NSW Government supporting international students through COVID-19

15 May 2020

The NSW Government will fund temporary crisis accommodation for stranded international students as part of a $20 million package protecting the vulnerable and maintaining the State’s track record as a leading global study destination.

Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee said helping international education meant helping the whole State of NSW.

“International students are an integral part of our communities and our economy,” Mr Lee said.

“Thousands of families around the State depend on the sector – whether through direct employment, homestays or other services."

“The package includes a temporary housing scheme, targeted at students in genuine need and delivered through approved student accommodation or homestay providers.

"It also provides increased support via the International Student Legal Service NSW, making available 50,000 free subscriptions to the multilingual My Legal Mate student app."

A new 24/7 international student support service, through the NSW Government COVID-19 hotline (13 77 88), will offer free advice and information about other measures, including the moratorium on rental evictions and medical, mental health, legal and emergency support.

Minister Geoff Lee

International students are an integral part of our communities and our economy - NSW Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee

Mr Lee said international students make a huge contribution to NSW and deserve a helping hand.

“Many have lost their part-time jobs, are unable to return to their home countries and do not qualify for Commonwealth Government support programs,” he said.

“The additional support being announced today complements efforts of our education institutions, highlighted by a combined $180 million commitment from NSW universities for their international and domestic students.”

Council of International Students Australia (CISA) president Ahmed Ademoglu welcomed the announcement.

“We are pleased to see the NSW Government focus on crisis accommodation for vulnerable international students, which is something that we as an association have been calling for,” Mr Ademoglu said.

Call the Service NSW hotline (13 77 88) for further information on COVID-19 support available or subscribe to the Study NSW mailing list to receive further updates on this package.

Short-term emergency accommodation for international students

The NSW Government is funding up to 20 weeks’ of free accommodation for vulnerable international students in NSW during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The scheme will be delivered through approved student accommodation and homestay providers.

Service NSW is administering the application process and will allocate the accommodation to homestay or purpose-built student accommodation providers. Applicants will not be able to self-select their accommodation.

To be eligible you must:

  • hold an international student visa
  • have lost, or be at risk of losing, access to secure accommodation
  • have no other avenues of support.

The crisis accommodation will be limited to international student visa holders in genuine need,  who have lost, or be at risk of losing, access to secure accommodation.

Learn more

Accommodation partners

NSW Government hotline 

International students are encouraged to call the NSW Government COVID-19 hotline (13 77 88) to receive free advice and information on medical, mental health, legal and emergency support. The hotline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

For free help in your language, call Translating and Interpreting Services on 13 14 50 and ask them to contact Service NSW on 13 77 88.

Free download of My Legal Mate

To ensure international students have access to accurate legal advice during COVID-19, the NSW Government has purchased 50,000 subscriptions of the My Legal Mate app for international students in NSW.

The app addresses four legal areas identified by students and service providers as having the most need – employment, housing, disputes with education providers and sexual assault. The information is provided in multiple languages, delivered in a face-to-face format that is friendly and accessible.

Free legal advice for international students

International students in NSW can access free legal advice through the International Student Legal Service NSW at Redfern Legal Centre. The NSW Government has allocated additional funding to this service to help meet increased demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additional support is provided by the Fair Work Ombudsman and the City of Sydney.

The NSW Government, in partnership with Legal Aid NSW and LawAccess NSW, has launched a free legal help service for people facing legal issues under the COVID-19 public health laws. International students are also eligible to use these services.

Six month moratorium on residential tenancy evictions during COVID-19

The NSW Government has introduced an interim stop on landlords seeking to evict tenants due to rental arrears as a result of COVID-19. The new measures include an interim 60 day stop on landlords issuing termination notices or applying for NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the Tribunal) eviction orders due to rental arrears, where tenants are financially disadvantaged by COVID-19.

Mental wellness support during COVID-19

International students can access mental wellness support from the NSW Government through NSW mental health services. In April, the NSW Government announced a $73 million package to boost mental health services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Mental Health Hotline is available to everyone in NSW and operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call 1800 011 511 to speak with a mental health professional.

Learn more

Emergency Relief Packages

NSW Government has teamed up with both Foodbank and the Rapid Relief Team to deliver emergency relief packages and food boxes to people in need who have been directed to self-isolate, or who have to self-quarantine due to vulnerability.

Learn more

Access to Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) Scheme

International students may be eligible for the NSW Government Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) Scheme .

The EAPA scheme is available to people having difficulty paying their household energy bills because of a short-term financial crisis or emergency, such as reduced income due to COVID-19.

EAPA vouchers are sent electronically to your energy retailer and used to credit your home electricity or gas account. EAPA vouchers can't be used to put your energy account into credit.

Applying for EAPA vouchers involves an eligibility assessment. EAPA voucher limits apply and are based on your assessment. You can apply online for EAPA vouchers.

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International Student Welfare Services Hub

A key priority is to ensure that international students have information about the support services that are available to them in Australia – locally and nationally. Study NSW has developed an International Student Welfare Services Hub to connect international students with support services available to them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 related costs waived 

COVID-19 related costs at NSW Health facilities will be waived where international students do not have adequate insurance coverage.

NSW Health provides advice for people that are not eligible for Medicare.

Anyone with respiratory symptoms, such as cough, sore/scratchy throat or shortness of breath, or unexplained fever should be tested for COVID-19.

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Virtual engagement programs for international students 

Study NSW is delivering virtual engagement programs for international students in NSW during the COVID-19 pandemic. Funded through our current Partner Projects, Study NSW is running regular webinars with Outcome.Life and the  FFWD Hub entrepreneurial program with Haymarket HQ. Visit the events page to see upcoming webinars and follow the Study NSW Facebook page to receive updates.

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