Thousands sign petition to save Ukrainian family from deportation

Thousands of people have signed a petition to allow a Ukrainian family denied residency permission to stay in New Zealand.

Nataliya Shchetkova and her husband Alex Derecha arrived here six years ago with three children on a long-term business visa to develop a large restaurant. They also had twins while in New Zealand.

They invested in the La Vista, a popular restaurant in Auckland's St Heliers, and now employ 17 full-time staff - up from nine when they bought it.

But Immigration NZ says the business does not add enough benefit to New Zealand by creating sustained and on-going employment over and above the existing level of employment.

The family of seven have been told they should start planning to leave by July 1 - including selling their restaurant if necessary, RNZ reports.

"We feel like our lives are ruined because we don't understand the reason why," Ms Shchetkova told TVNZ.

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

ACT Party leader David Seymour is rallying behind the family, and is backing a petition asking Parliament to urge Associate Minister of Immigration Kris Faafoi to grant them residency by special direction.

"Nataliya Shchetkova and her family are much loved community members and successful proprietors of La Vista restaurant in St Heliers," the petition reads.

"The Government has declined their application for residency despite the family building a successful business as required by their visa requirements.

"I believe it is simply wrong that upstanding citizens be sent to wartorn Ukraine when others of varying character are allowed to stay. Please show your support of the immigration Minister intervening so they can stay."

As of Sunday, nearly 5500 people have signed the petition.