How to bring your own domestic help in Singapore without going through an employment agency Part 1

Unlike in western countries where only well-to-do families can afford domestic help, in the Philippines, it’s pretty common for households to have domestic helpers or maids.  They are the ones who help out with household chores and taking care of children.  Some of whom have been with the families they serve for ages that they are already considered part of the family.

Before going on to detailing the steps on getting a maid, I’d like to emphasize that domestic help or maids are human beings.  I used maid, domestic help, and helper interchangeably as I believe that neither of those words should have a derogatory connotation.   They are not slaves and they should be treated with respect as any other person doing decent work.

First you need to be aware of implications of having a maid in Singapore.  The most important thing to note is that they are much more expensive to maintain compared to having them in the Philippines.  On top of their salary, which is twice to 3 times, even 4 times more than the average salary in the Philippines, you need to take out an insurance for them, place a security bond with the Ministry of Manpower (MoM) and pay a monthly levy of S$265 to the Singapore government.  I’d put the additional cost of a maid to about S$700/month with her salary and the levy, not including the increase in utility bills and food consumption for having another person living with you.  The employer’s guidelines from the MoM website is very informative for first time employers.

Then make sure the person you’re bringing in complies with all the requirements:

  • Employers cannot apply for a Work Permit (WP) for a foreigner who is on a social visit such as on holiday or short term visit to Singapore. In other words she must not be in Singapore while her permit is being processed.
  • If you are applying for a WP for a FDW who has never worked in Singapore before, she must be 23 years of age or above and below 50 years old at the time of the WP application.
  • If the FDW has previously worked in Singapore, she must be aged 18 or above, and below 50 years at the time of the WP application.
  • If you are applying for a WP for a FDW who has never worked in Singapore before she must have a minimum of 8 years of formal education and possess the necessary educational certificates as documentary proof of her education.

The easy way to bring your own maid is to hire an agency to do it for you.  It will cost you around S$700 exclusive of airfare.  But if you like to save a couple hundred bucks, then you can bring her in on your own like what I did.

  • First, register for a Singpass.  The Singpass is very useful as it allows you to transact with different government agencies online.  Your password will be sent via postal mail so this takes about 2 days.
  • Take the Employer’s Orientation Programme for first time employers.  There’s the classroom type which costs S$20.   But since both venues are very far away from my place, I chose to take the online EOP for S$30.  You get the result immediately after completion. (Note:  The first time I applied for our FDW, my application was rejected.  The reasons were not stated but I figured it was probably because I didn’t take the EOP before applying.  That’s S$10 bucks down the drain.)
  • Now with your Singpass, you’ll be able to apply for the work permit online.   You will be notified of the result of your application the next day. (Cost: S$10)
  • When your application is approved, you need to retrieve the In Principle Approval Letter from work permit online to get your FDW’s work permit number and SB Transmission No.
  • You may now contact an insurance provider to take out the required Medical insurance of at least S$15000 coverage and Personal Accident insurance with a coverage of at least S$40000.  For this part, I availed the MI3E insurace from NTUC Income for a premium of S$240+ GST for 26 months.  The insurer will then transmit the details of the policy to MoM.  MoM will then send to you the green acknowledgement letter by post.  You can also check wponline if
  • Once you receive the green acknowledgement letter, you may now bring your FDW over to Singapore.  Make sure she has a copy of the In Principle Approval Letter with her which she will present to the Singapore Immigration for clearance.  (To be on the safe side, make sure too that Immigration officials in the Philippines don’t see this letter otherwise she may not be allowed to exit the Philippines especially if she hasn’t gone thru POEA and OWWA which you can do later.)
  • You may now also schedule your FDW to take the Entry Test (S$5) which she needs to pass.   She also needs to attend a Safety Awareness Course (S$20).   She needs to take both of these within 3 days after her arrival.  It’s best to book her schedule with National Safety Council of Singapore prior to her arrival.

Up to this point, I was able to do everything from the comfort of my own home.  All I needed was a computer, internet connection, and a phone.

The next steps will be continued in Part 2 of this entry.

