10. Private domestic employees
Missions, posts and organisations are free to appoint as staff (other than career diplomatic or consular staff - see Sections 2.2 and 4.1.1) any persons who, because of their Australian citizenship or permanent resident status, are eligible to work in Australia. Missions and posts may not sponsor as locally engaged staff for entry to Australia on long term business or other types of temporary entry visas, persons from their own or third countries.
The completed form(s) should be submitted to the Department as soon as possible after any staff change. (Consular posts should send them to the Foreign Affairs and Trade office in the relevant State capital.)
Locally engaged staff are required to pay Australian income tax on their earnings.
Missions and posts and their staff may employ Australian nationals or permanent residents as domestic staff without restriction. Individuals, agencies and contractors offering a range of household services such as cleaning, ironing, gardening and maintenance may be found through local newspapers and telephone directories. Caterers and wait staff for receptions and other functions and suitably qualified drivers may be hired locally on an ad hoc or ongoing basis. Accredited child care providers are also available to meet full time, part time or occasional childcare needs.
Household staff or drivers who are nationals of, and employed by, the sending State's mission may be nominated as members of the service staff of a mission or post. Service staff must be notified according to the processes outlined in Chapter 4. As with diplomatic visa holders, Service staff are expected to depart Australia on completion of a normal posting period and, at a maximum, may remain in Australia for ten years.
Household staff employed directly by eligible foreign officials may be brought to Australia under diplomatic or consular privilege subject to certain conditions being satisfied. Grant of entry to Australia for such private domestic employees is contingent on Protocol Branch agreement and the fulfilment of a range of immigration requirements and other conditions by both the employer and employee (see Section 10.5 below). An approved private domestic employee may not work outside the household of the sponsoring diplomatic or consular official. The Department encourages employers to ensure their domestic staff have a basic understanding of English, or at least, the ability to communicate with their employer in another language.
Foreign officials who are permitted to bring private domestic employees to Australia must enter into an employment contract that is in accordance with Australian employment laws and incorporates local standards for wages and employment conditions. Please note that each state and territory has its own legislation and awards that need to be complied with in addition to any Federal (or Commonwealth) laws. Fair Work Australia is able to provide advice about wages and entitlements (Phone: 1300 799 675 or website: www.fairwork.gov.au).
Heads of diplomatic missions, other members of the diplomatic staff, career heads of consular posts and career consular officers may apply to bring private domestic employees to Australia. Administrative and Technical staff and consular employees are not eligible for this privilege.
In general, the Department is prepared to approve up to three private domestic employees for heads of diplomatic missions, up to two for career heads of consular posts and one for other eligible officials. Only in exceptional circumstances, where an officer can demonstrate a need for additional staff that cannot be met in any other way, will the Department consider approving more than the usual number of private domestic employees.
Foreign officials may employ private employees from their own or another country. It is the responsibility of missions to establish that the private domestic employee being nominated is qualified to perform the duties which they have been employed to do. Foreign nationals employed as private domestic workers should be from countries that have substantive diplomatic and consular representation in Australia. Prospective employees must be over 18 years of age and must not be related to the employer or employer's spouse.
Australian migration regulations do not permit dependants of private domestic employees to accompany them to Australia unless they are approved as private domestic employees in their own right.
Formal requests to bring private domestic employees to Australia should be sent by diplomatic note to Protocol Branch or the nearest Australian diplomatic mission or consular post. The note should advise the name and position held in the mission of the employer, as well as the prospective employee's details, including name, date and place of birth, nationality and current place of residence. A photocopy of the applicant’s passport biographical details page is the easiest way to provide this information.
The note should also confirm that the employer (or the employer’s spouse) and the employee are not related to each other. Protocol Branch will provide confirmation to the relevant mission, post or foreign ministry whether the employer is entitled to bring a private domestic worker from abroad. It will also inform the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) of the entitlement.
Once Protocol Branch has confirmed the eligibility of the employer, the prospective employee should lodge their visa application with DIAC. DIAC process and grant the visa application.
Applicants will need to complete an Application for Temporary Work (International Relations) visa (DIAC Form 1403) and lodge it together with the visa processing fee. The visa application can be lodged at an Australian diplomatic mission or consular post. If the applicant holds a valid visa in Australia they should lodge their visa application at the ACT and Regions Office of DIAC (see contact details in Section 10.8 below).
Please note that DIAC will require a number of conditions to be satisfied before a visa is granted. The applicant will be required to obtain a medical clearance (including a chest x-ray) and complete a police character check before a visa can be approved. The visa process may take up to six weeks, or longer in some cases. Comprehensive information about the visa application process is available from DIAC.
The employer and the employee must enter into an employment contract that accords with the standards for wages and employment conditions provided for under Australian laws. Both parties must sign a declaration to confirm they have signed an employment contract. The employer and employee declarations can be downloaded from the DIAC website. As noted above, Fair Work Australia can provide advice about Australian wages and employment conditions.
The employment agreement should be in English, or, if it is drafted in another language, an English translation should be included. The contract should include the employee's basic conditions of employment. Missions are requested to ensure that the employee has a copy of the employment contract. While the department regards any dispute between the employer and the employee as a private legal matter, employment disputes or lack of good faith on the part of the employer in implementing the contract may affect any subsequent requests to employ a domestic worker.
