Emergency benefit to help temporary visa holders

Social Development and Employment

From 1 December, people on temporary work, student or visitor visas who can’t return home and or support themselves may get an Emergency Benefit from the Ministry of Social Development, Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni announced today.

Previously, temporary visa holders in hardship because of COVID-19 have had support from a temporary programme delivered by Te Tari Taiwhenua, Department of Internal Affairs and the New Zealand Red Cross.

Carmel Sepuloni said the Red Cross programme, which began on 1 July, had supported over 12,300 people, helping with basic needs like food and accommodation.

“With the end of this programme on 30 November, we want to ensure people eligible and most in need continue to get support with their basic needs while trying to return home as soon as they can, if they are not able to find suitable employment.

“Even though the employment outlook and frequency of international flights have improved greatly since we came out of lockdown, some people on temporary visas are still unable to return to their home country and are in hardship because of lost jobs, illness or other unforeseen events,” says Carmel Sepuloni.

“I’ve asked the Ministry of Social Development to support people in this situation with an Emergency Benefit for a limited time until 28 February 2021.”

Temporary visa holders granted Emergency Benefit are expected to actively look for work or other ways to support themselves, including returning home when they can.

“I’ve asked MSD to link people with suitable temporary employment opportunities with a particular focus on places where we have workforce shortages, including seasonal work, wherever possible.”

To apply on or after 1 December 2020, people need to visit Work and Income at their nearest Ministry of Social Development office and book an appointment in person.

Further information

People who aren’t New Zealand residents or citizens are usually ineligible for a benefit or other payments from the Ministry of Social Development. However, during an epidemic the Minister of Social Development may allow the Ministry of Social Development to grant Emergency Benefit to people not normally entitled to it.

From 1 July through to 18 November 2020, 12,321 people have been supported by the Red Cross/DIA programme.

To be eligible for Emergency Benefit, a temporary visa holder needs:

  • a current temporary New Zealand visa such as a visitor, student or work visa, and not a sponsored visa
  • to be in financial hardship with no other means of support (other than funds to purchase a flight home)
  • to be taking all reasonable steps to find other means of support including work, consular assistance, support from family, friends and organisations in NZ or overseas, or arranging to return home on commercial or repatriation flights as soon as they can
  • a New Zealand bank account and Inland Revenue number
  • their passport
  • Eligibility will also depend on a person’s income and assets.