The situation in Ukraine: can I help my family?

The world has been shocked by the terrible things that Russia is inflicting upon Ukraine. Even though New Zealand is a long distance away, we are not immune from the impact. For example, the war in Ukraine has been given as one of the reasons why petrol prices are so high at present. This is having a significant impact on many ordinary New Zealanders.

At Laurent Law we have heard the cries for help too, by being approached by New Zealanders who have family in Ukraine, asking us how we can assist to bring the family to safety in New Zealand.

When we first received these enquiries, we had to say that applicants must qualify under one of the existing Visa categories. A few months ago my Principal, Simon Laurent, wrote a blog explaining what these are. If a family member in Ukraine did not fit the usual criteria for a Work or Student Visa, the only way they could come to New Zealand was to make a request to the Minister of Immigration for special intervention. In practice, the existing categories provided few options for family in Ukraine and the outcome of a request to the Minister of Immigration is quite unpredictable.

DEDICATED TEMPORARY VISA

However, as of Tuesday 15 March 2022, we now have a dedicated Visa category – the “2022 Special Ukraine Visa” – which allows New Zealanders who have family in the Ukraine to sponsor them to come to New Zealand. In order to act as a sponsor, you must;

  • be a New Zealand citizen or the holder of a current residence class visa
  • be ordinarily resident in New Zealand
  • have been born in Ukraine, or have held citizenship or be a permanent resident of Ukraine, and
  • be an acceptable sponsor for a temporary visa (for example, have sufficient funds to support the person you are sponsoring)

The process of applying is demonstrated by the following diagram. The INZ 1371 Expression of Interest form can be downloaded here.

The process is not too difficult to understand and we are confident that many New Zealanders with family in the Ukraine will benefit from the new category. The following family members can be sponsored;

  • parents
  • grandparents
  • siblings
  • adult children

Each of the above can also include their partners and dependent children. It does not appear that Medical and Police Certificates need to be provided – this is reasonable given the difficulty of obtaining such documents in a war zone. However, Immigration Instructions require an Immigration officer to be satisfied that the “information available” does not indicate any health or character issues.

Only the above listed relationships to family members will qualify. For example, you would not be able to use the process outlined to help a friend or work colleague. We have had some enquiries from New Zealanders wanting to support Ukrainian citizens despite having no family connection to New Zealand. Unfortunately the response to this has to be, again, that the person must apply under existing Visa categories, or if there is some other special circumstance that can be identified, a request for special intervention to the Minister of Immigration.

The Immigration Instructions relating to the Special Ukraine Visa are “restricted”. This means that Immigration Officers must apply them exactly as they are worded. They have no freedom to make any exceptions.

If you have family in the Ukraine and you are looking for a way to help them, please feel welcome to contact us.

WHAT ABOUT OPTIONS FOR RESIDENCE?

Government and Immigration New Zealand have so far been silent on the ability of Ukrainian family members to stay in New Zealand long-term i.e., beyond the 2 year Temporary Visa provided for so far. The existing Visa categories do not necessarily cater well to many Ukrainian citizens wanting to apply for Residence.

If Government does not make a further announcement in due course about a dedicated long-term category, and if the situation remains unstable in Ukraine in the future, Ukrainian citizens in New Zealand will then be in a difficult position at the end of the 2 year Temporary Visa. The way things stand, they must return to Ukraine. The writer suggests that it would be incredibly harsh to allow Ukrainian citizens to come on Temporary Visas only to force them to return to what could be still an unstable war zone after the 2 years has passed.

If they decided to stay on, they would eventually become overstayers. Maybe they could succeed in an appeal against deportation liability on humanitarian grounds. Facing being deported away from family to a war zone would likely meet the high legal test required for humanitarian appeals to be successful. Even so, the sheer volume of people displaced from Ukraine – even now it is in the millions – may not make their situation “exceptional”. Their ability to secure a right to remain could well turn upon the strength of family ties to New Zealand, or other circumstances which put their case into the realm of the unusual or rare.

Alternatively Ukrainians may try to claim refugee status, because their government cannot protect them from serious harm during a state of war. Unfortunately, unless they can show some reason that they would be targeted over and above the rest of the population, they will not be recognised as refugees. However, they might obtain complementary protection owing to fear of death or of “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” at the hands of the invaders. This is available by application of the ICCPR, as the key elements of Articles 6 and 7 have been brought into the Immigration Act 2009.

This entry was posted in Immigration Industry, Immigration Problems, Immigration Visas, Refugees. Bookmark the permalink.

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