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Immigration stands by call to decline residency to Ukrainian family who run Auckland restaurant

Immigration New Zealand is standing by its decision to decline the residency applications from a popular Auckland restaurant owner and her family.

Nataliya Shchetkova who owns the popular La Vista restaurant in Auckland's St Heliers arrived in New Zealand six years ago on a long-term business visa.

Her family applied for residency under the Entrepreneur category, which is used by migrants who have established a business that significantly benefits New Zealand.

Immigration New Zealand said Mrs Shchetkova had not been able to demonstrate that she had met the list of criteria under the category.

It said Mrs Shchetkova needed to have shown that La Vista had created ongoing and full-time employment "over and above the pre-existing staffing levels".

Based on the evidence provided, INZ said it was not satisfied Mrs Shchetkova had done this.

It said several employment agreements had no set minimum hours of work, and that Mrs Shchetkova had failed to demonstrate the immigration status of a number of staff.

INZ also said Mrs Shchetkova claimed that she had benefited New Zealand by revitalising an existing business which had led to increased financial performance.

But INZ later found that La Vista had failed to turn a profit, instead making a shortfall of more than $230,000.

It said Mrs Shchetkova had appealed its decision to the Independent Immigration and Protection Tribunal, which upheld INZ's ruling.

Mrs Shchetkova said the claims that La Vista is not profitable were incorrect, and it had been making money for the past five years.

It had made a loss during the first year it was open, but following that it had been making money, she said.

She said her family provided Immigration with everything possibly needed to ensure the department had the correct information, including the passports of her employees.

Mrs Shchetkova has now been told to sell the business and to leave the country by July.

The St Heliers community has rallied around Mrs Shchetkova since her application was denied, calling for INZ to reverse its decision.

Members of the community have expressed their sadness at losing the restaurant and Mrs Shchetkova, who they say is adored for her wide smile and sense of family.

A petition asking the government to give special consideration to the Shchetkovas' case has now got more than 10,000 signatures.

ACT leader David Seymour launched the petition, and said he was not surprised by its success.

"We actually want people to immigrate to New Zealand, integrate themselves into the community, build businesses and employ people; that's the kind of immigration New Zealanders welcome and now we've got some, our government is trying to stop it."

rnz.co.nz

La Vista owner Nataliya Shchetkova. Source: rnz.co.nz