One of the requests I’ve been getting to the blog quite a bit is to discuss more on how we have been able to travel with our nanny, and how others can replicate the process. When we joined the Foreign Service, I really had no idea that this was an option – although candidly, when we joined I was far from the “let’s have children” phase of my life, so I’m not sure the information would have really sunk in anyway.
As it turns out, there isn’t exactly a lot of information out there on it, although there is quite a bit of curiosity. Our nanny is a wonderful lady who’s been with us since my first was two months old, and she’s now been at three posts with us and through the addition of another little one. I don’t joke when I say that we couldn’t have done it without her. We both travel a lot in our jobs, and without surrounding family or immediate friends, she makes it possible to keep some consistency and calmness in our home, and we are so lucky to have found her. I realize many will consider this a luxury, but we found that for our own needs, it quickly became a necessity and we budget accordingly to make this happen, prioritizing it above other things when needed.
Traveling and living with a nanny might not be for everyone – that’s a decision that each family will have to feel out for themselves as there are lots of considerations. But I have compiled our own experience into a three part series that I hope will be helpful to others, especially since when we started on this path there was nearly no guidance provided. There’s a lot of information out there on how to get the visa, but very little in terms of how to process everything once you get across the Atlantic and we spent a many, many frustrated hours running between multiple government agencies in DC just trying to file all the papers. It really shouldn’t have to be so hard to do the right thing, right?
I’ll post one of these every week, but the three parts will be:
- Part One: Applying for the B1 Domestic Worker Visa
- Part Two: Stateside Processing for a B1 Domestic Worker
- Part Three: Making a Smooth Transition for a B1 Domestic Worker Upon Arrival
Again, I stress that these posts are just meant to give a little insight based on our own experiences and are not meant to be legal guidance or definitive words. The thing about this process is that once you get deeper into it, since there is no one single place to get information, you’ll probably receive some conflicting guidance without a clear place to go to for the “right” answer. Also, I know that people will have varied experiences, both as employers and employees, and if you have constructive advice from your own experience, please add those in the comments below.
So with that, first step – let’s get into actually applying for a visa!
Part One: Applying for a B1 Domestic Worker Visa
If you’ve decided that you’d like to travel with your nanny, the visa you will need in advance is called the B1 Domestic Worker Visa (or domestic helper or domestic employee…). As much as you may or may not like to say “domestic worker” (since really, it’s not a phrase our generation throws around that often), it’s important to be clear that this is the wisa you need. A B1 visa, without adding “domestic worker”, is actually just a tourist visa, and not at all what you need (and if that’s what you end up with, the person who came to work for you won’t actually be able to work).
As with all things visa related, the best source of information for all questions is anyone in your Consulate section, and to start early. How long things take really do depend on the post, but as with all things paperwork, the earlier you start, the less stressed you will be before departure. If you have a good working relationship with your Consular section, then securing the visa is usually the smoothest part of the whole process.
There are however, some guidelines that both you and the worker will have to fulfill. And I know that for most of those concerned, this will be in the context of nanny; however, please note that you can use this visa for multiple sorts of domestic help such as caretaker for elderly or sick, chef, chauffeur, gardeners, etc. So if for example, you have someone helping you with an older parent or something along those lines, you could also use this process. Also, this process is not limited to diplomats – if you are normally an expat posted abroad but returning to the US for a short assignment, you could also use this process. If you are not American however, and are a foreign diplomat or other foreign expat, this process would not apply to you and you would need to do something like an A3 or G5 visa, depending on your circumstances.
Generally, on the Employer’s side, there are a couple of big things you will have to show in addition to all the standard paperwork. First, you’ll need to prove that you are returning to the US temporarily – if you are returning stateside permanently or retiring, this process will no longer apply. To show a temporary stay, you could use a copy of orders accompanied with a clarification letter of when you expect to depart the US for your next post.
