The domestic worker visa is the primary immigration route for migrant workers coming to the UK to work within a private household for their overseas employer.
In this guide for those looking to bring their household staff to the UK, we look at the rules for the overseas domestic worker visa, including the key requirements and applications.
Domestic worker visa requirements
An individual can apply for a domestic worker visa to accompany you to the UK — as either a British employer whose usual place of residence is outside the UK or as a foreign employer who is coming to the UK for a short stay under the visitor rules — if:
- they’re aged 19 or over on the date of application
- they currently live with you outside the UK, or in an overseas property that you use as a home for yourself on a regular basis
- they’re a domestic worker providing a personal service relating to the running of your private household, such as a housekeeper, cleaner, cook, chauffeur or gardener, or providing personal care for you or a family member, such as a nanny or nurse
- they’ve worked for you in this capacity for at least 12 months immediately prior to applying
- they plan to travel with either you, your partner or any children aged under 18 on a trip to the UK which is not intended to last for more than six months
- they intend to work for you whilst in the UK as a full-time domestic worker, and intend to leave, either at the end of six months or at the same time as you, whichever is the earlier.
Applicants must also prove that they can maintain and accommodate themselves in the UK without recourse to public funds, and do not fall foul of the general grounds for refusal.
How to apply for a domestic worker visa from outside the UK
If you have a member of your household staff that you’d like to accompany you to the UK, they must apply for and obtain entry clearance as an overseas domestic worker in advance. This means that an application for a visa must be made overseas, where they cannot simply arrive at a UK port or airport and request permission to enter as a domestic worker.
An application for entry clearance under the domestic worker route must be made online. The applicant will also need to have their biometric information taken at an overseas visa application centre. This will include a scan of their fingerprints and a photograph of their face.
An application can be made for a domestic worker visa up to three months before the individual’s date of travel to the UK. They should be given a decision on their visa application within three weeks, although you can pay for a faster decision. As the employer of a domestic worker, you’ll be responsible for the costs of applying, together with travel costs, and you will not be permitted to recoup any fees or expenses from the worker’s wages.
The cost of applying for a domestic worker visa is £516. There will be an additional charge of £500 for the priority service (for a decision within 5 working days), or £800 for the super priority service (for a decision by the next working day). The timescales for the priority services run from the date that the applicant submits their biometric information.
Domestic worker visa supporting documents
When applying for a domestic worker visa, the applicant will need a number of documents in support of their application, including:
- a current passport (with a blank page), or other valid travel document which satisfactorily establishes their identity and nationality
- financial proof that they can support themselves during their stay
- a letter from you confirming their employment as a domestic worker within your household, as well as how long they’ve worked for you and that their employment is ongoing
- two copies of a signed written agreement between you and the applicant setting out the proposed terms and conditions of their employment whilst in the UK, in the form set out in Appendix Domestic Worker Statement under the Immigration Rules.
The applicant must also provide one or more of the following documents to show that they meet the employment requirement:
- bank statements or payslips showing payment of salary
- confirmation of tax paid
- confirmation of health insurance paid
- their contract of employment
- their work visa, residence permit or equivalent passport endorsement from the country in which they’re currently employed by you
- visas or equivalent passport endorsement if they’ve travelled with you before.
Additional documents may be needed, depending on the applicant’s circumstances, together with certified translations of any documents not written in English or Welsh.
Extending an overseas domestic worker visa
The maximum period of stay in the UK as a domestic worker is six months, where they must return home at the end of this period or at the same time as you, whichever is the earlier. This means that a domestic worker cannot apply for an extension of stay whilst in the UK, although they can apply again from overseas, provided they don’t intend to use the domestic worker route to live with you in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits.
There’s no limit on the number of times a domestic worker can apply to come to the UK, where it will all depend on the circumstances of each case. However, if a member of your household staff has recently spent six months in the UK with you under a domestic worker visa, they may struggle to persuade the Home Office of their intention not to live in the UK through frequent or successive visits if they re-apply for entry clearance after just a short break overseas. This means that if you plan to stay in the UK on a long-term or permanent basis, your options are limited when it comes to bringing your household staff with you.
However, for individuals who came to the UK on a domestic worker in a private household visa on or before 5 April 2012, the rules are far more relaxed. As long as they’ve continued to live in the UK and are still in the UK, even if they’ve changed employers, they’ll not only be able to apply for an extension of stay, they may also be eligible to apply for settlement.
