The au pair program is a cultural exchange program facilitated by the US government through the J-1 visa exchange visitor category. Its participants can work for twelve months in America with their host families who provide child care and household duties.
To participate in the program, an au pair must meet various conditions. One of these conditions is that the participant must take a course of study at an accredited college or omgblog university.
Choosing the Right Au Pair Visa Agency
Choosing an au pair is a big decision, and one of the biggest things to consider before beginning the search is which agency to work with. Each agency has a different way of helping families find the best match and offers different services, but all must follow federal regulations set out by the State Department.
Au Pair in America offers host families an assigned Matching Specialist to guide them through the entire au pair process. This includes creating a profile that will attract au pairs who fit your family, filtering through options based on various questions and personality assessments, interviews, and other screening measures.
Other agencies also have a strong reputation for their matchmaking skills and are known for helping parents feel confident in the quality of the candidates they are interviewing. They charge a program fee that covers travel costs, au pair J1 visa attainment, onboarding, and training, plus ongoing program support for the duration of the au pair’s time with the family.
Another thing to keep in mind is that all au pair agencies must have local area coordinators who are on hand to help au pairs and host families with any issues that may arise during the program. The smaller the agency, the more likely you will have a personal relationship with your local area counselor, which can make a difference if any problems arise during the program.
When searching for the right au pair, you must be clear about your expectations for the candidate, especially concerning childcare responsibilities and household duties. It’s also a good idea to list the must-have qualities you want your au pair to have so that you don’t miss any critical factors in your search.
It’s also worth considering if your children have any special needs and if you would like a male au pair or female au pair. Not all au pairs are comfortable caring for children with disabilities, so be sure to ask about this in your interview and, if Visa necessary, have any potential candidates demonstrate their ability.
Once you have narrowed your list of prospects, requesting copies of the au pair’s various qualifications, such as their driver’s license and any childcare or health and safety certifications relevant to your childcare needs is a good idea. This will give you peace of mind that the au pair has the necessary credentials to ensure your children’s safety.
Choosing the Right Family
There are many reasons why families choose to host an au pair. For some, it is a way to connect with a different culture; for others, it is a way to provide extra support during the pandemic. Whatever the motivation, all parties need to understand the expectations and commitments associated with the au pair program.
Upon arrival in the United States, all au pairs are granted a one-year J1 visa. However, they can extend their stay for 6, 9, or 12 additional months. Au pairs must work with their host family for the entire extension period to comply with visa regulations.
Once an au pair has been matched with a host family and the agreement is signed, the agency will register them with SEVIS (the Department of Homeland Security’s system for tracking nonimmigrant exchange visitors). This process confirms that the agency has the necessary approvals, processes, and capabilities to match au pairs and host families legally. The registration process also allows the agency to comprehensively review the au pair’s education, program knowledge, placement knowledge, training, requirements, and expectations. Lastly, it ensures that the au pair has completed a background investigation, including school verification, three personal, non-family related references, a criminal background check or its recognized equivalent, and a personality profile.
Before an au pair can join her new American family, she must attend a visa interview at the embassy in her home country. This short, in-person appointment only takes a few minutes and requires the au pair to bring their Form DS-2019, a photo, passport, and proof of binding ties to their home country.
The consular officer will verify that the au pair is a good fit for the program based on her goals, experience, education, and desire to return to her home country after the program.
Once an au pair has completed the program, she can apply for a green card through marriage to a US citizen or permanent resident. This is an excellent option for those au pairs who wish to gain long-term residence in the US. If au pairs wish to pursue employment-based immigration options after their J1 visa has expired, they must consult with their agency about how to proceed. Au pairs who leave the program early or remain in the United States without permission violate visa regulations and hurt future au pair applicants. For this reason, au pairs need to work with a reputable agency.