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Can domestic helpers process locally, in light of COVID-19 travel challenges?

Due to the travel challenges between the Philippines and Hong Kong, many domestic helpers and their employers are asking if it would be possible for domestic helpers to stay in Hong Kong while processing their new visas.

Normally, domestic helpers with broken or terminated contracts are required to return home while their visa is in processing.

Fair Agency has handled a few cases in recent weeks where the Hong Kong Immigration and the Philippine Overseas Labour Office (POLO) made an exemption and allowed the domestic helper to process locally. 

From these limited cases we have learned:

  • For a domestic helper to be able to process in Hong Kong, the domestic helper must first get an exemption from Hong Kong Immigration. These exemptions are given on a case-by-case basis by the Immigration Officer in charge of the case. Read announcement: HERE
  • POLO has issued an advisory permitting domestic helpers who have already received an exemption from the Immigration Department to process locally in Hong Kong. See advisory: HERE
  • While we have seen a few cases get the exemption, we have also seen rejections. Please remember that the decision is with the Immigration Officer handling the case and an exemption is not guaranteed.
  • The domestic helper had to explain the challenges in travelling from the airport in the Philippines to their hometown. 

Does processing locally mean that timelines will be the same as finished-contract processing?

No. Processing timelines for broken and terminated contracts are longer than that for domestic helpers with finished contracts. Even with permission to process locally, the process will take at least 8 weeks minimum.

Below is the normal processing timeline. If a domestic helper is allowed to process locally, she will avoid the current issues and delays caused by quarantine requirements, limited travel options, and movement restrictions in the Philippines. However, the first two steps will remain the same and so the timeline will still be 8 weeks minimum.

Estimated processing time: Direct Hire (first-time workers, broken or terminated contracts)
Contract notarization by domestic helper's home country Consulate2 weeks
HK Immigration Department visa processing6 weeks
Overseas employment clearance in The Philippines2 week
TOTAL10 weeks

How can I get an exemption?

When submitting to the Hong Kong Immigration Department, the domestic helper should prepare a letter to request to be able to process locally and supporting documents. This can include:

  • An explanation that the current COVID-19 restrictions and measures will mean that she will not be able to report to work at the necessary time. 
  • Show that there are limited travel options to her hometown. This could be a screenshot of a flight search showing the limited/expensive flights available. There may also be information about limited transportation from the airport to her hometown.

We emphasize that we have only seen this for a very limited number of cases. The decision for exemption will be granted on a case-by-case basis by the Immigration officer handling your case. The process will still be, at minimum, 8 weeks.


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Fair Employment Agency is a nonprofit agency. We put a lot of work into producing high quality, accurate and updated information resources because when employers and domestic helpers are informed, they are empowered to make good choices. If you found this article helpful, please consider donating through Fair Employment Foundation (tax-deductable for amounts over HK$100). Click HERE for donation instructions.

Last updated on July 21st, 2020