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Protocol Guidelines

9. Private domestic workers

9.1 Local domestic help

Local domestic help can be found online or through local newspapers. This includes cleaning, ironing, gardening, maintenance, catering, wait staff and driving services. Accredited providers are also available for childcare.

Staff can be hired on an ad hoc or ongoing basis. There is no limit on the number of Australian residents that missions, posts and their staff may employ.

9.2 Foreign domestic workers

The only officials eligible to bring household staff to Australia to meet the representational requirements of their role are:

  • Head of a diplomatic mission – a maximum of two
  • Career head of a consular post – one

Other officials are not eligible. Domestic workers may be readily sourced in Australia.

Private domestic workers brought to Australia under diplomatic or consular privilege have the same employment rights, protections, and obligations [PDF] as Australian residents. Information and advice about Australian workplace conditions, including wages and entitlements, are available from the Fair Work Ombudsman (email; phone 131 394 from Australia, or +61 2 6120 8989 from overseas). Information about superannuation is also available from the Australian Tax Office (phone 13 10 20).

Private domestic workers are entitled to at least the national minimum wage. Salaries must be paid through bank transfer into the private domestic worker's Australian bank account. Cash payments are not acceptable. The employer must also keep accurate records of salary payments and provide the private domestic worker with a pay slip within one working day of each pay day. Employers may use the following generic pay slip template [PDF] if needed.

The employer is responsible for paying the domestic worker’s:

  • visa application fee including relevant health and character checks
  • health insurance in Australia
  • return travel on completion of the contract.

These costs must not be deducted from the private domestic worker's salary.

Private domestic workers must maintain full possession of their passport, identity card, and personal belongings.

Underpaying, abusing or exploiting a domestic worker – including through excessive work hours – breaches Australian law. Private domestic workers who are unfairly treated have access to various services in Australia for support and redress. Allegations of mistreatment of domestic staff are viewed very seriously by Australian authorities. Foreign officials found to be mistreating a domestic worker will lose their entitlement to employ domestic workers.

9.2.1 DFAT approval

Prospective employers should read the fact sheet for foreign officials [PDF] about their obligations towards private domestic workers. Requests to bring a private domestic worker to Australia must be sent by note verbale from the employer's foreign ministry to the nearest Australian diplomatic mission or consular post. The note should include:

  • the employer's name and position
  • the employee's full name, place and date of birth, nationality and current physical address
  • a photocopy of the biographical page of the employee's passport
  • confirmation that the employer and the employee are not related by blood or marriage
  • the foreign ministry's assurance that all Australian requirements for the proposed arrangement will be met, in accordance with the Protocol Guidelines and Department of Home Affairs regulations
  • confirmation that the employee shares a language with the employer and understands English sufficiently well to operate independently in Australia
  • the signed Employer Declaration [PDF] as an attachment
  • the signed Employee Declaration [PDF] as an attachment
  • a copy of the draft contract between the domestic worker and the employer, which complies with Australian workplace laws.

DFAT will confirm the employer and employee's eligibility and advise this to the Department of Home Affairs, which is responsible for processing the worker's visa application.

At the same time, the nominated private domestic worker must lodge an Application for a Temporary Work (International Relations) visa (subclass 403) online with the Department of Home Affairs via ImmiAccount.

9.2.2 Department of Home Affairs approval

Processing of the domestic worker's visa application can take six to eight weeks. Processing times may vary according to the visa applicant's circumstances. The applicant must undergo health and character checks and attend an in-person or video interview organised by the Department of Home Affairs. In addition, the domestic worker:

  • must be aged 18 or older
  • should share a language with the employer
  • should understand English sufficiently well to operate independently in Australia
  • must undertake to work full-time, exclusively in the household of the employer, and to leave Australia when the employment relationship ceases
  • cannot bring any dependants to Australia
  • employment contract must meet Australian standards for wages and conditions (including superannuation, if applicable).

Further information is available from the Department of Home Affairs.

9.2.3 Visa issue

Successful applicants will receive a Temporary Work (International Relations) visa (subclass 403). This visa allows multiple entries to Australia. The first visa will be for a maximum stay of one year for all new employment relationships. The Department of Home Affairs may grant a further visa if the applicant meets visa requirements. More information about further visas is in chapter 9.2.5.

9.2.4 Arrival

When the employee arrives in Australia, the employer's mission or post must send a completed Arrival Notification – Private Domestic Worker [PDF] form and a copy of the Visa Grant Notice to Protocol Branch.

Protocol Branch will issue an annual Domestic Employee identity card, which will be provided to the employee at a meeting with a Protocol Branch official. Before the meeting, the mission or post must forward the following documents to Protocol Branch:

  • The domestic worker’s employment contract
  • Pay slips and bank statements that show electronic payment of wages for at least two pay periods*
  • Proof of social security coverage (e.g. payments to superannuation fund)
  • Proof of health care or insurance card that shows ongoing coverage.

*If a domestic worker has recently commenced duties and cannot supply a bank statement covering two pay periods, they can provide a bank statement showing one pay period initially, and provide evidence of a second pay period within 90 days of commencement of duties.

Attendance at these meetings is considered work time, to be paid by the employer.

9.2.5 Continuing employment

If the employee wishes to remain in Australia beyond the initial one-year period, the private domestic worker must lodge an Application for a Temporary Work (International Relations) visa (subclass 403) online with the Department of Home Affairs via ImmiAccount at least six weeks before the existing visa ceases.

In addition, the employer's mission must seek support from Protocol Branch, by diplomatic note, for the employee to lodge a new further visa application. The mission must attach a copy of the domestic worker's most recent contract to the diplomatic note. Support will only be provided if the contract complies with Australian workplace laws and there no outstanding issues from the orientation meeting or welfare checks.

Health, character checks and an interview are part of a further visa application. If the domestic worker meets the visa requirements, they will be granted a further visa for 12 months or until the end of the employer's diplomatic visa, if close. When a new visa is granted, the mission must provide Protocol Branch with a copy of the Visa Grant Notice, to update the private domestic worker's records.

Private domestic workers will not be allowed to remain in Australia on subclass 403 visas for longer than ten years.

9.2.6 Concluding or transferring employment

If the employment arrangement breaks down, the contract is terminated, or the employee leaves the household, the employer must inform Protocol Branch or the relevant DFAT state or territory office immediately.

When the employee ceases to work for the employer or departs Australia, the employer's mission or post must send a completed Departure Notification – Private Domestic Worker [PDF] form to Protocol Branch.

Private domestic workers may claim back their superannuation when they leave Australia.

In most cases, private domestic workers are expected to leave Australia at the time, or before, their employer leaves Australia.

Protocol Branch will consider requests for a private domestic worker to transfer between eligible employers subject to the 10-year rule (see section 9.2.5). Such requests must be made by the employer's foreign ministry in accordance with section 9.2.1 DFAT approval, at least six weeks before the departure of the current employer.

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