How easy is it to bring domestic staff with you to the UK?
There is provision within UK immigration rules for people to bring domestic staff with them if they plan to visit the UK for up to six months at a time. This is called a Domestic Workers in a Private Household visa and typically covers roles such as cooks, chauffeurs, cleaners, nannies and carers. As with any visa application in the UK, it is vitally important to meticulously prepare the paperwork for a successful application. In particular, applicants need to show that the individual is correctly employed under the laws of the country of residence and that they intend to come to UK only as part of the family to continue to fulfil their duties.
A high degree of scrutiny
At the present time, UK immigration officials are particularly careful about this type of visa as there have been cases reported in the media of abuse of domestic servants, and individuals have been investigated under the UK’s human trafficking and modern slavery legislation. The application page on the UK government website even includes a link for people to click if they believe they are victims of trafficking or modern slavery. There have also been cases where an individual has made false accusations to the UK authorities when they did not want to return to the country of origin. We would therefore strongly suggest that you only support this type of application a) if you are certain that you need the individual with you in the UK during the visit and b) that they are trustworthy and intend to come to UK in fulfilment of their contractual duty to you.
These are the rules
The rules currently stipulate that domestic staff must be no younger than 18-years of age and they must be paid at least the UK minimum wage, which is currently £6.15 an hour for workers aged 18-20 rising to £8.21 an hour for workers aged over 25. (there is an exemption from this when the individual will be living with the family and board and lodging is paid by the family). Domestic staff must also have been working for their employers for at least a year in the country of residence.
But everything changes after Brexit
At the present time these rules only apply to workers who live outside of the European Economic Area (I.e. all of the European Union member states plus Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Switzerland). However, this is likely to change after 31 October as the UK government says the UK will leave the EU on that date whether or not a deal has been reached. Then it is likely that the same rules will be applied to all foreign nationals, except Ireland, which has a special deal.
Applications for a Domestic Workers in a Private Household Visa cost £516 and you can apply up to three months before your travel to the UK. Typically it takes about three weeks to get a decision. The visa lasts for up to six months, but if you return home before that date your employee has to come with you (although you’re allowed short trips out of the UK without taking them with you).
Make sure you get the paperwork right
A relatively large amount of paperwork is required for a successful application, including bank statements, terms and conditions of employment, details of where the employee is staying and return travel arrangements. Many visas get refused because the standard of the paperwork isn’t up to standard, or there is some missing or unclear information, so it is advisable to get expert help, especially if you haven’t done it before. A large part of our work as immigration solicitors is sorting out visa applications where private individuals have tried and failed with visa applications. It is important to remember that there remains significant political pressure in the UK to reduce immigration (and thereby the the number of visas issued), so any chance for refusal will be gladly seized upon by immigration officials.