July 15, 2020

$37m govt help for temporary visa holders in hardship

Foreign nationals-holders of temporary visas, impacted by Covid-19 and in serious hardship, will be eligible for temporary assistance to meet basic needs under a new programme announced today.

The Assistance for Foreign Nationals impacted by COVID-19 Programme, worth $37.6 million was announced late this afternoon by Foreign Minister, Winston Peters, and Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, Poto Williams.

This programme will provide temporary, in-kind assistance to eligible people to help meet basic needs such as food and accommodation.

Based on available information, the government believes there could be approximately 20,000 individuals experiencing serious hardship.

“There are a number of foreign nationals in New Zealand on temporary visas who, due to COVID19, have found themselves in a tight spot,” said Peters.

Assistance is transitional and time-limited. The Programme will run for three months from 1 July 2020.

Where returning home isn’t immediately possible, assistance will be provided under the Programme to temporary visa holders where it has been established that:

· the person is experiencing serious hardship, and

· all other avenues of potential support have been exhausted, such as access to savings or other assets, insurance cover, consular assistance from their own foreign missions, or help from family and friends. 

“Nearly 60,000 foreign nationals have departed New Zealand since March. We have been working with foreign missions since April asking them to assist their citizens, including with repatriation efforts, and the New Zealand Government has an expectation that they provide ongoing support for their citizens,” says Peters.

The Programme will be administered by the Department of Internal Affairs and delivered by a community-based NGO.

Peters said that foreign nationals should be seeking to depart New Zealand as soon as possible if they cannot support themselves here, and should contact their embassy, high commission or consulate for assistance in the first instance.

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Under the new Programme, assistance may be provided for:

· food and household goods required to meet urgent and immediate needs

· blankets, hot water bottles and basic clothing to meet urgent and immediate needs

· over-the-counter medication to meet urgent and immediate needs

· accommodation (including rent, boarding costs and rent arrears)

· utilities (electricity, gas). Excludes internet and broadband connection and plans

· if required, pre-paid phone cards to enable emergency communication and communication with consulate/embassy

· petrol/travel (limited to travel required to shift to new location for employment purposes or to airport to leave New Zealand).

No cash payments will be offered.

The Department of Internal Affairs is currently identifying a suitable provider and an announcement on who that is will be made soon.

Comments are welcome