The Au Pair program is a popular exchange visitor program in the J-1 visa category. People from all countries can become Au pairs in the United States after obtaining a J-1 visa. To become Au pairs, participants have to through one of the government approved agencies and work for a family for a period of 12 months, after which they can apply to extend their stay for another 6, 9 or 12 months. They can live with the host families while providing child care up to 45 hours per week and can also study for academic credit at post secondary educational institutions. In order to work as an Au pair in the US, participants must produce certificates of health, good conduct and experience in child care.
Au pairs are screened by sponsors to fulfill some requirements; they must be between the ages of 18 and 26, proficient in spoken English and should be a secondary school graduate or equivalent. Usually students participate in this program for the educational and cultural exposure it gives them. Sponsoring organizations choose host families according to some selection criteria; Au pairs are given a private bedroom, meals and a full weekend off each month, two weeks paid vacation, up to $500 for attending an educational institution and a cash stipend. They are not allowed to work for more than 10 hours a day and are not expected to take care of housekeeping tasks other than child care. They are required to enroll for a minimum of 6 semester hours of classes at a post secondary institution.
Au pair program provides both participants and host families a rewarding opportunity to experience each other’s culture. Participants are free to pursue their education while experiencing the American’s way of life and hosts are happy to get reliable childcare from persons who become a part of family.