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At the beginning of 2020, Moni was due to apply for a new visa to be able to continue working in Aotearoa New Zealand. Having lived in Queenstown for almost 10 years, it feels like home; a place where she's built a life with her partner, found a job she loved and developed a network of friendships.
“I knew it would take about three months [to get the new visa], so I applied about seven months ago, and was told it would take eight months," Moni explains.
"Then work said they would sponsor me, because I have been working with them for four and a half years. That was going to be another two months of waiting, but at least I had a plan. So, I decided to go on holiday for one month, and have my visa valid when I returned. It was the perfect solution.”
But then, in February, international borders started to close and Moni found herself in an uncertain situation.
“My visa application was in, and then COVID hit. People were like – are you crazy? You’re leaving the country? Three days before my flight, I thought, ‘I will never get back to New Zealand if I leave’,” Moni says.
So, she decided to stay in New Zealand on a three-month interim visa, which meant she was allowed to remain in the country but was unable to work.
“I couldn’t work anywhere, because it was illegal. It was painful,” Moni recalls.
She then got the bad news that her sponsorship visa, which she was expecting to receive through her employer, had also fallen through.
“There were lots of shaky moments.”
Moni was relieved when she heard about the support available through Visitor Care Manaaki Manuhiri. She says the food vouchers helped her get through an intense period of uncertainty.
“I was not making any money... and all my savings were gone.
"I found out about the food vouchers a few weeks after they started. When I got the vouchers I was like ‘Okay, wow. Cool’. It was awesome.”
Moni says she's very grateful for the support.
“I’m amazed how New Zealand solved everything and how supportive it was for everyone – all possible nationalities,” she says. “Everyone was going through something; everyone has a different situation.”
Moni is now on a partnership visa and can legally work, no longer requiring support. Visitor Care Manaaki Manuhiri is a temporary, transitional mechanism, at the end of which it is hoped people are able to return home or secured alternative means for support.
Moni is looking forward to seeing what the future brings.
“This is my life. I want to be here,” she says. “I am now waiting for residency, so I just have to wait and see.”
What is Visitor Care Manaaki Manuhiri?
Working with Te Tari Taiwhenua, Department of Internal Affairs, who is managing the New Zealand Government’s Foreign Nationals Impacted by COVID-19 Programme, New Zealand Red Cross is delivering in-kind assistance to help foreign nationals meet basic needs, such as food and accommodation. Find out more here.
How can I apply?
People who are in need and on temporary (work, student, visitor) and Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) visas can check their eligibility and apply through foreignnationals.services.govt.nz.
To find out what support you might be eligible for, head to https://covid19.govt.nz/business/covid-19-financial-support-tool/.