Procedures and costs of hiring a domestic helper: Agency vs. direct hire

This image shows a foreign domestic helper sanitizing the table.

A number of families in Hong Kong hire their helper through a foreign domestic helper agency. That said, these intermediaries can charge a hefty fee of around HKD $10,000 and more. As the market for these employment agencies expands, and information becomes even more transparent, a new option opens up. Direct hire is a good way to save up on commission fees if you have the time to spare. Today at Kwiksure, we'll compare the procedures and costs of hiring a domestic helper directly and through an agency.

Direct hire vs. domestic helper agency: pros and cons 

Hiring options



Direct hire

  • Save up on commission fees
  • No limit on the time and number of interviews
  • Free to choose your desired domestic helper insurance 
  • Must take care of the entire application process yourself
  • Choosing the right foreign domestic helper can be a lengthy process, and you might end up in a cycle of never-ending interviews 
  • In the case of labor disputes, employers have nowhere to turn to for help

Hiring through a domestic helper agency 

  • Access to a convenient and time-saving one-stop service that takes care of everything from the immigration procedures at the consulate and Immigration Department, arranging medical examinations to booking flight tickets to Hong Kong, and more
  • Familiar with the local market and is more experienced in selecting foreign domestic helpers. For example, some problematic workers have already been blacklisted
  • May be able to help mediate any conflicts between the employer and their helper 
  • Fees tend to be a lot more expensive than direct hire 
  • Limited time and number of interviews
  • Limited foreign domestic helper insurance
  • In the event of a labor dispute, the agency might just patronize you or ask you to hire a new helper at a discount, which is of little help.

Helpers who have completed their employment contracts are especially popular 

Helpers who have completed a two-year contract are in high demand since they're already familiar with the environment and the locals' living habits. In other words, employers no longer have to train them when it comes to skills like completing house chores, and more. 

Besides, these helpers are already in Hong Kong and available for in-person interviews. You can more aptly evaluate whether a helper is right for you face-to-face. 

The hiring process for experienced helpers

Good news: this process is relatively simple. You only need to submit the employment contract to the relevant consulate for notarization. We will elaborate more later in the section "Direct hire procedures". Consider using an employment agency's document processing service if you don't feel like sorting out all the paperwork yourself. It costs about HKD $1,800 and takes anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks.

Where can you find experienced helpers who have completed their contracts?

Nowadays, there are matchmaking mobile apps out there, such as HelperLibrary, MamaHelpers, HelperChoice, with which you can contact any desired candidates and arrange for an interview. Be reminded that a number of apps require monthly payment or you can only view the personal information of five helpers with HKD $100. 

Online platforms, such as Facebook and its foreign domestic helper hiring groups, are also great places to check out. There are also helpers who post advertisements on domestic helper websites, or you can do so yourself so that workers who have finished their contract can reach out to you.

Helpers who have completed their contract vs. helpers who broke their contract 

Most mistakenly believe that helpers who have completed their contracts must be better than those who haven't. However, this isn't always true. It may be that a helper decided to leave the job herself. Alternatively, her employer may have broken the contract due to family reasons. For instance, there may have been a death in the family, a child went to study abroad, the family decided to immigrate, a breadwinner in the family suddenly lost their job, etc. 

You can always ask about the reasons behind their termination during the interview so that you are better aware.

Notice period before contract ends 

Note that all helpers must go through the same process, whether it is someone who has completed their contract or broken the contract. It takes about four weeks (i.e. the length of the notice period) to wrap up any employment contract.

So, domestic helpers may be looking for a new job two to three months in advance. If you are urgently looking to hire a foreign domestic worker, you should take this into consideration.

Things to pay attention to when arranging an interview with a helper

Direct hire comes with an advantage: the interview time is determined by both parties. This means, unlike domestic helper agencies, which only allow around 5-10 minutes of interview time, you'll get to chat longer with the helper. You can gauge her personality, expectations, and demands. If you're only listening to the candidate's one-sided introduction through interviews, you may not be able to evaluate their work performance fully . 

Through their passports, employers can also check whether the helpers' claims of having stayed and worked in Hong Kong are true. Consider contacting their former employers if you wish to double-check.

Process for directly hiring helpers who have completed a contract 

To hire Filipino helpers: Complete steps 1-8.

To hire Indonesian helpers: Complete steps 1-2, then skip ahead to step 6 before completing steps 3-5. 

  1. Identify suitable candidates and arrange for an interview with them.
  2. The employer or the domestic helper heads to the Immigration Department in person to obtain four copies of the Employment Contract for a Domestic Helper Recruited from Outside Hong Kong form (ID407 sample copy). 
  3. Book an appointment online at the Immigration Department in Wan Chai (change of employer in Hong Kong).
  4. Prepare all of the required documents and apply for a work visa at the Immigration Department (it takes 4 to 6 weeks for approval).
  5. After receiving the ID 522 appointment notification letter issued by the Immigration Department, inform your helper and, together, head to the Immigration Department to go through the formalities. If she fails to go there the day of, you will need the following documents: 
  • The original copy of her passport and; 
  • An authorization letter 

When a new visa has been issued, the helper must go to the immigration office in person to confirm their identity.

