Many families in the Bay Area utilize au pairs to care for their children. In fact, the Peninsula alone has hundreds of au pairs living with host families. But what about the au pair program appeals to the Peninsula parent, and what is the au pair program all about?
Let’s start with some basic facts about the program. The program was first legalized by the U.S. Government in 1986 and has allowed pre-screened, qualified young people from around the world the opportunity to live with an American host family while providing up to 45 hours of in-home childcare per week.
In order for a young person to participate in the au pair program they must be between the ages of 18 and 26, proficient in the English language, and have completed secondary school. If caring for a child under the age of 2, they must also have a minimum of 200 hours of professional or practical documented childcare experience.
Host Family Requirements
An American family wishing to host an au pair must be able to provide a private room and daily meals, be U.S. citizens or permanent legal residents, and have the financial resources to provide a weekly stipend of $195.75 and a one-time educational allowance not to exceed $500.
So, there you have it, the basics on the au pair program!
Ten Lesser-Known Facts About the Au-Pair Program
- The au pair program began worldwide immediately following World War II. It falls under the umbrella of the J1 exchange visitor program, which encompasses teachers, physicians, camp counselors, and work travel. The J1 visa program came out of the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961 (Fulbright-Hays Act) to “develop and promote mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries of the world.”
- “Au pair” is a French term meaning “on par with,” signifying the au pair’s status as a “member” of the host family.
- All au pairs in the U.S. must be sponsored by one of the 12 U.S. Department of State designated au pair agencies. These agencies facilitate the au pair’s arrival and training. In addition, they perform the U.S. Department of State background checks, confirm the au pairs’ childcare experience, assist with J-1 Visa acquisition and international air travel, and provide au pairs with medical insurance. Service among agencies varies widely, so select the agency that best suits your needs. Check with the BBB to determine an agency’s rating!
- All au pairs come to an American host family with a 12-month commitment but can extend that commitment an additional 12 months. This provides the host family with up to 24 months of uninterrupted in-home childcare. Additionally, au pairs may repeat the program as long as they have resided outside the United States for at least 2 years in between the 2 commitments, and are still under the age of 27.
- Au pairs must complete six credits or sixty hours of classroom time at a college or university, which usually equates to about two semester-long courses. Community colleges can be expensive for international students, so many au pairs elect to take classes at our local adult schools, which are free or relatively inexpensive.
- Au pairs may only work for their host families. The U.S. Department of State prohibits au pairs from engaging in any type of side job, either legal or under the table.
- Local representatives from the sponsoring agency support au pairs and host families and must live within one hour of the host family’s home. These representatives perform a series of check-ins with the host and au pair to ensure a good experience for both.
- Every year, the International Au Pair Association (IAPA) selects an Au Pair of the Year. Host families may nominate their au pairs and the worldwide au pair community selects the winner.
- Forty-five countries around the world currently participate in the au pair program.
- Au Pairs can care for children with special needs. In order to qualify, these au pairs must have prior experience, skill, or training in caring for special needs children and have expressed a desire to work with special needs children within the au pair program.
Au pairs and host families both benefit from the au pair program; families take comfort in the benefits of in-home childcare while au pairs get to experience the thrill of living and working in America!
Wendie Karel is an Area Director for AuPairCare. When not helping her host families and au pairs, she can be found shuttling her two little girls back and forth to school and activities each day. She welcomes questions or comments at WendieKarelAPC@yahoo.com or 650-462-1789.Image provided by Melissa Miller & Vinnie Fernandez, PAMP’s Lead Photographers and co-owners of C’est Jolie Photography