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Being an Au Pair in the USA
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Being an Au Pair in the USA

The United States has a completely different Au Pair program to the ones existing in European States and the rest of the World. Unlike in Europe, where an Au Pair Agency works almost on the same basis as any other employment agency, in the USA Au Pair Agencies have to be sponsored by the State Department (equivalent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs). The basic rules under which Au Pairs can come to the USA are as follows:

  • The United States Information Agency (USIA) established the Au Pair program in 1986 as an educational and cultural exchange with a strong child care component. "Au pair" is French for "on the par," reminding host families that their international visitor is to be treated as a member of the family, not an employee. The Au Pair program is worldwide, so au pairs can be from any foreign country except those with which the U.S. does not have diplomatic relations. The rules are clear: au pairs are provided a private bedroom, meals, remuneration tied to the minimum wage, a full weekend off each month, two weeks paid vacation, and up to $500 toward attending an institution of higher education. An au pair is not to work more than 10 hours a day/45 hours a week and is not expected to perform general housekeeping.

  • The sponsoring organizations identify, screen, select, and match au pairs and host families and monitor the au pair/host family relationship throughout the year. At the end of one year, au pairs return to their home country. Although the Department of State (DoS) authorizes these sponsoring organizations to conduct au pair programs, the responsibility for choosing the right organization rests solely with the host family and the au pair. The sponsoring organizations interview Au Pairs for spoken English proficiency and suitability to participate in the program. They also interview host parents to ensure spoken English fluency and suitability to deal with an international visitor.

  • Au Pairs are required to attend an institution of higher education to earn at least six hours of academic credit, and host families must pay up to $500 of the cost.

  • Au Pairs must be proficient in spoken English and have a high school diploma or the equivalent. Before becoming part of a host family, they must receive at least 8 hours of child safety and 24 hours of child development instruction. At least 4 hours of the child safety training will be infant related and at least 4 hours of the child development instruction will be devoted to the care of children under 2 years of age.The child safety training, provided by qualified organizations, includes topics such as stress management, shaken baby syndrome, and CPR. Additionally, au pairs responsible for children under 2 years of age must have at least 200 hours of documented infant child care experience. You should be aware that most families or agencies will charge the au pair for the costs of these courses.

  • A weekly payment tied to the minimum wage (currently $139.05 a week) is paid to Au Pairs. The weekly wage will increase if the minimum wage increases. An Au Pair is entitled to a private bedroom, meals, a full weekend off each month, two weeks of paid vacation, and up to $500 towards attending an institution of higher education. Au pairs can stay with their host families in the U.S. for one year. This has recently been changed to two years. After that time they are required to return to their home country. The Au Pair arrangement cannot be extended.

    (The foregoing is an excerpt from the State Department Pages on Au Pair Programs)

    All Au Pair arrangements have to be made through a sponsored agency and cannot accept advertisements for Au Pair positions located in the USA.

For Visa and other information on working as an Au Pair in the USA, consult the pages of the State Department dealing with that subject. Click here!

State Department sponsored Au Pair placement organizations can be found here.

Below are some books about being an Au Pair in the U.S.A. Unfortunately, while they are interesting, they only marginally touch on the fact that an Au Pair in the U.S.A. is something quite different from an Au Pair in Europe. While in Europe, the emphasis is really more on being a "mother's help", in the U.S.A. it is quite openly being a cheap domestic help, with some emphasis on child care. But, a 45 hour maximum work week, even at the minimum wage, one can not live on, and only one full weekend free per month, hardly makes you on a par with the members of the family!

About being an Au Pair in the U.S.A. from


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