9.2 Foreign domestic workers

The following diplomatic and consular officials only are eligible to apply to bring private domestic workers (PDWs) to Australia to be employed as full-time household staff to meet the representational and other requirements of their role:

  • Head of a diplomatic mission — a maximum of two staff
  • Deputy head of a diplomatic mission — one staff
  • Career head of a consular post — a maximum of two staff

Other officials are not eligible.

Private domestic workers brought to Australia under diplomatic or consular privilege have the same employment rights, protections, and obligations [PDF] as Australian citizens and permanent residents. Information and advice about Australian workplace conditions including wages and employment standards are available from the Fair Work Ombudsman website (email: myaccountservices@fwo.gov.au; telephone 131 394 within Australia, or +61 2 6141 1387 outside Australia).

Private domestic workers must at all times be in possession of their passport, identity card and personal belongings. 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. The employer is responsible for paying health insurance and must pay for the domestic worker’s return travel on completion of the contract. These costs must not be deducted from the PDWs salary.

Pay slip template [Word]

Underpayment, abuse or exploitation of a domestic worker - including excessive work hours - are breaches of 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 familiarise themselves with the fact sheet [PDF] about 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
  • the signed Employer Declaration [PDF] as an attachment.
  • the signed Employee Declaration [PDF] as an attachment.

DFAT will advise the Department of Home Affairs, as the agency responsible for processing the worker's visa application.

The nominated private domestic worker should complete and lodge an online Application for a Temporary Work (International Relations) Visa with the Department of Home Affairs via ImmiAccount.

9.2.2 Department of Home Affairs approval

Processing of the domestic worker’s International Relations (subclass 403) 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 a face-to-face interview or be interviewed by video conference at a location organised by the Department of Home Affairs office. In addition:

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

Further detail is set out on the Department of Home Affairs website.

9.2.3 Visa issue

Successful applicants will be granted a Temporary Work, (International Relations) (subclass 403) visa for travel to Australia. The visa will allow multiple entries to Australia. The first International Relations subclass 403 visa for a private domestic worker, for each employer, will be for a maximum stay of one year only. The Department of Home Affairs may grant a further visa if the applicant meets visa requirements.  More information about a further visa is provided under 9.2.5. The period of stay for the subsequent visa will align with the period of stay of the employer’s diplomatic visa.

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 identity card to the employee, which will be provided to the private domestic worker at an orientation meeting with a Protocol Branch official. The card will be valid for 12 months, and must be renewed in person by the employee before its expiry each year. As part of this process, the employee must also provide copies of their bank statements to demonstrate salary payments, employment contract and health card.

9.2.5 Continuing employment

A private domestic worker must hold a valid International Relations (subclass 403) visa. If the employee wishes to remain in Australia beyond the initial one year period, the employer's mission must seek approval from Protocol Branch for the employee to lodge a new visa application. This will entail health and medical checks and an interview.  The application should be lodged at least six weeks before the existing visa ceases. Subject to meeting all of the visa requirements, the domestic worker will be granted a further visa and the period of stay will align with the period of stay of the employer's diplomatic visa.  When a new visa is granted, the mission must provide Protocol Branch with a copy of the Visa Grant Notice, so that the private domestic worker’s records can be updated.

A private domestic worker will not be allowed to remain in Australia for longer than ten years.

9.2.6 Concluding 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.

In most cases, private domestic workers cannot change from one employer to another and they are expected to leave at the time, or before, their employer leaves Australia. Protocol Branch (protocol.branch@dfat.gov.au) will consider requests for a PDW to transfer between eligible employers subject to the 10-year rule (see section 9.2.5). Such requests should be made at least six weeks before the departure of the current employer by note verbale and include the full name and date of arrival (if applicable) of the proposed new employer.


Last Updated: 13 November 2018