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Domestic worker visa immigration. Government updates | Gherson

Posted by: Gherson Immigration

The Domestic Worker visa category has come under scrutiny in recent years due to radical changes to the Immigration Rules in 2012.

The changes to the rules affected the length of time Domestic Workers are permitted to remain in the UK and removed a Domestic Worker’s right to change employer whilst in the UK. These changes continue to affect a great number of employers and Domestic Workers globally, including employers who are British nationals, where Domestic Workers and employers reside together abroad in an employer’s household. If the employer decides to relocate to the UK (or indeed, return to the UK), it is often the case that their Domestic Workers are unable to join them, as there is currently no immigration category open to Domestic Workers for this purpose. Many employers and Domestic Workers have very close bonds with one another and in some cases, it is very difficult and upsetting for them to be separated.

The latter change has been and continues to be strongly opposed by Overseas Domestic Worker advocates and anti-trafficking campaigners, due to the restrictions imposed on Domestic Workers who are unable to change employers in the UK. The Government argue the changes were necessary to allow entry for the “brightest and best” skilled migrants to be prioritised. The debate continues.

Requirements for Domestic Workers entering the UK with their employer for a period of 6 months or less

Under the current Immigration Rules, a Domestic Worker may apply for a visa to enter the UK if they are travelling to the UK with their current employer, who is entering as either a British national (who is not normally resident in the UK), or as a Visitor in accordance with the Immigration Rules. The employer must not intend to remain in the UK for more than 6 months.

Visa eligibility

In order to qualify for such visa, the Domestic Worker must:

  • be aged 19 or over;
  • have been employed as a Domestic Worker for one year or more immediately prior to the date of application;
  • intend to work for their employer whilst in the UK, in their employer’s private household and intends to travel with their employer to the UK;
  • reside with their employer whilst in the UK;
  • intend to leave the UK at the end of the six month period their visa is issued for, or at the same time as their employer, whichever is sooner;
  • not intend to take other employment whilst in the UK;
  • be able to maintain and accommodate themselves adequately whilst in the UK without recourse to public funds.

What did the previous Domestic Worker rules stipulate?

Domestic Workers who applied for entry clearance before 5 April 2012 can extend their stay in the UK every 12 months, apply to settle in the UK after 5 continuous years of residence, bring their partner and children (under 18) and move to a similar job in the UK. This route is still open to those who entered the UK prior to 5 April 2012 and as such, Domestic Workers under this category can continue to renew their visas every 12 months.

Are there any other options?

Unfortunately, as discussed above, this visa category was tightened in 2012 which means options are limited for Domestic Workers in private households whose employers intend to be based in the UK on a long-term or permanent basis.

One possible option, offering a small degree of respite, was introduced with the new Skilled Worker immigration route. Under this route, an applicant may apply to come to the UK if they are sponsored to work in the UK by a UK employer, who has been granted a licence by the Home Office to sponsor such workers. The applicant’s job role must fit within the list of eligible occupations and the applicant must be paid the required minimum salary.

In recent months, new eligible occupations have been introduced by the Home Office which may assist Domestic Workers coming to the UK who carry out certain, specific job roles – namely childminders and nannies (all other domestic roles such as butlers and house keepers, are not deemed to be suitably skilled occupations to qualify). Whilst this may now provide an option for certain families, it is not without its restrictions and can only be achieved if specific requirements in respect of the employment relationship can be satisfied. There are also further restrictions in respect of which employers the Home Office will approve to sponsor such workers. At present, it only appears possible to obtain a sponsor licence where the family is engaged in an active and trading UK-based business, and there is a genuine justification for why the business would need to sponsor a childminder to care for the owners/directors’ children.

It should be noted that the Skilled Worker route not only opens a door to overseas families looking to relocate to the UK with their nannies, but it may also provide the potential for UK-based employers to hire individuals from overseas to assist with childcare, provided the strict requirements can be satisfied.

Gherson has extensive experience in assisting with Domestic Worker visa application and we would be happy to discuss your circumstances in further detail.

In the event that you would like to discuss the possibility of making such an application, please do not hesitate to contact us. Or Follow us on Twitter to stay updated with the recent government changes.

The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.

©Gherson 2021


Adam Hoefel 

  Adam Hoefel

  Solicitor in our Corporate and General Immigration Departments

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