From the beginning of December, foreign citizens who are in New Zealand on temporary work, student or visitor visas – and who can’t return home or support themselves – may get an Emergency Benefit from the Ministry of Social Development.
This was announced on Friday by Carmel Sepuloni, the country’s Social Development and Employment Minister.
Previously, temporary visa holders in a hardship because of Covid-19 have had support from a provisional programme delivered by Te Tari Taiwhenua, Department of Internal Affairs and the New Zealand Red Cross.
Support must still be available
Sepuloni said the Red Cross programme, which began on 1 July, had supported around 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,” the minister stated.
“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.”
Benefit paid until next February
In a media statement, Sepuloni said she had asked the Ministry of Social Development to support people in this situation with an Emergency Benefit for a limited time until the end of February next year.
Temporary visa holders in New Zealand who are granted the benefit are expected to actively look for work or other ways to support themselves, including returning home when they can.
“I’ve asked the Ministry of Social Development to link people with suitable temporary employment opportunities – with a particular focus on places where we have workforce shortages, including seasonal work, wherever possible,” Sepuloni noted.
In normal circumstances, people who aren’t New Zealand residents or citizens are usually ineligible for a benefit or other payments from the Ministry of Social Development.