Challenges to the proof of violence, and social stigma for ethnic migrant women in the current Victims of Family Violence (VFV) visa policy in Aotearoa New Zealand


  • Irene Ayallo Unitec Institute of Technology/ Te Pukenga, Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Tyler Kelly Family Works (Presbyterian Northern Support).



Family violence and immigration policy, ethnic women and family violence, immigration and social work


Introduction: Ethnic victim-survivors[1] from Middle Eastern, African, and Latin American (MELAA) communities are unlikely to apply for the VFV visas (Ayallo, 2019), which does not reflect the number of family violence experiences in these communities. Instead, this paper argues that it is a testament to specific cultural factors determining their engagement with this policy. While some of these have previously been reported, their cultural aspects are not adequately understood.

Approach: Data were drawn from a study exploring the cultural contexts within which ethnic migrant women engage with the VFV visa policy. The study used narrative inquiry and semi-structured interviews to explore 20 participants’ experiences with the VFV visa policy process. Participants included ten victim-survivors and ten supporting non-medical practitioners.

Findings: Analyses showed that victim-survivors face significant barriers in accessing this visa. Proving that violence occurred, hardship and inability to return to their country of origin due to social stigma are complex and challenging for ethnic migrant women. The cultural reasons discussed in this paper include that psychological abuse is dominant, violence occurs transnationally, and hardship and social stigma are understood collectively and socially.

Implications: Given the potential of this visa policy initiative to provide safety for victim-survivor, recommendations for change are proposed. A humanitarian and compassionate approach that arises from the experiences of the 20 participants and a critical examination of countries with comparable policy frameworks is proposed. Further research is recommended with relevant stakeholders to explore the practicality of implementing such a humanitarian application process in the Aotearoa context.


[1] The term is used here to refer to individuals who have experienced family violence and successfully or unsuccessfully engaged with the VFV visa policy. In this paper, the term is used interchangeably with woman/women as appropriate (reflecting that in this study, all victim-survivors were women).

Author Biography

Irene Ayallo, Unitec Institute of Technology/ Te Pukenga, Aotearoa New Zealand

Lecturer, School of Healthcare and Social Practice


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How to Cite

Ayallo, I., & Kelly , T. (2023). Challenges to the proof of violence, and social stigma for ethnic migrant women in the current Victims of Family Violence (VFV) visa policy in Aotearoa New Zealand. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 35(3), 101–114.



Original Articles