  1. The employer or domestic helper should bring the required documents for the employment contract to be notarized at the relevant consulate. After one week, receive four copies of the notarized original employment contract (ID407) and submit them to the Immigration Department. 

(We recommend going to the Philippine consulate in Hong Kong on weekdays. As for the Indonesia consulate, it only opens on weekdays.)

  1. Use "Smart Renewal" to apply online for a deferral of home leave (up to one year from the end of the current contract) for your new helper at the Immigration Department website. 
  2. Purchase domestic helper insurance.

Required documents for work visa application at the Immigration Department

  • Visa/Extension of Stay Application Formfor Domestic Helpers Hired from Abroad (ID988A to be filled out by your new helper, and can be downloaded and printed off the Internet)
  • Application for Employment of Domestic Helper from Abroad (ID988B, filled out by the employer, can be downloaded and printed on the Internet)
  • An original copy of the new standard employment contract (ID407, which must be obtained from the Immigration Department and signed by the employer, helper, and witness)
  • Undertaking of Employer letter - this is a new requirement for foreign domestic helpers visa application during the COVID-19 pandemic)
  • Original and copy of your new helper's travel documents
  • Copy of the helper's Hong Kong Identity Card (if applicable)
  • Copy of your Hong Kong permanent identity card/Hong Kong identity card/passport
  • Proof of your address (copy)
  • Proof of your financial status. It can be any one of the following: 
  • A copy of your bank statement in the past three months to prove that your salary is at least HKD $15,000 
  • A copy of your bank statement showing your total assets for the last six months reaching at least HKD $350,000
  • A copy of your tax bill, which shows that your income for the previous year is at least HKD $180,000 
  • Resignation letter issued to the helper by her current employer, which specifies the expiry/termination date of the contract 

Required documents for employment contract notarization

Consulate of the Philippines

  • OFW Information Sheet
  • Copy of your Hong Kong Identity Card
  • Copy of your new helper's Hong Kong Identity Card 
  • Copy of the helper's passport (i.e. the page with her photo and signature)
  • Copy of her latest work visa
  • Original copy of the current employment contract
  • Three copies of the new standard employment contract (the original copy has been submitted to the Immigration Department)

Consulate General of the Philippines in Hong Kong

Address: 14th Floor, Unity Center, 95 Queensway, Admiralty

Office hours: Sunday to Thursday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm (Closed on Friday and Saturday)

Phone: 2823-8501/9155 4023

Consulate of Indonesia

  • Medical report
  • Four copies of the new standard employment contract (ID407)
  • Original copy of the current employment contract
  • Original travel document of your Indonesian domestic helper
  • Copy of travel document of helper
  • Copy of your Hong Kong Identity Card
  • Copy of your proof of financial standing (if required)
  • Copy of your proof of address (if required)

Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia in Hong Kong

Address: Consular Section, 4th Floor, No. 6-8, 127-129 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

Office hours: Monday to Friday 9:30 am to 4:30 pm (Closed on Saturday and Sunday)

Phone: 3651 0200

Costs comparison: Direct hire vs. hiring through a helper employment agency 

Fees for each individual item 

Direct hire costs

Hiring through an agency costs

Domestic helper agency fees

Fees for finding a local helper




Overseas Workers Welfare Administration membership fees

HKD $196 (to be paid at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office) 

Not applicable 

Verification fee

$200 (not required for the time being during the epidemic) 

***strike through

Not applicable

Contract notarization fee

HKD $80

HKD $388

Immigration visa fee

HKD $230

HKD $230

Medical examination fee

Not applicable

HKD $800

Total expense

Around HKD $500

Around HKD $1,400

Around HKD $10,000 (depends on your plan)

Continue reading: How much does it cost to hire a domestic helper?

COVID-19 and its impact on hiring domestic helpers

With the COVID-19 pandemic still at large, a number of helpers are affected by the travel restrictions and have trouble entering Hong Kong. That's why employers can only hire domestic helpers who are already here and have completed their contract. 

The helpers' salaries have been inflated, as they are high in demand but low in supply. Also, they come with additional requests, such as a private room or comprehensive insurance.

In this case, your willingness to secure a solid domestic helper insurance plan for your future helper will help you find the right one fast. Rather than searching for an insurance plan yourself, Kwiksure is here to help you compare plans for free from top insurers. 

Besides domestic helper insurance, Kwiksure also provides car insurance (third-party and comprehensive), motorcycle insurance, Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme (VHIS), and many more. Get a free quote now with our online quotation tool! For a free plan comparison and impartial advice, contact our team of insurance advisors today.

The above content is for reference only. The coverage, compensation method, compensation amount, and premiums of individual insurance plans are subject to the terms of individual insurance policies. Kwiksure will not be responsible for the accuracy and timeliness of any part of the above information.

The above information is for reference only. Kwiksure takes no responsibility for the accuracy and timeliness of the information. For the coverage, mode of compensation, benefit limit and premium levels of any specific insurance plan, please refer to the relevant policy terms.