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Essential Steps to Domestic Helper Visa Processing in Hong Kong

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Find a domestic helper that matches your family’s needs and expectations is only the beginning of the hiring process. Handling the paperwork for the work visa can be confusing and time-consuming. In Hong Kong, the domestic helper visa processing involves 2 steps: employment contract notarization at the consulate and visa application at the Hong Kong Immigration Department. Pay attention to every single part of the process so that you do not make unnecessary mistakes.

Applying for a domestic helper visa unassisted costs less than HK$1,000, including both the notarisation fees charged by embassies and the visa fees payable to the Immigration Department.

While the Hong Kong government allows employers to hire domestic helpers and apply for their visas directly, sending countries have their own rules based on protecting their overseas workers.

Points to note before domestic helper visa application

The Immigration Department will start processing the employment visa application after they have received the notarized employment contract from the Philippine or Indonesian government. They will then check the visa application which takes generally 30 days or up to 2 months. Upon approval, the domestic helper will receive an employment visa label that she will have to stick into her travel document.

If the domestic helper you are hiring is a finished contract, currently located in Hong Kong and originally from the Philippines, or if you are renewing your Filipino helper's contract, you can submit the documents to the Immigration Department by yourself without using an employment agency. If not, you must use an agency for the domestic worker work visa application.

Find an ethical employment agency

There are many employment agencies which can help you with the paperwork, but some of them charge domestic helpers high fees. Agencies in Hong Kong are only allowed to charge maximum 10% of the worker’s first-month salary as placement fee. As such, if you have to go through an employment agency for visa processing, find one that does not overcharge domestic helpers. You can contact us to get a quotation from our ethical partner agencies for the processing here.

Hire a helper with terminated/break contract, or overseas hire

If you plan to hire a domestic helper directly from her home country to Hong Kong, or a helper with terminated/break contract, there are extra steps at the helper’s home country.

Before the processing starts, the domestic helper will have to take a medical check-up at her home country to make sure she is fit to work. The employment agency normally will move forward only after the helper passes the medical check-up.

In addition, if the domestic helper you are hiring is a first-timer, that is without any experience working abroad as a domestic helper, she will have to undergo mandatory training to fulfil her home country’s requirement for working abroad. The worker is responsible for shouldering the cost of this mandatory training.

Steps to domestic helper visa application

Sign the employment contract

First, you and your new employee need to sign four copies of the Immigration Department’s standard employment contract (SEC) for foreign domestic helpers. One copy is for you, one is for your domestic helper, one is for your domestic helper’s embassy to notarise, and one is for the Immigration Department. Copies of the SEC are available at 2/f, Wan Chai Immigration Tower.

Get the contract notarised at Consulate

Either you or your domestic helper is required to visit the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) to apply for contract notarisation, provided that your domestic helper’s current contract expires within a month.

Notarisation costs HK$476 in total – consisting of the mandatory Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) membership, a verification fee, and an authentication fee payable to the Philippine Consulate General on collection.

You will need to provide the following documents:

  • Completed Information Sheet provided by POLO
  • Originals of the signed standard employment contract
  • A copy of the domestic helper’s current contract
  • A copy of the domestic helper’s passport
  • A copy of the domestic helper’s current visa
  • A copy of your Hong Kong ID card
  • A copy of the domestic helper’s Hong Kong ID card
  • A copy of the domestic helper’s Immigration appointment letter (if they were dismissed for one of the reasons that qualifies them for ‘finished contract’ status)

It usually takes 6 working days for contracts to be notarised. Make sure that you keep the receipt issued by POLO as you will need to present this to the Philippine Consulate General when fetching the approved contract. Once you have the notarised contract, your domestic helper can apply for his or her visa.