The holder of a domestic worker in a private household visa will be permitted to extend their stay in the UK for 12 months at a time, as well as bringing their partner and any children under 18 to the UK, a privilege not permitted under the post-2012 rules.
They will also be able to settle in the UK on a permanent basis, if they:
- have been living lawfully in the UK for at least 5 years
- currently have permission to live in the UK as a domestic worker, where an application to settle must be made prior to expiry of any existing leave
- have been in the UK as a full-time domestic worker continuously throughout the 5 years, where they cannot have been outside the UK for more than 180 days in any 12 month period
- have maintained and accommodated themselves, and any dependants, without the use of public funds throughout this 5-year period
- have sufficient knowledge of English and life in the UK, known as the KoLL requirement.
How do domestic workers apply for an extension or settlement?
For those limited applicants who meet the strict criteria to extend or settle in the UK under the old rules, an application must be made online. It’s important to remember that a member of your household staff can only apply to extend or settle as a domestic worker if they applied and were granted entry to the UK on or before 5 April 2012. The application can include any partner and children under 18, although dependant children over 18 must apply separately.
To extend their stay as a domestic worker, the applicant will need to provide both:
- a letter from you confirming that you want to continue to employ them, and
- a signed agreement, as required under Appendix Domestic Worker Statement.
To apply to settle in the UK, the applicant will need to provide both:
- a letter from you confirming that you want to continue to employ them, and
- evidence that they can satisfy the KoLL requirement (if the applicant’s partner is applying with them, they’ll also need to demonstrate that they can fulfil this requirement).
The cost for each person applying to extend a visa is £1,033, while an application to settle will cost £2,389, together with a fee of £19.20 to have their biometric information taken at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services service point. A decision will usually be made within eight weeks using the standard service, or faster if paying extra for one of the priority services.
Overseas domestic workers & UK employment rights
A domestic worker visa holder cannot undertake work except as a domestic worker in a private household. However, they’ll have certain employment rights whilst in the UK, including the right to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage (NMW).
Under the rules, you’ll be required to draw up and agree with the applicant a detailed written statement of the terms and conditions under which they’ll be employed in the UK.
The template contract, as provided for under Appendix Domestic Worker Statement, covers various key aspects designed to govern the working relationship, such as job title and duties, place and hours of work, and the worker’s rate of pay, including an entitlement to be paid at least the appropriate NMW rate based on their age. If the Home Office isn’t satisfied that you genuinely intend to pay the applicant either minimum wage or more throughout their employment in the UK, this can be used as a basis to refuse your worker entry clearance.
The contract must also confirm the individual’s entitlement to statutory sick pay, provided they qualify, as well as minimum paid holiday and a minimum notice period.
The requirement under the rules to provide an agreed signed statement of employment conditions, in the form set out in Appendix Domestic Worker Statement, is strict. This means that any member of staff accompanying you to the UK can take legal action against you, through either an employment tribunal or civil courts, if you fail to meet these requirements.
Equally, overseas domestic workers must not be forced to work excessive hours, or to do anything that they don’t want to do as a result of any threats or violence. This could include forcing someone to move to the UK against their will, to get married, to work for free or even to work for less than the minimum wage. As the employer of someone able to prove that they’re a victim of modern slavery or human trafficking, you may be criminally prosecuted.
DavidsonMorris are UK immigration specialists. We advise employers on all aspects of work visas and sponsorship routes. For advice on hiring under the domestic worker visa, contact us.
Domestic worker visa FAQs
What is a domestic worker visa?
A domestic worker visa is the permission required from the UK Home Office for an individual to come to the UK to work within the private household of their overseas employer.
Can I bring my domestic helper to UK?
You can bring an existing domestic helper with you to the UK to work within your household, although they may need to obtain an overseas domestic worker visa from the UK Home Office.
How can I get maid visa for UK?
You can apply for a maid visa to visit the UK, also known as a domestic worker visa, by submitting an online application to the UK Home Office and paying the relevant fee.
How do I become a domestic worker in the UK?
To become a domestic worker in the UK as a foreign migrant, you must first obtain work with an overseas employer in their private household, before applying to join them in the UK.
Last updated: 22 February 2022