Support for migrant workers during COVID-19

FinancialAssistance COVID19

Many workers in Australia are on temporary work visas, and that includes approximately 77,000 in the cleaning industry. Unfortunately, most visa holders (e.g. student visa, bridging visa, graduate visa, temporary protection visa etc.) are not eligible for income support by the federal government (JobKeeper or JobSeeker) throughout the COVID-19 crisis. This has left many migrants unable to meet the cost of their living expenses if they have lost their job in the cleaning industry or any other industry where normal activities have temporarily ceased because of social distancing requirements.

Are you in Australia on a temporary work visa and face financial hardship?

There is support out there for you!

Some states and territories have set up financial support for migrants and they are listed below. In addition, the federal government has allocated $200 million to the Red Cross to distribute to migrant workers in need. There are also some tools to find another job.

Support By State or Territory


  • The ACT government has provided funds to the Red Cross to administer cash relief packages for temporary visa holders including international students: contact 02 6234 7695 or via email:

New South Wales

  • NSW has not provided cash for migrants, however Study NSW has links to non-financial supports available to international students in NSW
  • UnionsNSW has a list of resources for migrant workers in NSW

Northern Territory

  • The NT government’s Worker and Wellbeing Fund is for people who are not already receiving support through Centrelink, and includes temporary visa holders. The fund is administered by the Red Cross, contact on +61 403 987 018
  • Study NT has care packages for international students who have to self-isolate


  • Study Queensland has information on student supports available, including financial assistance and a state-wide student hotline that operates 24 hours/7 days per week: 1800 778 839

South Australia

  • A $500 emergency cash grant to international students significantly impacted by the restrictions, currently enrolled in a course, living in South Australia and who meet the criteria


  • Pandemic Isolation Assistance Grants of $250 per individual or $1,000 per family for temporary visa holders
  • Emergency food hampers and other support through the Recovery Network Partners which include Red Cross, and The Salvation Army


  • Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment for workers in Victoria:
    If you live and work in Victoria, and you need to self-isolate, you can access the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment of $1500 for a fortnight. If you need to access it again, you can. All workers in Victoria, including migrant workers on temporary visas, can access the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment if they have exhausted or do not have sick leave and have been directed to stay at home by a public health official. To apply for the payment, phone 180 22 66.
  • Payment of up to $1,100 for international students
  • Coronavirus rent relief grant – subsidies up to $2,000, accessible to international students
  • Study Melbourne has created a series of information, links and resources aimed at supporting international students during COVID- 19. They also have social work services who may be able to assist with material aid, food vouchers and rent.
  • Our Shout food program provides $200 in vouchers to eligible international students

Western Australia

Federal government support

Unfortunately the Australian government has not provided direct support to migrants throughout COVID-19. However, the Red Cross have received funding from the Australian Government for six months to provide relief and casework support for people who are on temporary visas.

Universities and TAFEs

Many universities are offering financial support to their students. 



‘Ask Izzy’ is an Australia wide online search engine that can let you know where you can access food, clothing, shelter and other welfare support near you. You just click the category of help you are looking for (‘food’) and then enter your postcode. The search engine will bring up a list of services that operate in your area. You will then need to contact the service directly.


  • In Victoria only, the Department of Health and Human Services sent out a circular to all public hospitals stating that all patients presenting to public hospitals for diagnostic and other treatment for the novel coronavirus should be treated free of charge, even where a patient is from overseas and does not have private insurance and is not eligible for treatment under Medicare rules. 
  • In Western Australia only, the Minister for Health has confirmed that those people who are not eligible for Medicare AND who present to WA Health facilities for assessment in relation to COVID-19 infection, will not be charged out of pocket expenses. 
  • In New South Wales only, for those that do not have adequate insurance coverage, NSW Health will waive these costs. This includes the waiving of payment and debt recovery procedures for ambulance transfers of people suspected to have COVID-19 infection, who are taken to NSW Health facilities for assessment.
  • In ACT only, Medicare ineligible people requiring testing, treatment or other public health supports related to COVID 19 will have free access to medical care. This includes pathology, diagnostic, pharmaceutical and outpatient care in the ACT public health system.


Migrants who have been in Australia for at least 12 months can access funds from their superannuation

Assistance finding another job

Need more info?

The cleaners’ union United Workers Union has put together a list of resources for migrant workers here.

We hope that this information is useful to you. We will update this document if and when the Australian government changes the rules to include workers on visas in the JobKeeper and JobSeeker programs. Information current as of 5 May 2020.