Taking a Job in the U.S.? You Could Bring Foreign Nanny, Cook, or Other Workers

In order for a nonimmigrant to bring a domestic worker to the U.S. to work in your home, you'll need an employment contract, an entry visa, and a U.S. work permit.

By , Attorney Chicago-Kent College of Law
Updated 2/08/2024

Some U.S. citizens and some nonimmigrants (people in the U.S. with temporary visas) can bring their cooks, nannies, or other domestic workers to the United States on a limited-time basis, so that they can continue working in their household. This article describes the process of getting a B-1 visitor visa and work permit for a domestic worker and how to renew these documents. But first, check to see whether you and your domestic worker qualify, by reading How Visitors to the U.S. Can Bring Domestic or Personal Servants.

This article does not address the related issue of sponsoring a domestic worker for a permanent resident visa (a green card). If you are interested in that, read Can I Help My Nanny Get a Visa or Green Card?

Step One: Prepare a Detailed Contract Between You and Your Domestic Worker

If your worker qualifies for a U.S. visitor visa, start by preparing the items that will be necessary in order to prove your working relationship. The first important consideration is an employment contract.

This contract is between you (the employer) and your domestic worker (the employee). The contract must specify the:

  • job duties
  • work hours
  • compensation, and
  • several other points required under immigration rules.

The contract must explain—in detail—what your employee will do. It is not enough to simply say "the person will be serving as a nanny" or something similar. The contract should also set out the job duties; for example, will your employee need to take care of children? How many? Will your employee also cook or clean?

In addition to the job duties, the contract must clearly set out work hours. This can't just be "nine to five." Instead, explain regular work hours and work days, special exceptions, hours and days off, holidays off, and vacation and sick-time rules.

Next, the contract needs to explain the compensation your employee will receive. Compensation includes your employee's:

  • wage
  • room and board
  • travel expenses, and
  • related promises.

You must agree to pay your employee the highest of the prevailing wage (set by the U.S. Department of Labor) or the minimum wage (federal, state, or local) that applies where your employee will work.

You must also agree to provide free room and board to your employee. You are required to pay for your employee's travel to the United States and the costs for your employee to return to the home country after the employment ends. Additionally, you have to promise to pay your employee for any time that you required be spent at your home (whether your employee is performing job duties or not). Moreover, you must promise to prevent your worker from needing public assistance (commonly known as welfare and the like) in the United States.

In addition, the contract should include a few other points. You must promise to let your employee keep his or her passport. You should clearly note that your employee is free to leave your home when not working. The contract should indicate that you will give your employee at least two weeks' notice before terminating the job.

Conversely, you cannot require more than a two-week notice from your employee. This contract should be in both English and your employee's native language, and both you and your employee must sign the contract.

Step Two: Your Employee Applies for a Visa From Nearest U.S. Consulate

After signing this contract, the next step is for your employee to get a visa for U.S. entry. Your employee should start on the website for the U.S. embassy in his or her home country or country of residence. There, your employee can determine which consulate will issue the visa and also start the process.

There is an online application for a B-1 visa and an application fee (currently $185; 2024 figure). Before completing the application, be sure to read and follow any special rules or procedures that the consulate has, as indicated on the its website.

After the application is complete, your employee will receive an appointment for an interview. You might or might not be able to go to the interview with your employee (different consulates have different rules). In either case, be sure that your employee understands the rules for a domestic worker visa and has gathered the contract and other supporting documents.

These documents include:

  • proof of your employee's work experience experience
  • proof that you have previously employed the employee or other people in a similar capacity, and
  • proof of your own status as either a qualifying U.S. citizen (proof of citizenship and proof of temporary job assignment) or a qualifying nonimmigrant (copy of your nonimmigrant visa).

If the consulate is satisfied, it will give your employee a B-1 visa with which to enter the United States.

Step Three: In the U.S., Your Employee Will Need to Get a Work Permit

The visitor visa is valid only for entering the United States, not for working there. Before starting work, your employee will need to obtain a work permit, formally called an "employment authorization document" (EAD).

You cannot apply for an EAD until your employee physically enters the United States. Your employee can apply for an EAD on Form I-765 with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Your employee should indicate the employment category of "(c)(17)" on this form.

The I-765 form requires a fee, and your employee should include: a copy of the visa and I-94 document, two recent passport-style photos, a copy of your I-94 or proof of U.S. citizenship, and the same documents given to the consulate.

Be sure to do this right away, because USCIS often takes at least 90 days to respond to a request for an EAD. Check its posted average processing times for the latest. In early 2024, for example, some USCIS service centers were taking over a year to respond to I-765 applications. That would require your employee to apply for an extension of their stay at least once (on Form I-539). You might need to consult an attorney to make sure this extended period waiting for the right to work won't create legal difficulties for your employee.

How Long Can My Employee Stay in the United States?

Your employee's visa will probably be valid for up to ten years (if you are a qualifying U.S. citizen) or up to the length of your own visa (if you are a qualifying nonimmigrant). But the visa is only important when the employee crosses the border or comes to the airport or other point of entry.

After that, your worker's status (shown on the I-94 document) will say how long he or she can stay in the United States. This will probably be a period of one year after your employee enters for the first time, but be sure to check this on the I-94 document. Most I-94 documents are now available online only by visiting the I-94 website of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

How Can My Employee Stay in the United States Longer?

If you need your employee to stay longer in the United States than was originally permitted, your employee can, before the permitted period of stay ends, request an extension of status on USCIS Form I-539 and pay the appropriate fee. In addition, your employee should submit a request to extend the work permit. To do that, submit a new Form I-765, using the same employment category of "(c)(17)."

USCIS can extend your employee's status for up to six months at a time.

Your worker will also need to include all of the documents noted above for any extension requests. Be sure to file both of these documents at least three months before your employee's status and work authorization end to avoid any gaps.

Do I Need an Attorney's Help for This?

Because of the complexities of U.S. immigration law, it can make matters simpler to hire an experienced immigration attorney. The attorney can help analyze what type of U.S. visa makes sense for everyone in your household who will be traveling to the United States and assist with the paperwork.

Talk to an Immigration attorney.
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