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New programme to assist foreign nationals

Foreign Minister Winston Peters.

A programme to assist foreign nationals in serious hardship has been announced 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,” says 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."

“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,” says 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."

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 Williams.

Peters says 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.

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