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Apply for a J-1 Visa: The Au Pair Program

Apply for a J-1 Visa: The Au Pair Program
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Questions About the Au Pair Program

What is the Au Pair Program?

Au Pair Program

The Au Pair Program allows young people to experience U.S. culture by becoming a part of an American family. Au pairs live with U.S. host families, improve their English, and attend U.S. colleges and universities.

As an au pair, your main responsibility will be to take care of your host family’s children. Like a nanny, you will babysit the children while the parents are working or on social outings. Your relationship will be similar to that of a big sister, caring for the younger children, playing with them, helping them with schoolwork, and partaking in household chores. Many au pairs have such a wonderful experience, that they continue to have strong relationships with their host families years after their program ends.

Au pairs attend U.S. colleges and universities and their host families even help pay for some tuition costs on top of a weekly salary!

The Au Pair Program is a part of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa. Through 14 diverse programs, the J-1 Visa provides unique cultural exchanges between foreign countries and the U.S. Currently, there are 170,000 monthly participants in the U.S., working, studying and teaching through J-1 programs1. Some of the most popular programs are:

  • The Holiday Work Program, which allows college and university students to work in the U.S. on their summer holiday.
  • The Internship Program, which allows college and university students to intern with a U.S. company.
  • The Student Exchange Program, which allows college and university students to study at a U.S. college or university.

Learn more about the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa here!

Who qualifies for the Au Pair Program?

Au Pair Program

You may qualify for the Au Pair program, if:

  • You can communicate in English.
  • You have completed secondary school (high school) or its equivalent.
  • You are between the ages of 18 and 26.
  • You pass a physical exam and a background check.
  • You have a job placement with a host family.

If you have participated in the Au Pair Program before, you must have spent at least two years outside the U.S. since the completion of the program in order to re-apply.

Steps to follow when applying for the J-1 Visa, Au Pair Program

Step 1: Apply for and be accepted into an Au Pair Program.

You will need to apply for and be accepted into the Au Pair Program before you can apply for a J-1 visa. You must find a program sponsor and apply through them. Au Pair Program sponsors screen and select host families and applicants to make sure they have the proper requirements to participate in the program. If you pass the background investigation, the sponsor will issue you a Certificate of Eligibility and you may then apply for a J-1 visa.

Step 2: Pass a background investigation.

In order to be eligible for the Au Pair Program, you must pass a background investigation. The au pair background check is standard procedure for all program applicants. Host families simply want to be sure you’re qualified to take care of children and make sure you will be a good personality fit for their family. The background check will review your school records and three references from non-family related personal acquaintances and employers (you must provide these). There will also be a personality profile, to ensure that you are matched with a family that has compatible personalities. And, there will be a criminal background check to ensure that you will be a safe caregiver.

Step 3: Receive a Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status and pay the Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee.

You will need to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee of $35 USD upon receiving the Certificate of Eligibility. Be sure to print the receipt after paying this fee; you will need it at the visa interview.

Step 4: Complete Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application and submit to the U.S. Department of State.

You will need to upload a digital passport-sized photograph with this application. If you have trouble uploading the photograph, you can bring one to the visa interview.

Be sure to print the confirmation page after completing the application; you will need it at the visa interview.

Step 5: Pay the visa application fee.

The fee is $160.00 USD.

Step 6: Schedule an interview with a U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where you live.

Step 7: Collect required documents for your visa interview.

You will be required to bring the following documents to your visa interview:

  • The interview appointment notice
  • A passport that is valid for at least six months past your planned date of departure
  • The confirmation page from your Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application
  • Application fee payment receipt, if you are required to pay before the interview (MRV fee)
  • Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status (issued by your program sponsor)

The U.S. embassy or consulate where your interview will take place may request you provide additional documentation, such as evidence of:

  • The purpose of your trip
  • Your intent to leave the U.S. after your trip
  • Your ability to pay all the costs of your trip
  • Your medical coverage while in the U.S.