The subclass 403 visa (Temporary Work (International Relations) visa – Domestic Worker (Diplomatic or Consular) stream) entitles a foreign domestic worker to be employed full time and exclusively in the household of their employer from the diplomatic or consular corps. Subclass 403 visa holders must:
- not undertake study
- not work outside the employer's household (however, may reside elsewhere)
- not transfer to another household without approval in advance from Protocol Branch
- maintain valid travel documents, including visas
- leave Australia at the conclusion of employment, or when their employer leaves, whichever is earlier.
If the applicant meets all the visa requirements, a private domestic employee will be granted an Australian temporary work visa (subclass 403) for travel to Australia. The visa will usually authorise multiple entries and will be valid for the length of the employer's posting.
Because DIAC issue visas electronically it is important to keep the Visa Grant Notice showing the details of the visa, including the expiry date. Clients can request that DIAC place a visa label in their passport for a fee.
Any queries relating to private domestic applications lodged in Australia should be directed to the ACT and Regions Office of DIAC (tel. 02 6195 6114) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Enquires about visa applications lodged overseas should be directed to the DIAC office of the relevant Australian mission. Its useful to provide the visa application reference number.
Missions and posts are required to notify Protocol Branch or the relevant state or territory office of the initial arrival in Australia of a private domestic employee. The Notification of Arrival of Private Domestic Staff form (Form C at Appendix 3 – pdf) should be completed with a copy of the Visa Grant Notice attached. The form should be signed by the employee and the employer. Private domestic employees are encouraged to provide details of their next of kin, and to register with their country's diplomatic or consular mission in Australia in case they require consular assistance.
Protocol Branch will process the arrival forms and provide a domestic information kit for new domestic employees. Protocol Branch will advise the relevant mission once the kit is ready for collection and make a time for the domestic employee to collect the ID Card and information personally.
Private domestic employees are required to leave Australia when they cease to be employed in their employer's household or at the conclusion of the employer's posting, whichever is earlier (See Section 10.5).
If the contract is terminated or if the employment arrangement breaks down, it is the employer's responsibility to inform Protocol Branch or the relevant DFAT state or territory office of the situation without delay. This is particularly important if the employee leaves the employer's household without notice or ceases work for the employer but does not leave Australia. In these circumstances, the employer must immediately advise the Department to allow necessary action to be taken.
If the employee leaves the employer's household without notice and there is no further contact between the employer and employee, it is the responsibility of the employer to attend a police station and file a missing person report.
A Notification of Completion of Employment / Departure of Private Domestic Employee form (Form G at Appendix 7 - pdf) must be completed and sent to Protocol Branch or a DFAT state or territory office when the private domestic employee departs. Whether the employee departs Australia with the employer or departs the employer's household and remains in Australia, the departure form is required by Protocol Branch. In exceptional cases where the Department approves the transfer of a private domestic worker to another eligible employer, departure and arrival forms should be completed in respect of the domestic’s completion of duty with the former employer and commencement of duty with the new employer.
The Department expects the employer to cover the cost of travel (arrival and departure) of their private domestic employees as part of the contractual agreement. It is not the responsibility of the domestic employee to pay their own airfares or to have to reimburse the employer.
It is essential that a private domestic employee holds a valid visa. If it expires, the holder will be regarded by DIAC as an unlawful non-citizen and may be detained or required to leave Australia, at the employer's cost.
A subclass 403 visa holder may apply for a new visa to continue working in the household of the diplomatic/consular employer. A new application will entail a full medical check, new police checks and employer and employee declarations. DIAC may require Applicants to attend an interview. The process should be commenced well in advance of the expiry date of the current visa. Following is a summary of the steps that should be followed to obtain new visas:
- six weeks before the expiry of the private domestic employee's visa, a diplomatic note advising of the intention to seek a new visa should be sent to Protocol Branch or the relevant DFAT state or territory office
- once Protocol Branch has confirmed eligibility of the employer, the employee should lodge their subclass 403 visa application at DIAC's ACT and Regions Office:
Department of Immigration and Citizenship
ACT and Regions Office
GPO Box 717
Canberra ACT 2601
3 Lonsdale Street
Braddon ACT 2612
Fax: 02 6195 6104
Phone: 02 6195 6114
If all relevant visa criteria are met, DIAC can grant a new visa for a period consistent with the length of the posting of the current employer. Please note that DIAC can send prompt advice that the visa has been granted if the visa applicant provides their email address with the visa application.
Consular employers should contact the relevant DFAT state or territory office for guidance and assistance with the provision of new visas for private domestic employees.
Head of Mission or Head of Post
Because the household of the head of a diplomatic mission or a career head of a consular post has particular needs, a Head of Mission or Head of Post may request that their private domestic employees be permitted to remain in their household after their departure to work for their successor. A formal request for transfer should be submitted to Protocol Branch in advance of the Head of Mission's / Head of Post's departure. If the transfer is approved by the Department, a new visa application must be lodged with DIAC's ACT and Regions Office for the private domestic employee.
Other Foreign Officials
Any transfer of private domestic employees between households, other than for a Head of Mission / Head of Post as set out above, should not be initiated until the full circumstances have been presented to, and approved by, Protocol Branch.