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How do I find and hire a foreign maid? 
Malaysians have hired well over 300,000 foreign women as live-in maids or domestic helpers. Most foreign maids in Malaysia are hired through a recruitment agency (more popularly known as the maid agency or agent). This agent finds a foreign maid or helper for you and, more importantly, deals with the immigration and travel issues involved in getting her to Malaysia, from paperwork to travel arrangements. As you are most likely looking for a maid to help you care for your baby, it is important that you go through the proper channels to find a helper who has passed all the health tests and is here legally. 

It is important that you appoint a reputable maid agency registered with the Immigration Department to help you find your foreign live-in. 

It is the maid agency's job to:

  • assess if you qualify for a foreign maid (both parents must be working and have a certain amount of combined monthly income, among other things);
  • provide you with a checklist of documents required by the Immigration Department and keep you informed of the status of your application;
  • provide bio-datas of candidates (including her age, marital status and work experience);
  • provide a breakdown of costs;
  • pick the maid up from the airport upon her arrival (you will usually pick the maid up from the agent's office);
  • provide training that includes some familiarisation with common household mod cons;
  • advise you on follow-up procedures such as the Fomema medical.

Most maid agencies in Malaysia provide a standard two-year contract. It is up to you to ensure the contract also includes warranty clauses for:

  • another maid free of charge if your maid runs away in the first three to six months (in 2007, some 1,200 maids ran away from their place of employment every month);
  • another maid free of charge if your maid fails her medical tests;
  • another maid or further training free of charge if your maid performs far below expectations.

You can certainly recruit a maid directly without the services of an agency, but it will be your responsibility to ensure you get the necessary approvals from the Immigration Departments in Malaysia and in her home country. Only women from Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, India, Vietnam and Laos are allowed to work here as maids or domestic helpers (although some of these countries have barred their citizens from coming to Malaysia to work as domestic helpers). 

Note that regulations differ in each country, and you should be clear about the papers and permits needed by authorities in Malaysia and your maid's country of origin before you decide to go it alone. For example, the Philippines Embassy here, which issues the POEA (Philippines Overseas Employment Administration) permit, will only deal with agents registered with them. Individual employers will not be entertained. Without the POEA, your maid will not be allowed to leave her country for employment overseas, even if she already has a valid work permit. 

How much will I have to pay for a foreign maid? 
Rates have been creeping up in the past few years. Recent newspaper reports suggest that prospective employers can now expect to pay over RM10,000 upfront. The total sum depends largely on your maid's country of origin, and includes:

  • fees for the local recruitment agency and the agency in the maid's country of origin;
  • the maid's salary for the first three to six months;
  • processing fees and charges for all government levies and duties in Malaysia and her country of origin;
  • the maid's work permit and levy for the first year;
  • medical insurance;
  • and, travel and accommodation charges to Malaysia from the maid's country of origin.

Tips on hiring a foreign maid 
As you are most likely looking for a maid to help you look after your baby, it is important to look for experience. Consider hiring women who have worked before, either in Malaysia or elsewhere (this also means you can get a reference from her previous employer), and women who have children of their own or have looked after children. 

These days, most employers can interview candidates before they leave their country of origin. The agent should be able to arrange a webcam interview, or at least a phone interview. 

Finally, a tip from one BabyCenter mum in Kuala Lumpur: "If you know someone who has a really good maid, ask that maid if she has relatives or friends who want to work here. That's how I found my maid. I got to call her in her village and speak to her directly on the phone before hiring her. Once we agreed on the terms, I gave her contact details to the agent, who then processed all the paperwork. It still took some time, but I thought it was better than taking a punt on a complete stranger." 

What else should I do when hiring a foreign maid? 
If your maid is going to be your baby's main carer, it is important that you help your maid settle in quickly and comfortably. Make her feel welcome and ensure she has all the basic necessities. Be patient. Remember that she has left her family (and in many cases, her own children) to care for yours. 

Can I hire a local maid? 
A Malaysian who will work as a live-in is unusual. If, for cultural or religious reasons, you feel you could only be comfortable with a Malaysian helper, word of mouth is your best bet for finding a dependable one. 

If you advertise (in newspapers, or on the noticeboards of your local community centre, mini market and convenience store), you may increase the odds of success if you post it in vernacular as well as English. Ask for references and offer to pay for a full medical (best if it is similar to the mandatory annual Fomema exam for foreign workers which screens for chronic conditions and infectious diseases such as TB). 

The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry is reportedly training home managers to meet the demand for domestic help. The home managers undergo a two-week training course conducted by appointed trainers or service providers. They brush up on housekeeping skills, basic nutrition and emergency care as well as how to properly care for babies, disabled persons and senior citizens. For more information, contact the ministry directly. 


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