Becoming an Au Pair: Your Complete Guide

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Becoming an Au Pair

Are you considering becoming an Au Pair? It’s an incredible opportunity to live abroad, immerse yourself in a new culture, and gain valuable experience taking care of children. But like any big decision, it’s important to understand the potential opportunities and challenges before diving in.

What’s it like being an Au Pair? What are the requirements? How do you find a suitable Au Pair program?

Our team at Remitly put together this guide to answer your questions about the standard Au Pair experience.

What is an Au Pair?

An Au Pair is a young person, typically between the ages of 18 and 30, who lives with a host family and provides child care in exchange for free room and board and a small allowance called a stipend.

The program usually lasts one year, and participants are expected to take care of the children for a set number of hours each week and help with light household chores. For example, they may work 45 hours per week watching the kids, washing clothing, and keeping the nursery clean.

Being an Au Pair is distinct from nannying and babysitting, as it involves more than just employment. When you’re an au pairing, you become a part of a new family. You’ll get to participate in family meals, develop new skills, and discover what a new city in the world has to offer.

Opportunities of being an Au Pair

There are many benefits to becoming an Au pair abroad, including:

  • Immersion in a new culture: One of the biggest draws of being an Au Pair is the opportunity to live abroad and immerse yourself in a new culture. You’ll have the chance to work on language skills, try new foods, and experience daily life in your host country in a way that most tourists never will be able to.
  • Support from a family: As a part of cultural exchange, you’ll have at least one other responsible adult living with you. They can advise you on everything from attending festivals and other events to where to buy the essentials you need during your stay. An Au Pair program is a great way to travel abroad for the first time.
  • Work experience: Being an Au Pair is also a great way to gain hands-on experience working with children. Whether you’re considering a career in education, social work, or psychology, the experience you’ll gain as an Au Pair will be invaluable.
  • Travel and adventure: Another great opportunity of being an Au Pair is the chance to travel and explore. Many Au Pairs work from Monday morning through Friday evening and have a complete weekend free to see the sights and experience new things. With some au pair programs, you also get one or two weeks of paid vacation, giving you the ability to take a trip to a dream destination in your new country.

Challenges of being an Au Pair

  • Homesickness: While the opportunity to live abroad is exciting, being away from home and loved ones can also be difficult. Homesickness is a common challenge for those working as an Au Pair, and it’s important to be prepared for the feelings of isolation and loneliness that may arise.
  • Cultural differences: Another challenge of being an Au Pair is navigating cultural differences. Even though you’ll be living with a host family, there may be customs and practices that you need to get used to. It’s important to be open-minded and respectful of these differences.
  • Language barriers: Even if you have a good grasp of spoken English or another foreign language spoken in your host country, you’ll likely need to learn local lingo to communicate effectively.
  • Limited finances: Managing your finances can be a challenge for an Au Pair. You’ll have a small allowance, but you may need more to cover all of your expenses.

Becoming an Au Pair

How many Au Pairs are there?

According to the U.S. Department of State, there are over 14,000 Au Pairs in the United States alone. Worldwide, the number is likely much higher.

The most common countries of origin for Au Pairs include Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and China.

The Au Pair application process

If you’ve decided that becoming an Au Pair is right for you, the next step is to find a placement agency or program. These agencies will help match you with a host family and guide you through the application process.

The application process typically includes the following steps.

Completing an online application

You’ll need to create an Au Pair profile that provides information about yourself, including your background, education, and childcare experience. You’ll also need to submit a resume and a recent photo.

Keep in mind that there may be specific Au Pair requirements that you’ll have to show proof of meeting. For example, you may need to provide a copy of a high school diploma or a transcript from an accredited post-secondary institution that indicates you took required academic coursework like a class in child development.

Participating in an interview

After your application is reviewed, you’ll be contacted for an interview. This can be done in person, over the phone, or via video call. The interview is an opportunity for the agency to get to know you better and for you to ask any questions you may have.

Completing a background check

Before being placed with a host family, you’ll need to complete a criminal background check as a part of the care provider’s requirement. This includes a criminal history check and child protection registry check, usually involving professional fingerprinting.

Finding a host family

Once your application and background check are approved, the agency will begin finding a host family that is a good match for you. You’ll be able to review profiles and communicate with potential families to ensure you find the right fit.

Signing a contract

Once you’ve found a host family, you’ll need to sign a contract that outlines the terms of your stay, including your duties, minimum work hours, and allowance.

Make sure that you read the contract carefully before you sign. Having an extra set of eyes look over it ahead of time is a good idea.

Obtaining a visa

If you’re coming from a foreign country, you’ll need to obtain a visa. This process can take several months, so starting early is important.

Au Pair vs. nanny: the main differences

Being an Au Pair is different from being a babysitter or nanny.

As an Au Pair, you’ll be living with the host family and considered a family member, while a babysitter or nanny is typically considered an employee.

Additionally, future Au Pairs are often required to take classes and attend cultural events as part of the program.

The requirements to become an Au Pair generally include:

  • No criminal background
  • Good level of English
  • Good health

Many countries may have specific language course requirements or a working holiday visa requirement.

