I am hoping to bring my helper to Hong Kong from Singapore. What is the process to do this? Can I bring her from day one with me, when my family fly over? We will not have a permanent place to live but will live in a serviced apartment – I assume my helper can go to a boarding house?
Unfortunately you cannot bring your helper on day one… well, you can bring her, but she cannot work so it is a bit of a moot point.
You may start processing the employment paperwork once you have your Hong Kong ID number. This typically takes a week or two from arrival (go to the Immigration Department as soon as possible to start the process). You also need a Hong Kong address but a serviced apartment is fine. By the way, don’t forget to inform the Immigration Department of your new address once you move to your permanent location.
The Foreign Domestic Helper contract paperwork normally takes 4-8 weeks, and since she is new to Hong Kong it must be submitted by an agency. So in total, about two to three months from arrival before your helper can start working for you. In the interim, an alternative is to use a cleaning service and/or a nanny service.
While your helper can enter Hong Kong on a tourist visa, she may not work in any capacity on that visa. If she is caught working for you, she may be deported and you may get a fine. If she enters on a tourist visa, she would also have to leave Hong Kong and re-enter on her Foreign Domestic Helper visa.
Foreign Domestic Helpers must live in the employer’s residence. While many do live in boarding houses this is illegal and the Immigration Department periodically performs raids and gives out fines. You may hear that it is legal to have your helper in a boarding house if you have a small apartment, or that you can get exceptions to the rule but these are long-lived myths*.
*Note for nitpickers: It has been possible to get an exception in the past but that practice ended over a decade ago.