96 thoughts on “How to bring your own domestic help in Singapore without going through an employment agency Part 1”

  1. Hi I need a help in direct hiring my old philipino helper, she is in philipines now n she wants to come back without agency so that she can save on loan amount. Need help as she said the immigration in philipines is very strict and she can’t come like that. Can anyone help me. My email I’d is

  2. Hi,
    i was successfully able to bring my maid in on April 2012. I did thru the steps from this website but i got my husband to pick her up from Manila airport and he had to say that she is a friend coming in to stay with us for a while. I realize later that i could have produced a letter to Phil embassy stating that she is a friend who wants to visit us and save my husband the 2 way trip. The only problem was that the visa is only valid for a certain period, i think a month and we had a rtn ticet for her for 3 months which caused a issue with the discrepancies so they had to go for a separate interview. Fortunately my helper was switched on and was able to answer very wit fully saying she is visiting me in SG. She also had to give my name and the embassy ran it thru their database to see if my name came up. We were very lucky as if not, her exit from Phil wld have been rejected & the ticket money would have been a waste.
    Hope this helps.

  3. Hi,

    I am planning to bring my cousin over to take care of my 1 month old baby. I reviewed the article below and gone through the WP Online application (but did not submit it yet). I understand that the employer cannot be related to the helper so I thought of making my husband as the employer. We are both S Pass Holders though and I am wondering if this will be an issue in getting a DH. Also, I am wondering about the security bond of $5,000 SGD as there is no mention of it in the article.


  4. How do i go about bringin my maid in from phillipines? without the POEA and etc, agencys are quoting me $1200. if i have to pay this amount, i guess we dont have to go one big round but rather settle it with a local agency :( PLEase help. am also afraid if the phil dont let my maid pass through.

  5. I have been trying to find out how to go about doing all the paperwork to get my potential Filipino helper (recommended by my Filipino neighbour)…And it all ended up with the Phil embassy replying that if helper is in Philippines, an agency MUST be involved. Since we don’t have contacts to any Philippines agency, we need to go through a Singapore agency. (Which I really want to avoid doing).

    It appears to me that there is a way to get around it, that is to get the helper here first in Singapore (but not without first applying for her IPA from MOM right?) then do the rest of the paperwork on the Philippine side here at the Embassy. Am I right to say that?

    SSK, do you think you can advice me more on that, since you did it quite recent?

    My potential helper used to work here in Singapore for another family for 5 years, then she returned home and is now in Philippines.

    Appreciate any help and advice on this matter.

  6. Hi,

    Here’s a simple summary of the procedure in directly hiring domestic workers from the Philippines:

    1. Apply for IPA (In-Principle Approval) with MOM. Go to MOM website

    2. After 2 days, print the IPA.

    3. Buy the insurance package from NTUC – M13E includes the basic insurance and bond that meets the MOM requirement. Buy the Philippine Bond of 7000 from NTUC. Here is the telephone number of NTUC – 66455098. Look for Carmen.

    4. Apply for the work permit with MOM after you have secured the insurance and bond package.

    4. Bring the following documents to the Philippines Embassy for the contract approval:

    1. 2 copies of Original Standard Employment Contact (can be downloaded from our website/also available at the embassy) – All pages of the contract should be signed by the employer and the worker
    2. 2 copies of Original Undertaking of an Employer (can be downloaded from our website/also available at the embassy)
    3. 1 copy of Employer IC
    4. original copy of $7,000 Performance Bond from a reputable Insurance company
    5. IPA copy and insurance

    5. Send the contract to the domestic worker in the Philippines. She will need the contract and IPA to go to POEA.

  7. Hi,
    My FDW is in Singapore now and I choose to invite her as a tourist and now I want to apply her a work permit . I don’t what are the process do i need to send her back in the Philippines to apply her a permit?

    Can you state step by step how to do it?
    I want to do it by myself without going through the agency.

    Please I need an advise for this.

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  8. Hi plz do help me. I am planning to employ a phillipine maid that was recommended by my friend’s helper. Just finished all the paper works in Singapore. So what is my next step? I also scared that she might face trouble living Philippines (Philippines airport ) what are the documents she needed for her to show to airport officer. Or she need to pretend as tourist or I need to buy her a round-trip air fair? Plz need advice asap. . Thank you

  9. You need get her a return ticket or she wont get past immigration. The return date must be within 30 days after she arrives in Singapore. You can cancel the ticket before the return flight.

    Please make sure though that she registers with OWWA at the Philippine embassy here when her papers are settled.

  10. Au-pair agency is contacting you on a job opportunity to work has a domestic staff i.e housemaid,Nanny,Driver,Gardener.. with a favorable weekly payment of 1500 GBP pounds with a good accommodation. If you are interested forward to us: Full name, Phone Numbers,age,sex, Country of residence.

