Immigration changes affecting domestic workers from abroad

Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos live in the UK and thousands are employed in frontline health services and care work. Many others, including undocumented workers, have jobs in domestic work, cleaning, hotels and other private sector services.

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ILPA: 5.4.2012: Overseas Domestic Workers
On 6 April 2012, the Immigration Rules relating to overseas domestic workers will change. This information sheet provides information about the changes.

[… extracts …] Who is affected by the changes?
Overseas domestic workers fall into two categories – those working in private households and those working in diplomatic households. There are changes affecting both, but changes are different for these two categories. These two categories are dealt with separately in this information sheet.
Applications in either category made before 6 April 2012 will be decided on the basis of the
Immigration Rules before that date – i.e. the changes will not apply to these applications. Domestic workers in either category, who are or have been permitted to enter the UK under the Immigration Rules as these were before 6 April 2012, will be able to continue to apply for further leave (i.e. to continue their stay in the UK, including changing employer and applying for settlement) as if the changes to be made on 6 April 2012 had not been made.

Overseas domestic workers in private households
To be granted permission to come to the UK as a domestic worker in this category, a person must:
 be no younger than 18 years old; and no older than 65 years old
 have been working as a domestic worker in the home of the employer for whom he or she intends to work in the UK, for at least 12 months before applying to come to the UK
 intend to travel to the UK with that same employer (or the employer’s spouse, civil partner or child)
 intend to work full-time for the employer in that employer’s household, and with no
intention of working for anyone or anywhere else
 be able to maintain and accommodate himself or herself without recourse to public funds

These requirements will remain.

The following additional requirements are new:
 the employer must not intend to remain in the UK for more than six months or the employer (or his or her spouse, civil partner or child) must be intending to come to the UK as a visitor
 the domestic worker must intend to leave the UK at the same time as the employer or after six months, whichever is the shorter period
 there must be a written contract of employment between employer and domestic worker, which ensures that the domestic worker will be paid in accordance with the national minimum wage in the UK
Domestic workers will not be permitted to stay in the UK for any longer than six months.
(Currently, domestic workers are initially granted permission to come to the UK for up to 12
months, and this may be extended; and after five years, domestic workers may apply for indefinite leave to remain.) Domestic workers will not be permitted to bring their dependents with them to the UK. (Currently, they may do so and those dependents are permitted to work.)

Overseas domestic workers in diplomatic households
The immigration rules relating to overseas domestic workers in diplomatic households are dealt with under the wider category of Tier 5 (temporary worker). Within that category, they fall within the sub-category of Overseas Government Employees, who are sponsored under an international agreement.
The key changes affecting domestic workers in this category are that:
 there will be a maximum period of five years during which the domestic worker may remain
in the UK (or up until his or her employer leaves, whichever is the shorter period)
 the domestic worker will not be permitted to change employer in the UK (note that
currently, permission to change employer is restricted to continuing to work as a domestic
worker in another diplomatic household in the same diplomatic mission)
 the domestic worker will not be permitted to apply to settle in the UK

Read more here:

Guardian 29.2.2017: New visa rules for domestic workers ‘will turn the clock back 15 years’

Campaigners say changes announced by Theresa May will mean domestic workers who flee abuse risk being deported ….

[… extract …] Her concern was echoed by Audrey Guichon of Anti-Slavery International, who said that tying domestic workers to one employer was in effect licensing slavery. “These proposed changes will give unscrupulous bosses the power to threaten workers with deportation if they do not comply with whatever they demand,” she said.

She added the situation in Britain would now mirror the “kafala” system across the Middle East where a change of employer means losing the right to residency.

The home secretary said she recognised there was a danger of abusive behaviour in this situation and it was important that employers knew what was and was not acceptable. She said that written terms and conditions of employment would be required before workers came to Britain.

4th July 2014: Kalayaan: Producing Slaves: The tied Overseas Domestic Worker visa
In April 2012 a change in the immigration rules tied migrant domestic workers entering the UK to their employer. All available evidence preceding and since this change condemns the tying or bonding of this particularly vulnerable group of workers and agrees that this has facilitated their exploitation and abuse, including trafficking. In 2009 the Home Affairs Select Committee in its inquiry into trafficking said that that retaining the visa was “the single most important issue in preventing the forced labour and trafficking of such workers”

The reports by workers coming to Kalayaan since the implementation of the tied visa confirm this and a recent report by Human Rights Watch is highly critical of the impacts of the tied visa. The report of the Joint Committee on the Draft Modern Slavery Billiii describes the current tied Overseas Domestic Worker (ODW) visa as having ‘unintentionally strengthened the hand of the slave master against the victim of slaveryand calls for an urgent reversal of the 2012 changes.

We are disappointed and confused by the Government’s response that it has no plan to change the immigration rules despite the wealth of evidence as to the urgent necessity of doing so. In the first two years since the tied visa was implemented Kalayaan registered 402 new migrant domestic workers. 120 of these workers were tied to their employers as they entered on the tied ODW visa or the diplomatic domestic worker visa. New workers registering with Kalayaan give a report of their treatment in the job with which they
entered the UK.

It is noticeable that those who entered on a visa which tied them to their employers (the tied or the diplomatic domestic worker visa) had worse conditions and less freedom. Immigration Rules: Domestic workers include:

  • cleaners
  • chauffeurs
  • cooks
  • those providing personal care for the employer and their family
  • nannies

Domestic workers who applied before 5 April 2012

Different rules apply to you if you’re a domestic worker who applied for entry to the UK on or before 5 April 2012.

You can:

  • extend your stay in the UK every 12 months
  • apply to settle permanently in the UK after 5 years
  • bring your partner and children under 18
  • move to a similar job in the UK

How long you can stay

You can apply to extend your visa for 12 months at a time.

If you’ve worked in the UK as a domestic worker for 5 years you can apply to settle permanently in the UK.

To settle in the UK as a domestic worker you must:

  • have applied for your domestic worker visa on or before 5 April 2012
  • have been living here legally for at least 5 years
  • currently have permission to stay here as a domestic worker
  • have been in the UK as a full-time domestic worker continuously throughout the 5 years (you cannot have been outside the UK for more than 180 days in any 12 consecutive months)
  • have maintained and accommodated yourself and any dependants without the use of public funds throughout the 5 years
  • have sufficient knowledge of English and life in the UK