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Domestic Workers in Private Households Visa – The Basics

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Latest research shows that the number of people employing household help is on the rise, with one in three families now employing someone to help with childcare, housework, cooking and/or gardening chores.

High-net worth individuals who are entering the UK on investor or Entrepreneur Visas may have certain trusted, valued staff whom they require to accompany them to the UK once their entry clearance is approved. The same applies to individuals working in diplomatic services.

This article outlines the basics of the UK Domestic Worker Visa, and discusses the changes to the visa which will come into effect in April 2016.

Eligibility for a Domestic Worker Visa

To apply for a Domestic Worker Visa to accompany your employer to the UK, you will need to have worked for your transferring employer for a minimum of 12 months.

You will also need to prove the following:

  • You are aged between 18-65 years
  • You have been employed under the same roof as your employer for one year or more immediately prior to your application, or have been employed in a household that your employer uses on a regular basis for themselves for one year or more immediately prior to your application, and show evidence that there is a connection between you and your employer
  • You intend to travel to the UK in the company of your employer, your employer's spouse or your employer's minor child
  • You intend to work full-time as a domestic worker in the same dwelling as your employer
  • You can maintain and accommodate yourself adequately, as certified by your employer, without recourse to public funds

A Domestic Worker Visa will allow you to access free health care within the UK and re-enter the UK if you travel outside the country with your employer, as long as your employer is returning to the UK as well.

Under a Domestic Worker Visa, you can stay in the UK for up to six months. If your employer leaves the UK before this time you must leave the country with them.

During your time in the UK you currently cannot change employers or change to a different type of Employment. You cannot bring your dependants with you but they may apply to come here in their own right, for example as visitors.

If you applied for a Domestic Worker Visa before 5th April 2012, different rules apply. Applicants under this route were able to bring their spouse and dependents with them and can apply to settle permanently in the UK if they have been working as a domestic worker in the country for five years or more. Those applying for settlement will be required to pass an approved English language test.

Criticism of the Domestic Worker Visa Requirements

The Domestic Worker Visa has been criticised in recent years for exposing domestic workers brought to the UK, (many of whom are young women) to conditions of abuse and modern-day slavery.

Following the changes to the visa in 2012, which forbade those on a Domestic Worker Visa to change employers whist in the country, Human Rights groups challenged the Home Office, stating that under these rules vulnerable workers were at risk of being trapped in domestic slavery if their employers were abusive.

A number of abusive situations have come to light recently including:

  • A Filipino domestic worker who was left without food by her employer and prevented from sleeping
  • Cases of workers being subjected to extremely long hours, low wages and being forbidden to contact their own families
  • In 2015 a Nigerian couple were jailed for six years after being found guilty of keeping a man in illegal servitude for 24 years

The right to change employer is regarded by advocates as an important protection against abusive employers. It has long been recognised internationally that migrant domestic workers are vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and trafficking. Aspects of the pre-April 2012 Domestic Worker Visa arrangements had been endorsed by various international monitors as good practice.

In December 2015, an independent review on the conditions attached to the Domestic Workers Visa recommended that the right to change employer and apply for further leave to remain (but not permanent settlement) be reinstated for all migrant domestic workers in the UK.

Statement of Changes HC877 and the Domestic Worker Visa

Thankfully, the UK Government appears to have taken the independent review’s recommendations on board and the Statement of Changes HC877 announced on 11th March 2016, detailed changes to the Domestic Workers Visa which will come into force on 6th April 2016.

These include:

  • Domestic workers will be permitted to change employers after they have been granted entry into the UK. This will allow workers who find themselves in an abusive situation to move away from it.
  • Overseas domestic workers who can prove they are victims of abuse, slavery or trafficking may be granted leave to remain in the UK for up to two years.

These changes will go a long way to protecting often young, vulnerable workers who suffer hidden abuse behind closed doors in a minority of households in the UK.

If you are a domestic worker and wish to come to the UK with your employer, then the Domestic Worker Visa will allow you to enter the country and continue your Employment with your current employer.

OTS Solicitors is recognised as one of the best Immigration and employment solicitors in the UK. Our Immigration law solicitors have years of experience in helping domestic workers obtain the right visa for their circumstances.

We also have experience in assisting individuals who are victims of trafficking or modern-day slavery. If as a domestic worker, you are suffering from abuse or exploitation from your employer then you can contact us in complete confidence and we can advise you on the best steps to take to ensure your safety.

If you wish to talk to us about your situation, please phone our London office on 0203 959 9123 to make an appointment with one of our Immigration specialists.

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