A 42-year-old Christchurch man is outraged that he is unable to sponsor his Ukrainian family, displaced by the war, to come to New Zealand because he was not born in Ukraine.
Sergey Buzin's sister Elena Mishchenko, 38, and her four young children were evacuated from Odesa, Ukraine, after war broke out and are now in a shelter in Bulgaria.
Mishchenko and her children aged between 3 and 14 are Ukrainians, and escaped the war on a Bulgarian evacuation bus when the war broke.
"I was born in the USSR when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, but not in the part of the USSR that is now part of Ukraine," Buzin said.
"I believe this visa should help people who was living in Ukraine and it is unreasonable to discriminate by the sponsor's nationality."
Nicola Hogg, General Manager Border and Visa Operations, said the 2022 Special Ukraine Visa enabled New Zealand citizens and residents who were born in Ukraine, or who are current or previous Ukrainian citizens to sponsor their immediate family members from Ukraine to come to New Zealand.
Visa applicants must have been living in Ukraine as of January 2022.
"Based on the information provided with the application, unfortunately Mr Buzin did not meet the requirements to sponsor his family as he does not have Ukrainian citizenship, he was not born in Ukraine, or was not a permanent resident of Ukraine," Hogg said.
She said some eligible sponsors and visa applicants may hold identity or travel documents issued by Russia or the former Soviet Union.
"These documents would not exclude an application from being considered provided the eligibility criteria for the 2022 Special Visa is met," Hogg said.
"Should Mr Buzin wish to submit further evidence showing this, Immigration New Zealand would be happy to consider a new expression of interest."
The Government announced the special policy on March 15, which will remain open for one year.
Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said it would enable an estimated 1600 Ukrainian-born New Zealand citizens and residents in New Zealand to sponsor parents, grandparents, adult siblings or adult children and their immediate family who are ordinarily resident in Ukraine to shelter in New Zealand.
Successful applicants would be granted a two-year work visa with work rights, or study rights if they are 18 years or younger.
It is the largest special visa category New Zealand had ever established to support any international humanitarian effort.
However Buzin said it was discriminatory to restrict family sponsors to just Ukrainians citizens and permanent residents.
"I was born in the USSR in 1980, at that time there was no such country as Russia or Ukraine," he said.
Buzin said he is able to provide evidence that he had enough income to support his sister and her children, and that he also owned a 300sq m house in Christchurch that could accommodate all of them.
But he has been told by INZ in a letter that he would not be invited to apply for the special visa.
"We know that this will be disappointing to you, but we have carefully checked your request to consider whether you meet the criteria to be invited to apply for this visa and we are not able to invite you to apply for this visa because your sponsor does not appear to meet requirements," the letter said.
"We acknowledge that this is a difficult time for Ukrainian nationals and their families in New Zealand."
Buzin said he will seek a ministerial review of the decision.