Briefing: UK Domestic Workers by Charlotte Rubin

The UK provides a way for domestic workers to come to the UK with their private employers under certain specific circumstances: the domestic worker visa. Any non-British or Irish national wanting to come to the UK as a domestic national after 1 January 2021 has to satisfy the requirements for such a visa. Though a domestic worker is not defined in the immigration rules, the visa is typically employed by nannies, chauffeurs, au pairs, cooks, cleaners, etc.

Preliminarily, it is important to note who this visa applies to. Until 1 January 2021, EEA nationals did not need to get a visa in order to come to the UK as domestic workers, as they were exercising EU free movement. This all changed after Brexit. Those EEA nationals who came to the UK as domestic workers before 31 December 2020, therefore, can apply for status under the EU Settlement Scheme and remain in the UK doing their job lawfully. All those who arrived after 1 January 2021 can only work as domestic workers in the UK if they get a domestic worker visa. For non-EEA nationals, nothing has changed – they already had to apply for the visa before 31 December 2020.

Preliminarily, there are a few eligibility requirements for domestic workers wanting to come to the UK with their employers. As such, the applicant must be at least 19 years old, they must be able to are able to support themselves in the UK without the need for public funds, and they must intend to work as a full-time domestic worker.

There are then three core requirements for a domestic worker visa. Firstly, the domestic worker must have already worked for their employer for at least a year before a visa can be applied for. Secondly, the applicant must not intend to stay in the UK for more than six months. Lastly, the employer must be (i) a British or (at present) an EEA national who usually lives outside the UK and who does not intend to return for more than six months, or (ii) a non-EEA national who is coming to the UK to visit and who does not intend to remain for more than six months. If these three core requirements are not met, an application for a domestic worker visa cannot succeed.

The burden of proof for the eligibility and core requirements is on the applicant. They can demonstrate that they meet all requirements with different documents, ranging from bank statements to letters from employers. They will always have to provide the following documents as part of their application: payslips or bank statements showing payment of salary, confirmation of tax paid, confirmation of health insurance paid, their contract of employment, their valid work visa, residence permit or equivalent passport endorsement for the country in which the domestic worker has been employed by that employer; or visas or equivalent passport endorsement to confirm that the domestic worker has travelled with the employer. Additionally, the applicant and their employer must have agreed on terms and conditions of employment in writing. These terms and conditions must confirm that the applicant will be paid at least the Minimum Wage applicable in the UK.

Importantly, the domestic worker must not intend to stay in the UK for longer than six months. The visa cannot be extended beyond six months – if the worker wants to stay for longer, they have to leave the UK and make a fresh application. Though there is no specific limit of the number of times a domestic worker can come to the UK / reapply for the same visa, domestic workers can never live in the UK on a continuous basis. Domestic workers can thus not be working in the UK for extended periods based on frequent, successive visits. There are no hard and fast rules involved in the assessment of subsequent applications, but rather the Home Office caseworker in question will have to evaluate the individual circumstances of each case.

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