The J1 visa au pair program is a US exchange visitor program that places foreign nationals with host families in the United States to work as domestic assistants. In exchange for childcare, au pairs receive room, board, and a weekly stipend, in addition to being able to experience the domestic culture of the United States.
In order to au pair in America, candidates must obtain an au pair visa, or a J1 visa.
Au Pair Visa Duration
The au pair program requires a 12-month minimum commitment, but may be extended for up to 12 additional months. The au pair may not enter the US more than 30 days before the start of their au pair program. At the end of the program, the au pair may spend an additional 30 days in the US to travel, but not work.
Au Pair Requirements
To qualify for an au pair visa, individuals must meet the following requirements.
- Ages 18 to 26
- Proficiency in spoken English
- High school diploma (or equivalent)
- Pass a physical examination
- International driver's license and at least 50 hours of driving experience
- Successful interview (in English) with a representative of the host organization; a report based on the interview is provided to the host family
- Pass a background investigation (verification of education, personal and employment references, criminal background check, personality profile)
Au Pair Visa Benefits
Individuals receive the following benefits by obtaining an au pair visa and participating in a J1 au pair exchange visitor program.
- Room and board covered by the host family
- Up to 32 hours of free childcare training prior to the trip
- Up to 10 hours a day of childcare experience
- School credit (at least six hours)
- Up to $500 toward cost of schooling, in addition to compensation for childcare
Au Pair Program: Limitations and Exceptions
There are certain limitations and exceptions for those interested in the au pair program. Generally, an au pair cannot be placed in a home:
- With a baby that is three (3) months old or younger, unless a parent (or another responsible adult) also is present
- With children under two (2), unless applicant has 200 or more hours of infant childcare experience
- With one or more special needs children, unless the au pair is able to prove prior experience that would help them manage special needs children
- Where relatives live
EduCare Au Pairs: Childcare Before and After School
Individuals who apply to be au pairs for families with older children who go to school during the day may work as EduCare au pairs. EduCare au pairs:
- May not be placed in families with preschool children unless other arrangements have been made for full-time care
- May work no more than 10 hours per day, and 30 hours per week
- Are eligible for up to 75 percent of the weekly rate paid to other (non-EduCare) participants
- Must complete at least 12 hours of academic credit during the yearlong program
- Host family must provide up to $1,000 toward cost of schooling
Au Pair Program Sponsor Requirements
When applying for an au pair exchange visitor program, you will first select a J1 program sponsor. The sponsor ensures that participants meet the requirements, receive the proper training, and monitor the au pair's participation throughout the duration of the program.
In addition, the sponsor is responsible for helping participants adjust to the United States orientation by covering the following topics:
- Customs, culture, and everyday life in the U.S.
- Specifics of the exchange visitor program, including information about payment
- Local information (schools, hospitals, libraries, banks, places to take children, etc.)
- Health care coverage and how to obtain emergency care
- Contacts for the sponsor organization and the U.S. Department of State
- Reporting requirements
Au Pair Host Family Requirements
Au pair host families must provide the following:
- Payment of up to $500 paid toward au pair's post-secondary (college or university) course work; or up to $1,000 for EduCare au pairs
- Private bedroom for the au pair and three meals per day
- Payment of weekly stipend, based on the selected option
- One complete weekend (Friday evening to Monday morning) provided to the au pair each month
- Assist au pair with academic enrollment, as needed
- At least 2 weeks of paid vacation provided to the au pair for each 12-month period
- Commitment to include au pair in family meals, holidays, and other family and/or cultural events
Applying for Au Pair Visa
If you want to obtain an au pair visa, you will have to apply for an approved au pair program and apply for your J1 visa. To do this, after you have identified a program sponsor, you will have to complete Form DS-2019, pay the visa fees, and attend the J1 visa interview.
For more information about the application process, visit Applying for a J1 visa.