Coronavirus: Temporary visa holders in serious hardship due to COVID-19 now able to apply for Red Cross aid

Struggling foreign nationals experiencing serious hardship due to COVID-19 can now apply for urgent humanitarian support, following the launch of the Government's $37.6 million programme on Tuesday.

From July 1, temporary visa holders in need of basic necessities - such as food and accommodation - can check their eligibility and apply for in-kind assistance online, Red Cross New Zealand confirmed on Wednesday.

The programme, known by the Red Cross as Visitor Care Manaaki Manuhiri, will deliver goods and services to struggling foreign nationals for a three-month period. 

"We know that this in-kind, individualised, temporary assistance will meet a real and urgent humanitarian need in Aotearoa," said Rachel O'Connor, the project lead for Visitor Care Manaaki Manuhiri.

"These are visitors in our home who we are pleased to work with Te Tari Taiwhenua to provide assistance to quickly, simply and with care."

The Red Cross is working in partnership with the Department of Internal Affairs, who will work to process applications and administer the online system. 

The support will include needs assessments, local distribution of in-kind aid and psychosocial support. The community will be actively engaged to ensure the assistance is reaching those most in need.

The launch of the $37.6 million programme was announced on Tuesday to assist temporary visa holders seriously affected by COVID-19.

Assistance may be provided for:

  • food and household goods
  • blankets, hot water bottles and basic clothing
  • over-the-counter medication 
  • accommodation (including rent, boarding costs and rent arrears)
  • utilities (electricity, gas). Excludes internet and broadband connection and plans
  • if required, prepaid phone cards to enable emergency communication and communication with consulate/embassy
  • petrol/travel (limited to travel required to shift to a new location for employment purposes or to an airport to leave New Zealand).

The initiative is part of the Government's Assistance to Foreign Nationals Impacted by COVID-19 Programme, which was announced earlier in June.

To be eligible for assistance, applicants must have exhausted all means of support, such as:

  • finding employment
  • support from their consulate or embassy
  • access to any funds held offshore, either from family or bank savings in their home country
  • support from friends, family, community or church groups in New Zealand
  • support from their educational institute.

Foreign nationals who are in need and on temporary visas can check their eligibility and apply through as of Wednesday.