The next big element that you will have to provide is the working contract, which needs to be submitted as part of the visa process. This means you’ll have to start thinking through the hours and set up, have an idea of wages and start to think through the benefits package you will provide. Several big stipulations you’ll need to consider:
- You will need to provide room and board either with you or at an alternate arrangement (for example, renting out a studio apartment for them – however, note that for most states, wage requirements differ if an employee is live in or live out when it comes to overtime)
- You will have to provide transportation to and from the US to their home country, and it’s generally accepted that you do that once a year though the requirement is only at the start/end
- You will have to guarantee in the contract that they will not work elsewhere outside of your employ
- You might have to show that you have the ability to pay expected wages and expenses with financial documentation
For the employee, you’ll have to show that :
- They have been in your employ for at least six months doing their expected job. In some cases, if the person had not been there six months but close to six months, you could also show that you had hired others in the same capacity before, though this will depend on the post.
- They will have to show that they have done the job in question for at least a year as a whole, even if in the employ of others (and you might have to get a statement from the other employer(s)).
- They will have to show that they have a home/residence that they don’t plan on leaving (i.e. they have every intention of returning back home at the end of the working term)
- NB – the employee can not be related to you
In terms of the contract itself, there is some varying guidance depending on whether you consult an official source from the US government page, or whether you consult a page from companies that specialize in arranging visas and immigration expediting (NB – always cross check their guidance with what is required at a state by state and federal level, there are sometimes things that are flat out wrong, or wrong for individual states on those pages). When in doubt, go with the official word. Not every embassy has a webpage with guidance but with the locations that do more volume in this type of visa, you’ll find that they have pages on how to prepare for the visa application – a few notable ones are:
- US Embassy LIMA (the required documentation lists and additional documentation lists are also good – it has good guidance on key contract provisions, how to calculate prevailing wages, direction for where to go for state requirements etc)
- US Embassy MEXICO CITY (good for links to various sources for information intended for domestic workers to be familiar with their rights and protections while in the US – good for you to print and prepare a file of these for your employee)
- US Embassy MANILA (guidance on what needs to be done specifically in Manila in advance of the interview and general advice for your employer to accompany you to the interview – be familiar with your own post’s requirements for the visa process)
- US Travel Docs (general guidance on this visa based on the residency/status of employer)
There is a lot of varying guidance on whether a statement about health insurance needs to be provided as part of the application process. For example, this lawyer in Bangkok says you do for Thai maids/nannies. The embassy in Venezuela does require that you show that you will provide insurance or commit to paying expenses if you don’t. And in Qatar, you need to specify in the contract as part of the visa process that you won’t deduct any cost for medical care or medical insurance coverage from the domestic’s earnings.
However, many embassies don’t outline any medical insurance requirements in their B1 Domestic Worker visa process at all. There does not seem to be a unified, single policy statement on it (or at least, I haven’t found one) in terms of what you as an employer needs to provide; however, as part of the ACA the employee needs to have something in place in terms of insurance (or pay a tax penalty – see Part Two of this series for health insurance information). Bottom line though, check with your local consular section to see if they have a requirement for the visa, and also realize that regardless of the requirement, a statement confirming that the nanny will have medical coverage or some kind and/or expense guarantees by you will no doubt make things easier across the board.
Different posts have different recommendations on obtaining the visa but generally speaking, as the employer and the citizen you’ll have to take the lead on check, check, and double checking to make sure all the paperwork is in order. Make a checklist for yourself, schedule time to sit down with the employee in advance to help with paperwork if needed, be prepared to print out copies on your own printer of documents, be prepared to help with drafts and such…Basically, this is the start of many processes where you might have to be the one to take the lead. Before the interview, make sure you have some time to sit down with the employee so that they are clear on where the papers are and what’s on them and let them know what’s coming in terms of process. There is a lot of paperwork here and it can be easy to get overwhelmed. Also, for many people, a visa interview can be a bit nerve-wracking, though it needn’t have to be. A little patience and kindness will go a long way – it is, after all, the start of a journey.
Next week we’ll cover what to do once you cross the Atlantic! (or Pacific…or any other border into the United States!)
Author’s Note: Please be advised that this series is meant to shed some light on the process of bringing a domestic helper back with you from post or other foreign assignment as part of the B1 Domestic Worker Visa program. This is not official, legal, or immigration guidance. As always, please check with your local consular section, federal regulations and official state laws related to domestic employment for the most updated information and requirements.