Au Pairs on a J-1 Visa: Resources, FAQs, and Processes

Au Pairs on a J-1 Visa: Resources, FAQs, and Processes

Did you know that an au pair on a J-1 visa could be your family’s missing piece?

These young adults from around the world provide families with live-in childcare. 

Au pairs can enrich your family’s life in so many ways; from picking the kids up from school, to cooking dinner, to sharing their culture with you. An au pair’s skills can support your family in many ways. This is especially helpful during the pandemic, when caregivers’ stress levels are higher than ever. 

Parenting is hard. No matter how fastidiously you organize your days and prioritize your kids, things won’t always go to plan. That’s why, on rough days (and good days!), an extra set of hands from an au pair can go a long way.

Below, we’ll share more about what au pairs do, why host families choose an au pair, and how the matching process works.

Read on for visions of some much-needed help.

family with a baby while taking picture outside on bench

So, What Is An Au Pair?

Au pairs are young adults from abroad who are able to legally work as au pairs in the U.S. through a J-1 visa. 

Au pairs work a weekly schedule caring for children. Host families supply room and board as well as weekly stipends. Depending on your family’s specific needs, the care au pairs provide can take all sorts of forms relating to the care of children, including:

  • Helping with homework
  • Packing school lunches
  • Dropping kids off and picking them up from school
  • Taking the kids on outings
  • Cooking the children's dinner
  • Lending another set of hands for child-related household tasks
  • Sharing their language and culture
  • Playing make believe with the kids

At AuPairCare, we accept only the most qualified applicants into our program. Our goal is to connect families with vibrant, dynamic au pairs. 

In our screening process, we assess applicants to determine their childcare skills (we require over 200 hours of experience), plus their personality. We also evaluate applicants’ motivations for becoming an au pair.

Au pairs also must meet U.S. State Department visa requirements. These details require applicants to:

  • Be between 18 and 26 
  • Be in good health
  • Have conversational English skills
  • Have graduated from a secondary school

Once au pairs are selected, they also receive training from us, plus additional training if they will be caring for toddlers or infants.

At the end of one year, families and au pairs can choose to extend their time together for up to 12 more months. 

If your family is interested in a shorter term au pair, we can connect you with someone who is already in the United States.

women sitting on couch with two toddlers

Why Do Host Families Choose Au Pairs?

The motivating factors that lead families to host au pairs on J-1 visas vary widely, but we’ll share a few below. 

Au Pairs Help Relieve Parenting Stress

One motivating factor leading families search for an au pair is stress. Parenting is hard at the best of times, but many caregivers have been especially struggling throughout the pandemic. 

Opening your doors to an au pair can provide the whole family with the extra support they need. Au pairs can help take care of daily tasks like picking kids up, cooking meals, and putting away kids’ toys. This can take a lot off your to-do lists, allowing you to be more present with your kids, as well as less stressed!

Au Pairs Facilitate Cultural Exchange

Cultural exchange is another huge benefit of hosting a J-1 visa au pair.

Host mom Jennifer’s reasons for choosing an au pair included the potential to connect with another culture. Specifically, she encouraged her friend Summer to choose an au pair that would help her kids connect with their dad’s Korean culture.

While Summer’s husband speaks Korean and has made an effort to teach their kids the language, the children struggled to pick it up. Jennifer suggested hosting a Korean au pair who could help Summer and her husband teach their kids more about their culture, as well as support their language learning.

Au pairs can also help families connect with cultures and languages they are not familiar with.

For example, the Bohlig family had a wonderful experience learning Spanish at home with their au pair, Isa. “Isa has been teaching our children Spanish since she arrived, and enjoys sharing food and music from Colombia,” the Bohlig’s wrote. They shared that their son caught them off guard when he said arriba (“up”) not even a month into Isa’s stay.

The Bohligs cited cultural exchange as one of the top reasons they chose to host an au pair. Isa went above and beyond (and became part of the family) so much that they agreed to extend her stay for another year!

J-1 Visa Au Pairs Make Scheduling Easier

If you already work with a nanny, babysitter, or daycare that you love, you may be wondering what makes hosting an au pair a better option.

Let’s compare au pairs vs. nannies vs. daycare centers.

First and foremost, a huge burden that au pairs can remove from your to-do list is scheduling. Whether it’s scrambling to find a babysitter for a date night, or finding a daycare that extends past your work hours, you can circumvent all these scheduling problems by hosting an au pair.

You can work together with your au pair to set your au pair & host family schedule. Some matches may even adjust the schedule weekly to best accommodate everyone’s needs. Because au pairs live in your home, they will have more flexibility than a daytime nanny, who is unlikely to stay late enough to tuck the kids into bed. 

While daycares and after school programs can provide you with more time to get your work done, they also require you to

  • Stick to the same hours each week
  • Budget extra time to drive to the center for drop off and pick up 
  • Arrive on time to avoid leaving your child waiting or paying a late pick-up fee

On the other hand, au pairs can be extremely flexible and can actually assume the responsibility of dropping your kids off and picking them up from school. 

When an au pair takes care of the logistics—like getting the kids ready for school and driving them to practices—you will have more time to fill your cup.

When your cup is full, you’ll be able to give your children higher quality, more focused attention. That’s a benefit to everyone!

family in multi-colored clothes with young kids standing on bridge

Why People Become Au Pairs on J-1 Visas

So, it’s clear that hosting au pairs is a rewarding experience for many families.

But what about the au pairs themselves? What are they getting out of the experience? 

A lot! 

Just like host families, au pairs receive an exciting opportunity for cultural exchange when they travel to the U.S. Not only do they get the chance to improve their English skills and immerse themselves in the United States’ culture, but they also get to learn about their host family's specific traditions and way of life. 

