Are you considering becoming an Au Pair? It’s an incredible opportunity to live abroad, learn 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 good Au Pair program? We’ve got you covered. Pro tip: you can also get a great first-person view into Au Pair life by checking out various #aupair hashtags on social media.
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 childcare in exchange for room, board, and a small allowance.
The program usually lasts for one year, and Au Pairs are expected to take care of the children for a set number of hours each week and help out with light household chores.
Being an Au Pair is distinct from nannying and from babysitting; it means becoming a part of a new family.
Opportunities of being an Au Pair
- 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.
- 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 take advantage of their free time to see the sights and experience new things.
Challenges of being an Au Pair
- Homesickness: While the opportunity to live abroad is exciting, it can also be difficult to be away from home and loved ones. Homesickness is a common challenge for Au Pairs, 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’re not used to. It’s important to be open-minded and respectful of these differences.
- Limited finances: Managing your finances can be a challenge for Au Pairs. You’ll have a small allowance, but it may not be enough to cover all of your expenses.
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 the right decision 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:
- Completing an online application: You’ll need to provide information about yourself, including your background, education, and childcare experience. You’ll also need to submit a resume and a recent photo.
- 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 background check. This includes a criminal history check and a child protection registry check.
- Finding a host family: Once your application and background check are approved, the agency will begin the process of finding a host family that is a good match for you. You’ll have the opportunity to review profiles and communicate with potential host 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, hours, and allowance.
- 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 it’s important to start early.
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 member of the family, while a babysitter or nanny is typically considered an employee.
Additionally, 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
Some 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. A language course might be needed before you go.
New Zealand au pairs must be unmarried, childless, and have a driver’s license.
As you can see, requirements can vary—though fortunately, your agency will help you navigate them.
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 in the United States, you’ll need to obtain an Au Pair visa.
This is a special type of visa that 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 Vvsa, 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 it’s important to start early and be prepared for potential delays.
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 are Au Pairs paid?
As of 2021, these are the average weekly stipends for Au Pairs in the following countries:
- United States:
- Typically paid a weekly stipend of $195.75
- United Kingdom:
- Typically paid a weekly stipend of £75-£100
- Typically paid a weekly stipend of €80-€100
- New Zealand:
- Typically paid a weekly stipend of NZD $210- $230
The stipend is intended 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 concerns about safety. 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 know where to turn for support and resources throughout your stay.
Many agencies and programs have support systems in place for Au Pairs, including emergency contact numbers, and have strict policies in place to ensure the safety of Au Pairs.
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.
Au Pair FAQs
How long does a program usually last?
Can I choose the country I want to go to?
Yes, you can choose the country you want to go to and find an agency or program that can help match you with 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 should 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.
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.
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.
Download the app to open a free account today.