The owners of a restaurant in St Heliers which had a turnover of $1.6 million last year and employs 26 staff have been denied residency because the business does not add significant benefit to New Zealand, Immigration say.
La Vista owners Nataliya Shchetkova and her husband Alex Derecha fear their family will now be forced to sell up and leave when their visa expires in six months.
The couple came to New Zealand in 2013 with their three children, to buy a fine dining restaurant. Shchetkova gave birth to twins a few months later.
The Ukrainian citizens first came to New Zealand on a Long Term Business Visa after an eight-month wait for approval.
Conditions of the LTBV were that they supply a detailed plan of the business they would buy and operate. It must be worth at least $500,000, must turn a profit and employ at least three fulltime workers.
Shchetkova submitted a detailed business plan to take over a 140-seat French restaurant but due to the long wait for the visa, it had sold by the time she arrived in New Zealand.
She instead bought La Vista, a 46-seat Spanish restaurant, for $700,000. It has since expanded and now seats 70.
Shchetkova and her husband have worked without a day off for two years to make the business a success.
They employ 26 staff, 17 of whom are on fulltime contracts. The business had about 12 when they took over.
La Vista's turnover for the year ended 2018 was $1.6 million and is expected to reach $1.75m for the year ended 2019.
The family's LTBV visa was granted for 36 months, after which the family applied for and were granted another. The type of visa can only be granted twice so the family then applied for residency but were declined. They are now on a entrepreneurial work visa which runs out in July.
Shchetkova believed residency was declined because of wrong advice from an Immigration NZ case officer.
"In two years we employed people, reached the numbers we need and we applied for residency but our residency application was declined because they said they didn't approve our new restaurant numbers."
But Immigration NZ manager Michael Carley said that wasn't the case.
"We do not consider the immigration officer who assessed the application made an error in advice and we consider the decision to decline, and the process followed, was correct.
"A core reason for the decline was the business did not add significant benefit to New Zealand by creating sustained and ongoing employment, over and above the existing level of employment.
"The Immigration and Protection Tribunal found INZ's decision to be correct under applicable residence instructions."
Shchetkova has unsuccessfully appealed the immigration decision.
St Heliers Business Association also wrote a supporting letter which outlined La Vista had helped improve business in the area.
Shchetkova's lawyer said New Zealand's immigration law was "not well-designed" and "bad advice" had resulted in a significant injustice.
Shchetkova said she had not received a response from Immigration NZ when she queried whether a case officer had issued her with the wrong advice.
However, Shchetkova's lawyer said they now intend to send a letter to Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway asking for special consideration.