I’ve been on the hunt to track down some answers to some of the more common questions coming in related to the Nanny Series posts. If you’re new to this series, this is collection of blog posts related to the B1 Domestic Helper Visa process, which allows you to process paperwork for nannies, domestic helpers and other staff.
I’ve collected the most common questions I’ve gotten so far below but keep the questions coming. As always, I’m most certainly not a pro on this topic but always happy to help get to the answer if I can and to share from our own experience although a professional always knows best!
Q: Is the B1 Domestic Helper Visa only available for use by diplomats?
A: No, the visa process can be used by any American citizen returning back to the US temporarily, provided that they can provide the temporary nature of their return and that they fulfill all the other criteria (see part one of this series). A lot of people have assumed this is only for State Department families, but that’s not true. If you are military or other government organization, or even private or non-profit sector, you are eligible to file through this process, but again, you have to have paperwork showing that you are not returning home permanently.
Q: Can the B1 Domestic Helper Visa be used by foreign diplomats coming into the US?
A: No. If you are a non-American diplomat coming to the US, there is a separate visa process to follow. The G5 visa process allows other diplomats and employees of international organizations to bring personal staff. More information on how the G5 process works in tandem with the original employers visa status can be found on the State Department website (scroll down to “personal employees” section).
Q: Can our B1 Domestic Helper work for someone else?
A: No. The arrangements for this visa stipulate that the domestic employee only works for the person to whom the visa is aligned. This means that it would prohibit nanny shares, temp work, or any other work outside of your home in the way that it’s specified in your contractual agreement.
Q: Can we hire a domestic employee who still has time left on her her visa from another State Department employer?
A: No. Again, the B1 Domestic Helper visa is tied to an individual work arrangement with a specified employer. It’s tied to that contractual agreement. So while a family might no longer need the nanny/helper etc because they are leaving or no longer need services, that employee can not then work for another family on that same visa, and in fact, the worker is supposed to depart. They would either have to return to country and re-apply for a new one (i.e start the process over), or potentially see if they could do so from the US (although my very vague understanding so far is that they would have to at least do it through their home country in some way).
Q: Can the domestic employee begin work while they are waiting for the Employment Authorization to come through?
A: Short answer, I don’t know. I can’t seem to find someone who will give me a straight answer on this one. We were advised by others that at the time (which is close to 5 years ago since we last did initial processing), it was fine as long as you could produce all the paperwork that showed you were in process for the EAD. (btw, not sure what EAD is, part two has all the process details). The specific language from USCIS states, in relation to personal and domestic servants:
Before you may commence employment in any of the above three activities, you will need to file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.
To me, that’s pretty clear that the obligation is to file before working, but not necessarily wait until it’s received (however, this is not the case for other visas). Given that anyone on a B1 domestic helper visa is basically tied to you for employment, not to mention for room and board and other expenses, seems weird that they would have you living with an employee who is not an employee yet (and it takes up to 90 days to receive the approval and usually takes the full time).
A few immigration sites and legal sites are either vague on it or some, like this one, say you do need the authorization to arrive before work begins. Candidly, I can’t tell if that’s the case truly, or if that’s because that’s usually the case for all other visas and most people don’t seem to know about the B1 Domestic Helper visa (including USCIS if you have ever tried to call or meet with them). But I’ve never been able to find clear documentation through USCIS or other official government source that states clearly that it’s needed, just that it needs to be filed. If someone has a definitive answer to share, please do because this is definitely one area that seems to be causing a lot of consternation, and if you could share any official clarifying documentation, that would also be helpful.
That being said, once you do have authorization, be sure that you are constantly refiling for the renewals process so that you don’t have a gap in the EAD, because then the responsibility is on the individual for sure to have up to date paperwork in hand.
Q: Do I need the B1 Domestic Helper Visa if we are traveling to the US for vacation? for home leave? Do I need the visa if our helper is just helping us with the move and to get settled?
A: Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Basically, anytime you travel in with someone who will be working for you (versus just tagging along to be a tourist and potentially part of the visa waiver program), you will need to file for the visa itself. Which means, by the way, that if you are traveling from a country where domestic help is relatively inexpensive, you will have to adjust their contracts for the time in the US to fulfill the needed obligations (see part one).
The tax obligations don’t kick in until you hit the $2000 annual threshold (or I believe, $1000 in a single quarter, according to the new IRS 2016 guide). I do not know how the EAD fits into all of this, if their stay is just temporary. I have heard a rainbow of answers, and none of them convincing, so not confident giving anything definitive here. In general though, this process is meant to be used for longer-term scenarios so it can get difficult in terms of cost and paperwork if your needs are short term.
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, tax professionals, federal regulations and official state laws related to domestic employment for the most updated information and requirements.