The United Kingdom experience is an instructive lens through which to view the current U.S. migrant domestic worker special visa programs. Prior to July 1998, U.K. law was similar to current U.S. law in that migrant domestic workers accompanying employers-foreigners or U.K. citizens residing abroad-to the U.K. were not provided immigration status independent of their employers.262 Workers were required to leave the U.K. with their employers or upon termination of their employment, whichever came first.263 In the mid-1980s, U.K. NGOs began to identify this precarious immigration status as one of the main factors behind migrant domestic worker abuse and, along with the Transport and General Workers Union and its live-in migrant domestic worker members, began to lobby the U.K. government to amend immigration regulations to allow these workers to change employers in the U.K. as long as they continued to work as domestic workers.264
Largely in response to the lobbying campaign, in the early 1990s, the U.K. government imposed new requirements on the employment of migrant domestic workers by foreign employers or U.K. citizens residing abroad. Several of the requirements parallel current U.S. special visa program provisions, including requirements that information leaflets setting forth workers' rights be distributed to workers during the "entry clearance" process and that employers submit written contracts stating terms and conditions of employment.265 NGOs monitoring the living and working conditions of overseas domestic workers in the U.K., however, found that "these changes were making no difference to workers' lives" and continued lobbying for meaningful reforms.266
In July 1998, the U.K. government announced additional amendments to the relevant immigration regulations.267 These new immigration regulations require that prior to accompanying their employers to the United Kingdom, migrant domestic workers must have been employed abroad by their employers for at least one year.268 Once in the United Kingdom, however, the workers are allowed to change employers-to any other foreigner or U.K. citizen-regardless of whether they allege employer abuse, so long as they continue to work as domestic workers. 269 No limit is placed on the time within which they must find new employers, though they must do so prior to expiration of the period for which they were initially admitted. After four years as a migrant domestic worker in the United Kingdom, the worker can apply for permanent residence.270
262 Bridget Anderson, Doing the Dirty Work?: The Global Politics of Domestic Labour (London: Zed Books, 2000), p. 135.
263 Ibid., pp. 135-36.
264 Ibid., pp. 137, 140.
265 Ibid., pp. 141-42.
266 Ibid., pp. 141-143.
267 Ibid. Though announced in 1998 and effective immediately, as of late 2000, the new regulations had not yet been encoded in the immigration rules. Written responses to Human Rights Watch written interview questions, Chris Randall, solicitor at Winstanley-Burgess, London, November 28, 2000.
268 Written responses to Human Rights Watch written interview questions, Randall, November 28, 2000. The new regulations also only allow those domestic workers whose duties exceed those listed under the ILO Standard Classification of Occupations definition of domestic workers to accompany their employers to the United Kingdom. This requirement has reportedly prompted complaints from some prospective employers, however, and is under review. Ibid; E-mail from Randall to Human Rights Watch, November 30, 2000.
269 Written responses to Human Rights Watch written interview questions, Randall, November 28, 2000.