9.2 Foreign domestic workers

The following diplomatic and consular officials only are eligible to apply to bring private domestic workers 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
  • 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 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 the visa application fee including relevant health and character checks, health insurance in Australia and they must pay for the domestic worker’s return travel on completion of the contract. These costs must not be deducted from the private domestic worker’s salary.

Pay slip template [Word]

Private domestic workers are entitled to at least the national minimum wage ($19.49 per hour from 1 July 2019). 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
  • 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.

DFAT will confirm the employer’s and employee’s eligibility and advise the Department of Home Affairs, as the agency responsible for processing the worker's visa application.

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

9.2.2 Department of Home Affairs approval

Processing of the domestic worker’s Temporary Work (International Relations) visa (subclass 403) 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. 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) visa (subclass 403) for travel to Australia. The visa will allow multiple entries to Australia. The first visa for a private domestic worker will be for a maximum stay of one year only for all new employment relationships. 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 a Domestic Employee identity card annually, which will be provided to the employee at a meeting with a Protocol Branch official. As part of this process, the following documents must be forwarded to Protocol Branch in advance of the meeting:

  • Employment contract under which the domestic worker is employed
  • Pay slips and bank statement/s, in the domestic worker's name, that itemise electronic payment of wages from the employer or mission for at least two pay periods*
  • Health care/insurance card or policy statement

*Where a domestic worker has recently commenced duties and cannot supply a bank statement covering two pay periods, it is acceptable to provide a bank statement showing one pay period initially, and then, within 90 days of commencement of duties, provide evidence of a second pay period.

Attendance at these annual meetings is considered paid work time, the cost of which must be borne by the employer.

9.2.5 Continuing employment

A private domestic worker must hold a valid Temporary Work (International Relations) visa (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, by note verbale, for the employee to lodge a new visa application. This will entail health and character 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 Australia at the time, or before, their employer leaves Australia. Protocol Branch (protocol.branch@dfat.gov.au) 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 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: 30 July 2019