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Overseas domestic workers

This section is up to date as of 13 February 2024, we cannot guarantee the information in this section is correct after 13 February 2024, always ensure that you check the up to date law and policy

Many of those who are trafficked into the UK or within the UK may have been brought here for the purpose of domestic work. 

Domestic workers can enter the UK, lawfully, on an Overseas Domestic Worker (ODW) visa under Appendix Overseas Domestic Worker.

Others will have come to the UK unlawfully, often entering the UK on visitor visas which their trafficker has procured for them.

In this section we look at the position of domestic workers who have applied to come to the UK lawfully as domestic workers under the Immigration Rules. 

Domestic worker routes

There have been many changes to the lawful domestic worker routes, in part due to the Home Office Office’s awareness that many of those coming under these routes have been exploited in the UK.  

Following the Rule changes brought in on 6 April 2012, a domestic worker in a private household can now remain in the UK for no more than six months, accompanying a visitor to the UK.

Those entering from 6 April 2012 cannot apply for settlement. Those who entered before that date may still be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain after completing five years in the UK in this category (and meeting the other requirements of the rules).

As an anti-trafficking measure, domestic workers lawfully resident in the UK are entitled to change employers, whether they came under the old or new provisions, but cannot usually extend their stay to do so or by doing so. 

If an ODW enters the NRM and has existing leave to remain as an overseas domestic worker at the point they receive a positive reasonable grounds decision, the Immigration (Variation of Leave) Order 2016 allows for that leave to remain to continue until 28 days after a conclusive grounds decision (this functions in the same way as paragraph 3C of the Immigration Act 1971).

Appendix Domestic Workers in a Private Household is for a domestic worker in a private household, who first entered the UK under the Rules in place before 6 April 2012 and wishes to extend their permission to stay: it is a route to settlement.

Appendix Domestic Worker who is a Victim of Modern Slavery provides a route for a victim of modern slavery who entered the UK or was last granted leave as an Overseas Domestic Worker, a Domestic Worker in a Private Household, or as a private servant in a diplomatic household, having held entry clearance in the Temporary Work – International Agreement category, or outside the Rules. The victim must have a positive CG decision. The maximum period of grant on this route is two years. It is not a route to settlement.

Where the applicant already holds permission to stay outside the Rules, having been referred into the NRM and in receipt of a positive conclusive grounds decision, permission will be granted for a period which ensures that the total, combined, duration of permission will not exceed two years. The grant will be subject to the following conditions: (a) no access to public funds; and (b) work is permitted as a domestic worker; study is permitted, subject to the ATAS condition in Appendix ATAS.

The application must be made no more than 28 days after the person receives the positive conclusive grounds decision, or 28 days after any other pending claim/application has been decided. Form FLR(IR) should be used. There is no fee or NHS charge to pay. 

If refused, the applicant can apply for administrative review and raise Articles 4 and/or 8 ECHR. Consider JR or an appeal under Article 4 or 8 ECHR. 

More information   


Kalayaan works with migrant domestic workers in the UK to improve and to help them access their rights. The immigration-rights section of their website provides detailed information on the various domestic worker routes, including information on extending visas, and changing employers.  


The Voice of Domestic Workers is a self-help grass-roots organisation made up of multi-national migrant Domestic Workers in the UK. It aims to empower migrant domestic workers to stand up and voice their opposition to any discrimination, inequality, slavery and all forms of abuse. 


This review, published in December 2015 (author James Ewins), assessed how the rules for the admission of overseas domestic workers were effective in protecting workers from abuse and exploitation, with some recommendations for changes, some of which have been implemented. 

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