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

Helper Visa guide for FDWs HoneyKids Asia
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, or maybe a quick Chinese New Year getaway with the kids? We are truly blessed in Singapore to have the benefit of live-in help – and come vacation time with the kids, we now know that 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. Check out our handy list of requirements for helpers of Filipino and Indonesian nationality to popular holiday destinations from Singapore (because who wants last-minute stress at Changi Airport when your helper can’t get past immigration!)…

Thailand
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.

Cambodia
Channel your inner Angelina because you’re going temple tomb-raiding in Cambodia. 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. Easy.

Myanmar
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.

Malaysia
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 more than one month).

Indonesia
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.

Vietnam
Good news for those of you with a taste for fresh Vietnamese cold rolls: Indonesia and the Philippines are on the list of visa exempt countries. Good thing too, as visas cost an eye-watering $105 per person. Save the extra cash for hand-made leather shoes. You’ll be needing our guide to Vietnam with kids then.

Japan
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 to be honest. For Indonesian helpers, if they pre-register an e-passport with the Japanese Embassy 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).

UK
Keen to escape the humidity for a more temperate stroll through 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 SG$700 (£405), you’ll want to stay a while to get full bang for your buck. Lucky it lasts six months.

Australia
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. This is a welcome change as until last year helpers had to apply for a Temporary Stay (Short Stay Specialist) visa (subclass 400) with quite onerous restrictions. If you have a Filipino helper you can apply online, but for Indonesian helpers the application must be on paper. You can opt for a three, six or twelve month visa with fees ranging from S$145 – S$1080.

USA
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 over 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…

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