For example, if you’re interested in becoming an Au Pair in the Netherlands, you’ll need to have completed at least a high school education.

In Switzerland, you’ll be required to have basic knowledge of the canton where you work, which could be French, German, or Swiss Italian. You might need a language course before you go.

In New Zealand, an Au Pair must be unmarried, childless, and have a driver’s license.

As you can see, requirements can vary — though fortunately, your agency will assist you as you navigate them.

Becoming an Au Pair

Au Pair agencies

When looking for an Au Pair agency or program, consider reputation, experience, and the support they offer to Au Pairs.

These are the five major Au Pair agencies in the United States:

  • Au Pair in America: This agency has been in operation for over 35 years and is one of the oldest and most established Au Pair agencies in the United States. They have a wide variety of host families available and offer support and resources for Au Pairs throughout their stay.
  • Cultural Care Au Pair: This agency is one of the largest in the United States, with over 12,000 Au Pairs placed in host families across the country. They provide extensive support and resources for Au Pairs, including language classes and cultural events.
  • Go Au Pair: This agency specializes in matching Au Pairs with families in rural areas and has a wide variety of host families available across the country. They also provide support and resources for Au Pairs throughout their stay.
  • GreatAuPair: This agency offers a wide variety of host families and flexible start dates. They also provide support and resources for Au Pairs throughout their stay.
  • Euraupair: This agency has been placing Au Pairs in the United States for over 30 years. They offer a wide variety of host families and provide support and resources for Au Pairs throughout their stay.

Other countries, such as Austria and New Zealand, have their own agencies that can assist you in finding a host family.

Au Pair visa requirements

If you’re coming from a foreign country to become an Au Pair for an American family, you’ll need to obtain an Au Pair visa.

This special visa type allows young people to live and work with a host family in the United States for one year. The Au Pair visa is also known as the J-1 Visa.

To apply for an Au Pair Visa, you’ll need to provide certain documentation, including:

  • A valid passport
  • A completed visa application form
  • A recent photograph
  • A certificate of insurance
  • A letter of acceptance from a designated sponsor agency
  • Proof of sufficient funds to cover your expenses while in the United States

The application process can take several months, so starting early and preparing for potential delays is important.

Gap Year option

Many college students or recent graduates choose to become an Au Pair as a gap year option. This allows them to live and work abroad, gain language skills, and immerse themselves in a new culture before starting their next chapter in life.

How much is an Au Pair paid?

As of 2023, these are the average weekly stipend rates for Au Pairs in the following countries:

  • United States:
    • Typically receive a stipend of $195.75 per week
  • United Kingdom:
    • Typically receive a stipend of around £90 per week
  • Spain:
    • Typically receive a stipend of €80 to €100 per week
  • New Zealand:
    • Typically receive a stipend of NZD $220 to $300 per week

You can spend your stipend to cover basic expenses such as food, transportation, and pocket money. An Au Pair is also provided with room and board as part of their compensation.

Is being an Au Pair safe?

Becoming an Au Pair is a big decision, and it’s understandable to have safety concerns. Start by choosing a reputable agency. Talk to others who’ve had the experience when possible.

Know your rights and responsibilities as an Au Pair and where to turn for support and resources throughout your stay.

Many agencies and programs have support systems for Au Pairs, including emergency contact numbers and strict policies to ensure safety.

Background checks are mandatory for both Au Pairs and host families. Additionally, all Au Pairs are covered by insurance during their stay, which provides added protection in case of accidents or illnesses.

While it’s impossible to guarantee that every Au Pair experience will be entirely without incident, taking these steps and being vigilant can help mitigate any potential safety concerns.

Ready to get started? Find a reputable agency or program, and they’ll begin the process for you.

Becoming an Au Pair

Au Pair FAQs

How long does a program usually last?

Most Au Pair programs last for one year. In some cases, extension periods may be available to allow you to remain in your placement for longer than the program year.

Can I choose the country I want to go to?

Yes, you can choose the country you want to visit and find an agency or program to help you find a host family there.

Are there age restrictions for becoming an Au Pair?

Typically, Au Pairs are between the ages of 18 and 30.

Will I have my own room?

Yes, Au Pairs will typically have their own room in the host family’s home.

Will I have to pay for my own health insurance?

No, Au Pairs are covered by health insurance during their stay. As a result, you’ll need to find out what types of insurance are available for exchange visitors in your destination country. For your convenience, we offer guides to obtaining health insurance in:

Can I bring my family or friends to visit me?

It’s best to discuss this with your host family and make sure it’s okay with them before making any plans.

Can I open a bank account during my Au Pair year?

In most countries, you’ll be able to open a bank account to use while working as an Au Pair abroad. Requirements for opening an account vary. Check out our guides to opening a bank account in various countries for more information:

How can I send or receive money from home?

This is where a trustworthy international money transfer service like Remitly can come in handy. With Remitly, you can easily send money to your home country with low fees and fair rates.

Family and friends can also send you money from their accounts in the U.S., United Kingdom, France, and many other countries.