Submit the domestic helper visa application to the Immigration Department

Your domestic helper must complete the Immigration Department’s ‘Visa/Extension of Stay Application Form for Domestic Helper from Abroad’ (ID 998A) form, and you need to complete the ‘Application for Employment of Domestic Helper from Abroad’ (ID 998B) form. Your domestic helper will need to submit these documents in person, within 4 weeks of the expiry date of their contract, at the Department’s dedicated Foreign Domestic Helper section. Your domestic helper will need to submit the following documents:

  • Completed ‘Visa/Extension of Stay Application Form for Domestic Helper from Abroad’, with a photo affixed
  • Completed ‘Application for Employment of Domestic Helper from Abroad’ form
  • The notarised standard employment contract
  • Your domestic helper’s passport, together with a copy of the pages that show their personal particulars, photo, passport expiration date, most recent visa label, and most recent landing slip or extension of stay label
  • A copy of your domestic helper’s Hong Kong ID card
  • A copy of your Hong Kong ID card, as well as a copy of the relevant passport pages if you are a non-permanent resident
  • A copy of a document showing proof that you earn at least $15,000 per month or have assets that allow you to support your domestic helper throughout the contract period
  • A copy of a document showing proof of your residential address
  • A release letter from your domestic helper’s current employer that indicates their final work day

On submission of all the necessary documents, your domestic helper will be issued with a white card with an application number – you can quote this reference number if you query the status of the application.

Should the visa be approved (you will be informed by post), you will need to pay HK$230 upon collection. Visas usually take 4-6 weeks to be processed. Note that during the visa processing, your employee is not allowed to start working for you. For more information on the hiring process, read the Immigration Department’s guidebook.

Domestic helper visa processing time

Generally speaking, 90% of the employment visa applications are processed within 6 weeks. Sometimes the application can even be finished within a month depending on the period and the number of applications that the Immigration Department has received at the same time. Remember, the domestic helper cannot start working for you until she obtains a new working visa.

If your hired domestic helper is currently in Hong Kong, the visa application can take as little time as 14 to 28 days, but if she is in her home country it may take up to 2 months for immigration to process the visa. In some cases, the application can be delayed, for example, if the contract is not filled out properly or if the Immigration officers have further questions to ask. In this case, it can take up to a few months before the visa application is processed. Therefore, you should familiarize yourself with all the rules and regulations concerning domestic workers in Hong Kong.

For domestic workers who are renewing their contract with the same employer, they should submit their visa application within 8 weeks prior to the expiry of their limit of stay. The visa will usually be issued on the same day of the application. For domestic workers who are changing employers, they should submit the application within 4 weeks prior to the expiry of the contract.

The queues at the Immigration Department can be rather long in the peak employment visa application period, usually in the summer. A lot of domestic helpers queue up as early as 3 a.m., so according to the suggestions made by Immigration Department, you as an employer should either send your worker early, or submit applications for contract renewal online.

After submitting application

You can inquire about your application status online here or through the 24-hour hotline at +852 3160 8663.

You, as the employer, might be asked to have an interview with the Immigration Department.

If the Immigration Department has finished assessing your application, you will be notified by letter whether the visa application is successful. If it is successful, the worker should bring along her/his travel document and the letter to collect the visa label at the Foreign Domestic Helpers Section. The visa fee should be paid while you pick up the visa label, and payable to the HKSAR Government.

Helper insurance and medical examination

You are required to take out an insurance policy that covers your liability in the event that your domestic helper is injured on the job. You can also consider taking out medical insurance for your domestic helper, since you are responsible for covering their medical fees. You can do this about 2 weeks before your domestic helper’s contract is due to start. HelperChoice works with a leading insurance provider in Hong Kong to offer a 50% off discount on helper insurance.

Although foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong are not required to undergo a medical check-up before they start, some employers enrol their domestic helpers for medical check-ups, particularly if their domestic helpers will be in close contact with their children. Medical check-ups can be arranged for around 2 weeks in advance.

The information provided is a guide for employers and we do not accept responsibility for any inaccuracies or outdated information. The rules set by the Immigration Department and sending countries are subject to change. Employers should check the department’s website, and contact the relevant embassy, for the latest updates.

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