The UK government has recently published its response to a review published in December 2015 on the Overseas Domestic Worker visa (ODW) route. The Government asked James Ewin to conduct a review into the visa route as part of its commitment to stop modern slavery in all its forms. The government has now published its response stating that it plans to amend the current provisions of the Immigration rules to ensure that ODW’s remain protected from abuse and can have greater certainty as to their status in the UK.
The James Ewins Review
The aim of the review was to assess how far existing arrangements for the admission of overseas domestic workers are effective in protecting workers from abuse and exploitation, and to make recommendations.
The review acknowledged that there are overseas domestic workers who are in a good relationship with their employers and upon their arrival in the UK, work and return happily with their employers in the manner the visa was designed to facilitate. The Government has estimated that many overseas domestic workers leave the UK within 15 days of arrival.
The review also made several recommendations to the Government to about ways to protect the visa route some of which include the following;
- All overseas domestic workers should be granted the right to change employer and apply for annual extensions, provided they are in work as domestic workers in a private home.
- Such extensions did not need to be indefinite and domestic workers should not have the right to apply for settlement in the UK in order to be adequately protected.
- The review further recommended that after extensions totalling up to 2 ½ years, overseas domestic workers should be required to leave the UK.
- The review also recommended that overseas domestic workers should be given a real opportunity to receive information, advice and support concerning their rights while at work in the UK.
Applicants who are unsure of how long they can have a visa to work as an ODW or what their rights are and what the UK immigrations rules are should seek legal advice beforehand.
UK Government’s Response
The government acknowledged that the visa route as it stands currently could be open to abuse and that it is working on amending and implementing additional measures in order to protect ODW’s. It went on further to state the following;
we will go further and amend the provisions of the Immigration Rules introduced in October of last year to increase the period for which an extension of stay will be granted to an ODW who has been the subject of a positive conclusive grounds decision under the National Referral Mechanism from six months to two years. This is in addition to the existing provisions under which discretionary leave may be granted to those, for example, assisting the police with their enquiries or pursuing a compensation claim.
These measures will build on the steps that the Government has already taken, under section 53 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, to ensure that ODWs who are potential victims of abuse are protected from immigration enforcement action. In the absence of reliable quantitative evidence on the prevalence of abuse, we think these measures will strike the right balance between offering ODWs every opportunity to escape abuse while ensuring that those who report such abuse have greater certainty as to their status. The Government will implement these measures through changes to the Immigration Rules at the earliest opportunity and we will keep them under review as further data on the issue emerges over time.
The Overseas Domestic Worker Route
The Overseas Domestic Worker route exists to allow employers resident overseas to be accompanied by their household staff on visits to the UK. Employers who want to bring their overseas domestic worker with them have to meet a number of requirements to show they are genuinely bringing an employee during their stay in the UK. Individuals on this visa can only stay in the UK for 6 months and cannot extend their stay, unless their initial visa was valid for less than 6 months.
The UK government aims to address the issues raised in the modern slavery bill as well as ensuring that the route is not being exploited by employers who may be forcing their Domestic employees to work for them though successive entries into the UK.
Legal Advice & Successful UK Overseas Domestic Worker Visa Applications
Our team of experienced and professionally qualified immigration solicitors and barristers will be able to guide you through the process of making a visa application to the UK step by step and limit the possibility of failure by complying with the strict letter of law.
Contact us so that we can review your case and provide you with an assessment.