New programme to assist foreign nationals in serious hardship

  • Rt Hon Winston Peters
  • Hon Poto Williams
Deputy Prime Minister Community and Voluntary Sector Foreign Affairs

A programme to assist foreign nationals in serious hardship has been announced today by Foreign Minister Winston Peters, and Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, Poto Williams.

The Assistance for Foreign Nationals impacted by COVID-19 Programme will provide temporary, in-kind assistance to eligible people to help meet basic needs such as food and accommodation.

“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 Mr Peters.

“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 Mr Peters.

“Due to the exceptional circumstances that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, this Programme will continue the assistance provided by the Civil Defence and Emergency Management Groups,” said Ms Williams.

“This programme is will provide short-term assistance until they find means of supporting themselves in New Zealand or are able to return home,” said Ms Williams.

The Programme is worth $37.6 million and will be administered by the Department of Internal Affairs and delivered by a community-based NGO.

“The community and voluntary sector has played a key role in the COVID-19 emergency response and involving an NGO to deliver the Programme leverages the capability and networks of the sector,” says Ms Williams.

Mr 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.

 “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade will continue to work closely with foreign missions to help them provide consular support for their citizens who remain in New Zealand.”

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. 

This assistance mirrors support a number of countries have given to New Zealand citizens.

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


Further information

To date, assistance has been provided via Civil Defence and Emergency Management (CDEM) Groups as part of the emergency response.

Regional CDEM Groups have led the provision of essential assistance to those in need, including foreign nationals as part of New Zealand’s immediate emergency response to COVID-19. This assistance has been in-kind (e.g. food vouchers and food parcels, help to meet the costs of accommodation and utilities, and support to access advisory services such as legal and tenancy).

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.

Information on the number of foreign nationals experiencing serious hardship is very limited. Based on available information, we believe there could be approximately 20,000 individuals experiencing serious hardship.

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