Welfare assistance for Foreign Nationals

Welfare assistance for Foreign Nationals

The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) is working with New Zealand Red Cross to deliver welfare assistance for foreign nationals experiencing serious hardship due to COVID-19.


There are increasing reports that some foreign nationals are experiencing serious hardship due to the impacts of COVID-19, and are unable to meet their basic needs.  This programme will provide eligible people who have found themselves in a difficult spot with in-kind assistance, so they can meet basic needs, like food and accommodation.


The delivery of assistance will be underpinned by a clear focus on helping people to help themselves.  Application mechanisms and any direct case management provided will emphasise the fact that government assistance is temporary, and that returning home is the first option that should be actively pursued.


The programme runs for three months from 1 July 2020. Assistance will be provided to eligible people to help meet basic needs, such as food and accommodation. More information is on the INZ website.


How can people apply for support?

From 1 July 2020, people who have found themselves in a tough position due to COVID-19 can check their eligibility and apply through https://foreignnationals.services.govt.nz.


What will the assistance pay for?

Under the Programme, assistance may be provided to help people who are eligible and need it most meet basic, urgent and immediate needs, such as: 

  • 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).

Assistance will be made directly to third-parties, such as landlords or power companies, no cash payments will be made.


Will it fund flights home?

No.  The programme will provide in-kind assistance to help eligible foreign nationals who have found themselves in serious hardship due to COVID-19 meet their basic, urgent and immediate needs.


How have foreign nationals been supported so far?

This Programme is intended to fill the gap that will be left as New Zealand’s immediate emergency response to COVID-19 winds down.  Until now, support has been provided by the Civil Defence and Emergency Management (CDEM) Groups. 


Who is eligible?

Each person’s circumstances will be considered at an individual level to ensure support is reaching those who are eligible and need it most.  


In-kind assistance will be provided to all classes of 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.  


Eligibility will be established through a series of checks on visa and employment status, savings, alternative sources of income or in-kind support, and outstanding debts.


What classes of visa does this apply to?

It applies to all classes of temporary visa holders.


How long will the Programme run?

This is a temporary and transitional mechanism that will run for three months, with the intention that at the end of this time, people have either returned to their home country or have secured alternative means of support.


How long will it take for assistance to be provided?

We are working to target of provision of assistance within 48 hours.  We expect some categories of in-kind assistance could be made immediately, while others may require up to 48 hours to process.