Government extends Ukraine visa, expands who can be financially responsible for those coming to New Zealand

The government has extended the application window for the 2022 Special Ukraine Visa by another year.

The visa had initially allowed Ukrainians living in New Zealand to bring their parents and wider family to New Zealand. The relatives who can be sponsored has now also been broadened.

Expressions of interest were set to close on 15 March this year, but Immigration Minister Michael Wood said given the conflict was continuing, the government has extended the pathway for families of Ukrainians in New Zealand until 15 March, 2024.

"We recognise the impact the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has on its people, and the efforts of Aotearoa New Zealand's Ukraine community to support their family members," he said.

The period allowed for travel to New Zealand has also been extended from nine months to 12 months.

Wood said the travel period extension "recognises that securing travel options is currently difficult and this change will assist Ukrainians in reaching New Zealand when it is suitable and possible for them to do so".

The government has also broadened the criteria of who can sponsor the visa.

"Rather than relying on one family sponsor, each application will have a 'nominating family member' who meets the New Zealand and Ukrainian residency requirements and an 'acceptable sponsor' who would take on financial responsibility for the applicant.

"The sponsor could be the same person as the nominating family member, or could be a separate person or entity willing to take on the financial obligations," Wood said.

The criteria for those who wanted to nominate a family member has been broadened to those with Ukrainian heritage, so New Zealand residents or citizens can support family members in Ukraine to come to this country.

Those who can be sponsored was also being broadened to include other adult family members who have lived with the family for a substantial period of time.

Wood said that could include aunts, uncles, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, first cousins, and stepchildren.

"The changes are unique to this visa and recognise New Zealand's ongoing commitment to support Ukraine," he said.

The visa was first launched three weeks after the conflict in Ukraine began. It operates on a high-trust basis, recognising those in a war zone may have difficulty securing documentation.

Holders of the visa also have access to publicly funded healthcare, children are able to attend school as domestic students, and adults are able to access free English-language classes.

As of 23 February, Immigration New Zealand has received 1090 sponsorship requests and 1463 visa applications; 1353 visas have been granted and 603 people have arrived in New Zealand on the visa.