Seeing the world from a new perspective and practicing a different way of life can be an incredibly rewarding experience.

The science backs this up. Harvard Business Review reported on six studies (including nearly 2,000 participants) about living abroad. Researchers found that living abroad makes people more clear on who they are. Additionally, the studies indicated that the depth of experience is more important than the breadth of experiences. 

Basically, living in the U.S. for one year is just as—if not more—valuable as visiting 16 countries in a single year.

But don’t take our word for it—let’s hear stories from the au pairs!

J-1 Visa Au Pairs Enjoy Cultural Exchange 

Jhesica, from Colombia, who was the au pair for the Gupta family in Chicago, Illinois. Jhesica wrote about her experience with her featured Chicago host family, saying:

“The Gupta family is Indian-American, which has allowed me to know more about both Indian and American cultures, and they've always been interested in knowing about my culture: the little girl and I are truly fans of Shakira, and the little boy enjoys watching Latin shows.”

Jhesica really valued the cultural exchange she had with her host family.

J-1 Au Pairs Feel at Home with Host Families 

Camila, also from Colombia, who au paired for the Sockrider family in Arizona, nominated her host family to be AuPairCare’s “Ultimate Host Family 2019.” (Spoiler alert: they won). In her nomination entry, Camila wrote:

“Before I came to the USA, I knew that my time here would be good, but I didn't know exactly how good it was going to be… My host family made me feel at home from the very first moment I arrived… We're a family that can laugh and cry together. They have made this the best experience I have ever had in my life.” 

Au pairs are more than babysitters. They truly become a part of the family and deeply value this connection.

J-1 Visa Au Pairs Learn More About Themselves 

Flore, from France, was an au pair for the Taylor family in San Francisco, California. Like Camila, Flore also nominated her family for the Ultimate Host Family award. They were the 2019 runner-ups. 

In addition to feeling like a part of the Taylor family, Flore expressed gratitude for the privacy and freedom that her family happily provided. Of her reasons for becoming an au pair, she wrote:

“I needed to take a break from my life, have some answers to my questions, make my own choices and learn about myself. That was my first motivation. I also wanted to find something where I could learn and grow. With the au pair experience, I found all that I wanted. I can learn English, work with children, discover new things and go far from home.”

Beyond growing as a person, Flore also wrote that she got even more than she planned, because she was able to meet new people, visit new places, and discover new cultures.

Au Pairs on J-1 Visas Love Living in the USA 

The above testimonials make it clear that the au pair experience is just as important to the au pairs as it is to the host families. Au pairs get a lot out of the program, including:  

  • Opportunities to see more of the world
  • Experiences in childcare and parenting
  • Opportunities to improve their English language skills
  • Experiences that help them grow as people
  • Friends and family away from home!

Host families and au pairs often grow to feel like one big, happy family.

In many cases, host families and au pairs form long-term connections, like traveling to attend au pairs’ weddings and meet their loved ones across the world. When you open your home to an au pair, you are opening your family to a new relationship that will likely endure long beyond the program end date.

family in red and black matching clothes standing outside with young kids and au pair

How Does the Application Process Work? 

If you want to explore becoming a host family or au pair, we’ve compiled the first steps for you below. 

The good news is that the process is very straightforward. Plus, if you do run into problems, we have decades of expertise to assist you.

Becoming a Host Family 

Before getting started as a host family, check that you meet the requirements of the U.S. Department of State. These include:  

  • Being a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident
  • Speaking English primarily in the home
  • Being open to a year-long au pair program
  • Passing a criminal background check
  • Having a private bedroom for your au pair that is suitable for an adult

If you meet these criteria, then you can fill out our online application. This form is quick to fill out (shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes). Once it’s done, you can begin looking through au pair profiles.

The next steps are: 

  • Select your top au pair candidates as a family or with the help of our Matching Experts
  • Interview your top candidates through phone or Skype
  • Complete an in-home interview with your local area director to discuss the AuPairCare program in-depth
  • Agree to an au pair match
  • Select arrival dates
  • Welcome your new au pair into your home

From there, it’s up to you to build a relationship with your au pair and create a schedule that works for everyone.   

Becoming an Au Pair

Au pairs must also meet certain U.S. State Department requirements. In addition to these program qualifications, au pairs must complete an in-person interview in English, and submit:

  • Two non-family childcare references
  • One non-family personal reference
  • One psychometric evaluation (the DISC personality assessment)  

Beyond that, the application and matching process for au pairs is very similar to what host families complete. 

The steps to apply include:

  • Register and start your application here
  • Fill out your au pair profile
  • Match with a family
  • Travel to the U.S.

But wait—what is an au pair visa?

This is a document that allows au pairs to work and live in the U.S. as a nonimmigrant for up to 2 years. It’s known as the J-1 visa or the Exchange Visitor Visa. At AuPairCare, we guide au pairs through the process of applying for and obtaining this document.

In order to qualify for this visa, au pairs must:

  • Be proficient in English
  • Be a secondary school graduate
  • Be between 18 and 26 years old
  • Be healthy enough to complete the program
  • Be personally interviewed by an organization representative
  • Be cleared through a background check and personality assessment

We’re J-1 Au Pair Experts at AuPairCare

If you plan on hosting an au pair, we hope you choose AuPairCare to guide you through the process. At AuPairCare, we are truly passionate about what we do. Most of our staff members have either hosted au pairs or worked as au pairs themselves for years.

We truly believe that au pairs can bring so much joy to your family, and would be honored to guide you through the process.

If you’re ready to learn more about the details, here are a few helpful links:

  • Understand the Host Family AuPairCare Program Costs
  • Start to Search Au Pairs

You can contact us if you have any questions. In the meantime, we’re wishing you a well-deserved nap.

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