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  11. Mr Tsiken, how about the contract? Where did you get a template of the employment contract between yourself and the maid?

  12. Hi Ms tsiken,

    im planning to bring my our chosen maid here on first week of april.

    when should i start applying the online pass for her?
    how long is the validity of the application
    thank you.

  13. hi, thanks for the very helpful info. need your advice/thoughts as well on how to rehire a previous FDW who didnt finished contract & we needed to send back bcoz she got pregnant after home leave. we love her like family & we want her back. we currently have one now but not at par. it will also help if you can share thoughts/advice on how to transfer maids.

    thank you.

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  18. hi,
    can you give me ur number i need to contact you directly,

    i have one maid in philipines, she worked in middle east for 3 years and now wish to come to singapore for work,

    in this case she again needs to go through OWWA, OEC and POEA,

    do you know any agency in philipines which does all this things .. in your case how you did it…


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  22. Hi Ms. Tsiken,

    Is this still possible to get my old helper to Singapore by my self. I have obtained IPA and can secure the insurance. I hv written to OWWA for their membership details. I can go ahead and obtain a tourist visa and a return ticket for her. Will that work to get her over to Singapore without hassle.

  23. Hi Thomas, Yeah, it is still possible to get your helper by yourself given you and her comply with all the requirements. I am currently getting a new helper myself and I’m glad I wrote this guide before as I keep going back to it for reference and it’s still more or less valid. So far I haven’t encountered any hassle yet. Though getting through Philippine immigration can sometimes be tricky.
    As for the OWWA membership, I think you will need to go through the agency to draft a contract for you and your helper because there’s a rule that for FDW’s working for less than 2 years, the contract has to come from an agency. You can do this after she gets her work permit.

  24. Hi Ms. Tsiken,

    I just read your blog and noticed your conversation with Thomas. I myself is about to get one too and is considering bring my own as well (Direct Hiring). I’m just wondering if you we’re able to get your new FDW?

  25. Hi JL, yeah I was successfully able to get a work pass for our helper. I would say my experience this time is more positive than the first one. I’m glad I wrote this entry because it still served as a good guide for me and complemented by the MoE website, it was pretty straightforward.

  26. Which agent you use to draft the contract and how much you pay for it? Can you recommend ?

    I ask my agent to bring my old maid back and they are charging the full cost for bringing a new maid in plus maid loan. Thats too much

  27. Hi Ms. Tsiken,
    i have already settled my helpers WP, i just want to know if i can straight away request her OWWA at the embassy? Can you advise the steps? is it simply as requesting an OWWA or are there more documents needed? Looking forward for your response.

  28. Hi Joan, the requirements you will find here: The thing to take note of is that if you processed her papers by yourself without the use of agency, you will still need to go to an agency to get a validated contract if she’s working in Singapore for less than 2 years before you go for OWWA. I got my contract from Lucky Plaza for SGD 2xx. I suppose you pay more if you want the agency to process the OWWA application itself. In my case, I just wanted the validated contract.

  29. Hi Ms Tsiken,
    I want to direct employ a domestic helper who is now working in Singapore. Her employer do not want to release her for transfer and rather send her back to Philippines if she does not want to continue working for them. Can you advice for the procedures on how to process the paper work in her country immigration department once she is back to her hometown . Many thanks.

  30. Hey Hi,
    My husband is working in Singapore with S Pass.
    Probably I will get either S pass or E pass when I get a job over there.
    I have a newborn baby. Now that consider, my employer is ready to process appropriate pass for my baby.
    I want to Take my mother with me to take care of my baby and she is 51 Years old.

    The problem is I can’t apply find any suitable pass for her.
    I have an idea of taking her as a Maid thru an agency. but the thing is she is 51 years old where only maid below 50 years can get work permit.

    Can anyone suggest any other alternatives to take both my baby and my Mother with me?

    Note: My husband’s salary is S$3500 (S-Pass) and Mine maybe between S$4000 and S$4500 (Not sure about Pass)

    Thanks in advance.
    It would be very much helpful if anyone provides any good idea

  31. Hi Ms Tsiken,

    I tried to bring my helper in as a tourist but failed. She worked for a year in Singapore with another employer before sent back. Can I know how can I go about applying for her OWWA without an agency.

    Thank you so much

  32. I called the Philippines embassy and they mentioned that they don’t allow direct hire but when she checked in Philippines, they allow her to do apply employment document. Really confused by all these documents. Waited 2 months for her.

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