Holiday visa guide for helpers in Singapore: How to take your FDW on vacation

visas for helpers
Planning a holiday from Singapore and want to bring your helper abroad? Check what visas FDWs need to travel with you

Planning a family holiday from Singapore? We are truly blessed in Singapore to have the benefit of live-in help – and, come vacation time with the kids, we know their support is priceless – so if you’re thinking about bringing your live-in helper along too, you’re going to need to know the nitty-gritty details on how to get her a visa. Thankfully, applying for visas for your foreign domestic worker (FDW) is relatively simple, and we’ve done the homework for you. Read on for our handy list of requirements for helpers of Filipino and Indonesian nationality to popular holiday destinations from Singapore. Plan well in advance (at least a month for visa processing, preferably when you book tickets) because who wants last-minute stress at Changi Airport when your helper can’t get past immigration!


Dreaming of a Thai massage poolside while your kiddos are happily building sandcastles with your helper? Thanks to the Thai embassy visa exemption (31 Dec 2016), your Indonesian or Filipino helper can enter Thailand for up to 30 days without a visa (but only twice per year mind you). Phuket here we come!

Sri Lanka

Sunny Sri Lanka is the place to go for sea, city, safari, surf and sand. Apply online for an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) for a Short Visit Visa (for 30 days) for your family and your helper. No need to faff about with passport copies, documents or photographs for the application; just flash your passport, ETA Approval Notice, return air ticket and proof of sufficient funds on arrival to be ushered through immigration.


Channel your inner Angelina because you’re going temple tomb-raiding in Cambodia! To make things easy breezy, your Indonesian or Filipino right-hand woman is from the list of visa exempt countries. And in more good news, you can now apply online for visas for the rest of the family. Job done.


Mad about meandering off the beaten track in Myanmar? We have it from the mouths of consular officials that you don’t need to stress about a visa for your Indonesian or Filipino helper if you stay for less than 14 days. That’s more than enough time to have a crack at Yangon and its surrounding sights (we went for 5 nights).

New Zealand

Heading to the land of The Lord of the Rings with your precious? Helpers may enter New Zealand on a Specific Purpose Work Visa. Make sure to leave plenty of lead time (at least 20–25 working days) and get your documentation sorted – including evidence of return tickets, accommodation, bank funds and passport copies of all members of the family travelling together. It’s on the expensive side ($300+), so probably not worth it for a long weekend.


Pack your bags and nip across the Sing-Malay border with your fam and your helper without a worry. There is no need for a visa for your helper to enter Malaysia (no visa is required for nationals of ASEAN countries except if they stay for more than one month).


Thinking a spot of shopping in Seminyak is more your speed? Or a lazy getaway to Telunas Island perhaps? Indonesian nationals need not process any paperwork to enter their home country. Tick! And, as luck would have it, Filipinos do not require a visa for a short visit (under 30 days). Better start brushing up on your Bahasa for your weekend hopping around the Flores islands….

Hong Kong

Fancy a frolic in the New York of the Far East? The Hong Kong Immigration Department permits visa-free stays of 30 days for Indonesian passport holders and 14 days for Filipino nationals. Dim sum, here we come. You’ll be needing our guide to Hong Kong with kids then.


Good news for those of you with a taste for fresh Vietnamese food: Indonesia and the Philippines are currently on the list of visa-exempt countries, meaning you can use the cash you save for some handmade leather shoes. Don’t forget to read our guide to Vietnam with kids before you head off.


Imagining imbibing with sake, sans kids? You can score a three-month Japanese visa for your Filipino helper with a bit of prior preparation. Fair warning: the supporting documents can be a bit of a pain. For Indonesian helpers, they can enjoy a visa-free stay of 15 days (if not, they’ll need to apply for the same three-month temporary visit visa).


Keen to escape the humidity for a more temperate stroll through London’s Hyde Park? If your helper has worked for you for at least one year, they are eligible for a visa to enter the UK. Domestic Workers in a Private Household visas take three weeks to process, and can be applied for up to three months before you’re ready to jet off. At a pricey S$891 (£516, as of 2019), you’ll want to stay a while to get full bang for your buck. Lucky it lasts six months.


Looking for some leisure time Down Under? The theme parks on the Gold Coast are epic! The Australian High Commission will issue your helper a subclass 600 Visitor (Tourist or Business Visitor stream) visa. You can opt for a three-, six- or 12-month visa with fees starting from S$131 (AUD140). Fair warning: plan well in advance as processing time can take from 16 to 26 days! Although, if you’re desperate, you can fast track your visa for a hefty sum of AUD1000.


You’ll want your helper along if only to survive the 24+ hour trek to the USA. US immigration isn’t known for its open-door policy, so the application process for a Domestic Employee visa for your FDW is like an obstacle course. You’ll need to confirm they’ve worked for you for more than a year. They’ll have to apply online and provide supporting docs. Next stage is an interview at the US embassy, where your helper will have to reassure the powers that be that they won’t go M.I.A. or overstay the visa. Those still standing at the end of it all will be rewarded with a six-month visa. Hooray!

Other considerations

So now you’re armed with all the info you need for your helper to tag along on holidays. It’s also a good idea to mull over the wider implications involved. First of all, ask her if she wants to come abroad. She may be reluctant to leave her familiar world and support network in Singapore, but not know how to broach the issue with you. Even if she agrees to go, she may suffer some culture shock on arrival and adopt a different attitude.

Next, think about where she will sleep. It may be as easy as booking an extra adjoining room in your hotel. If, however, you’re heading home, steel yourself for a cringe-worthy conversation with your parents about where she’ll bed down in their house. Also be prepared for a bit of backlash from relatives and friends. Having a FDW is not part of the Western psyche, with some thinking it’s tantamount to slavery on one end of the scale, and you showing off at the other. Food for thought…

Last of all, if your helper can’t come with you, don’t fret! It’s totally possible to fly solo with kids and, if he wants to have a good holiday, the husband better pitch in, too!

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