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'We feel like our lives are ruined' - family who run successful Auckland restaurant bewildered by looming deportation

A family of seven cannot fathom facing deportation, especially after what they believe has been a large contribution to society.

The Shchetkova family say they love New Zealand. They moved from Ukraine six years ago and have run a profitable business, a popular restaurant in Auckland's St Heliers, that has 17 full-time employed staff, up from the nine there were when they bought it.

The family want to stay in New Zealand, but they have been denied residency and face deportation because Immigration NZ says they do not provide enough "benefit" to the country.

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The Shchetkova’s have been in New Zealand for six years, believe they make a contribution and want to stay. Source: Seven Sharp

They moved to New Zealand on a long-term business visa to develop a large restaurant.

The visa required a detailed plan, with specific targets to meet - it must be worth at least $500,000, turn a profit and employ a minimum three full-time staff.

But the restaurant they had their eye on was sold before they arrived. But they found another worth $700,000 - La Vista.

Nataliya Shchetkova said she notified Immigration NZ of the changes and asked what they needed to do to make a new plan for their visa.

The immigration officer asked for new figures but told her a new plan was not required. Their accountant supplied the new figures, she told RNZ.

La Vista restaurant. Source: rnz.co.nz

"Straight away, two weeks later, we got our passports back with the label and it was written La Vista restaurant, so we supposed our visa was approved."

However, Immigration NZ (INZ) declined their residency saying their new business was not approved and was not considered to be of "significant value to New Zealand", RNZ reported.

In a statement, Immigration NZ said the business did not add significant benefit to New Zealand by creating sustained and on-going employment over and above the existing level of employment.

It said the family should make arrangements to leave by July 1, including selling the business if necessary, RNZ reports.

The family believes the decision by Immigration NZ was "an oversight" and want the organisation to use common sense and let them stay.

Ms Shchetkova told TVNZ1's Breakfast, "Me and my family, we found our new home in New Zealand." Two of their children were born here, and all five were doing well in school or university.

Ms Shchetkova visited New Zealand in 2009 and said she fell in love, and didn't consider any other countries to move to.

"We were so happy when we got the chance to come," she said.

Last year the family's business made a turnover of $1.6 million, the family had been settled and were happy.

Being told they had to leave was "a disaster", Ms Shchetkova said. "We feel like our lives are ruined because we don't understand the reason why.

"We've worked hard for several years, we contributed to the community."

Going back to Ukraine after the life they had built seemed "inhumane" and felt Ms Shchetkova said they deserved to be granted residency to stay in New Zealand.

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

She was thankful for the backing by ACT Leader David Seymour. Mr Seymour took to Facebook today to start a petition to keep the family in New Zealand, and called the situation "ridiculous".

"Nataliya Shchetkova and her family are model Kiwis that the Government wants to deport. They have built a successful business, doubling its size in five years," he said in the post. "Their five children are studying hard at school and university, and keen rowers. They contribute their spare time and money to supporting Plunket and Kidney research."

"They did everything right and have the paperwork to prove it, but Immigration New Zealand wants to deport them by mid year on a technicality."

Mr Seymour said he wished their story was made up, but said their last chance is a Special Direction by the Associate Minister of Immigration, The Hon. Kris Faafoi.

"Mr Faafoi has the power to act, but he needs to know it’s important that he does."

Mr Seymour is forming a petition to Parliament which states: "That the House urges the Associate Minister of Immigration give special consideration to the case of Nataliya Shchetkova and her family, and grant them Residence by Special Direction."

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The Shchetkova family love New Zealand, but might have to leave for what they call an oversite by the organisation. Source: Breakfast