: we found the visa offers no financial support, leaving all costs – flights, housing, food, healthcare – to be borne by sponsor whānau in Aotearoa. The visa also has tight eligibility restrictions, only immediate family members could apply, and only New Zealand residents or citizens who are Ukrainian citizens or were born in Ukraine could be sponsors. There is also no certainty on whether visa holders could remain in New Zealand beyond the two-year visa scope to see out the war, or if they’d be sent back to a war-torn country.

In November 2022, we carried out another survey, which showed that these barriers persisted, and presented the findings to the Government.

On the one-year anniversary of the conflict, World Vision delivered a speech at Mahi for Ukraine’s vigil in Auckland urging the Government to amend the policy immediately so that New Zealand could deliver on its humanitarian response and play its role as a global partner.

In response to World Vision and Mahi for Ukraine’s recommendations, the Government agreed to several policy changes, including extending the visa application window and travel window, broadening the eligibility criteria to include extended family members, widening the pool of eligible sponsors, and adding an additional ‘acceptable sponsor’ category for those willing to take on financial sponsorship to support the family sponsors. However, they still haven’t provided certainty.

World Vision, alongside NGOs and the Ukrainian community, are advocating for the Government to provide certainty to Ukrainians by guaranteeing the extension of their visa beyond the two-year expiry date as the conflict persists, with a pathway to residency options. The current two-year visa expiry policy prevents Ukrainians from coming to New Zealand, settling down, and feeling secure in the knowledge that they will not be forced to leave and sent back to a country in war. By comparison, the UK, Canada and Australia offer three-year visas, with Canada and Australia providing visa extensions and pathways to residency, as required.

We are thrilled that our advocacy has resulted in tangible improvements for Ukrainians seeking safety in Aotearoa, and we urge the Government to promptly implement this outstanding policy change.

To learn more about our work advocating for accessible resettlement policies in New Zealand, please visit worldvision.org.nz/causes/advocacy.