Step 8: Attend the visa interview.

The visa interview will take place at the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where you live. You will be interviewed by a consular officer who will determine if you are qualified to receive a visa. He or she will review your documentation and visa application, ask you questions about your personal history and the reason for your trip to the U.S.

If the consular officer approves you for a visa, he or she will take your passport and have a visa placed in it. When your passport with visa is ready, you will be notified to pick it up or it will be sent to you.

The consular officer should return Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility to you. You will need this to enter the U.S.

In most cases, you will also have biometrics (fingerprint, photograph and signature) taken during, before or after your interview.

Step 9: Pay the visa reciprocity fee.

Depending on your nationality, you may have to pay a visa issuance fee if your visa is approved.

Popular Questions about the Au Pair Program

Can I go to school while participating in the Au Pair Program?

Yes. It is required that participants complete at least six hours of academic credit or its equivalent at a U.S. post-secondary institution, such as a college or university. Your host family will even help pay the tuition costs.

Is there a minimum number of hours per week I need to work?

You will need to provide 10 hours a day/ 45 hours a week of childcare.

What is the financial benefit (or value) of the program?

Au Pair Program participants will receive:

  • A weekly salary, depending on the program
  • $500 USD towards your tuition cost
  • Two weeks of paid vacation for each 12 month exchange term in addition to regular weekly/monthly time off

What should I expect from the background check?

Au PairProgram

The au pair background check is standard procedure for all program applicants. Host families simply want to be sure you're qualified to take care of children and make sure you will be a good personality fit for their family. The background check will review your school records and three references from non-family related personal acquaintances and employers (you must provide these). There will also be a personality profile, to ensure that you are matched with a family that has compatible personalities. And, there will be a criminal background check to ensure that you will be a safe caregiver.

What is the difference between Au Pair and EduCare?

The difference between the Au Pair and EduCare programs is that the EduCare has a smaller hourly work requirement and larger requirement for academic credit. Under the Au Pair Program, the foreign visitor, provides child-care (babysits) for 45 hours per week and takes at least six hours of academic credit (or its equivalent) per year. Whereas, under EduCare, an au pair provides child care (babysits) for 30 hours per week and takes at least 12 hours of academic credit (or its equivalent) per year.

Do I need to find a host family before leaving my country?

Yes. You will need to be matched with an American host family through an official Au Pair Program sponsor before you leave.

How long before the Au Pair Program starts can I arrive in the U.S.?

With a J-1 visa, you can arrive in the U.S. up to 30 days before the start of your program. If you wish to travel in the U.S. more than 30 days before the start of your program, you must obtain a visitor visa. However, this is discouraged as you will have to adjust your status and if there is a delay, you may miss the start of your program.

What is the Au Pair Program's length?

The Au Pair Program's length is one year.

Can I extend my Au Pair Program?

Yes, you can apply for a six, nine or 12-month extension (only one time). You need to apply 30 days before your program expires. After living outside of the U.S. for two years you can re-apply for the program.

What are my employer's (host family) responsibilities?

Your host family is required to provide:

  • A private room in their home
  • Three meals a day
  • A weekly minimum salary, depending on the program
  • One complete weekend off each month
  • Two weeks of paid vacation for each 12 month exchange term in addition to regular weekly/monthly time off
  • Help with enrolling in and attending school, as required by the program
  • $500 USD towards your tuition cost

What happens if I quit my job or am terminated before my program ends?

If you quit your job or are terminated before your program ends, your J-1 status will become invalid and you will be required to leave the country immediately.

Can I bring my family with me to the U.S.?

Although there is a visa for family members of J-1 visa holders, called the J-2 visa, it is not available for Au Pair Program participants. Typically Au Pair Program participants are single, recent high school or college graduates who do not yet have families of their own.

What are the other J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa?

The other J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa programs are:

1 retrieved Oct. 14, 2013, http://j1visa.state.gov/basics/facts-and-figures/

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