General Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is an au pair?
A: An au pair is a young foreign person who helps with child care in exchange for room and board.  The U.S. au pair program is considered primarily a cultural exchange program offered through U.S. Department of State designated sponsors.  Au pairs generally have some child care experience and should not be considered professional nannies.

Q: What duties or tasks can an au pair perform?                             
A: Au pairs help families care for their children.  This includes, but is not limited to, preparing children’s meals, waking children, helping them get ready for school, playing sports with them, driving them to and from activities, bathing, putting them to bed, changing diapers, bottle feeding. Au pairs may also help children tidy their rooms and launder children’s clothes. 
Caution:  Au pairs are not housekeepers, gardeners, professional cooks and may not perform similar household tasks.

Q: How much child care experience do au pairs have?
A: The minimum child care experience is 200 hours caring for children who are not relatives.  Child care experience may range from babysitting, tutoring, coaching to internships in daycare, camps or pediatric environments.

Q: How many children can an au pair watch?
A: Au pairs may care for up to four children.  Au pairs are not allowed to care for children from other households.

Q:  How long is the program?
A:  The au pair J1 visa program is a 12-month program.  

QIs there an au pair program for 3 or 4 months?
A:  No. 

QWhat is a pre-match or direct placement?
A:  Host families and au pairs who find each other on generic web sites or through friends or family are identified as pre-match or direct placements. Au pairs and host families must still meet the regulatory and sponsor requirements for program acceptance and ongoing participation.    

Q: What is the au pair age requirement?
A:   Minimum age is 18.  Maximum age is 26 and 4 months. 

Q: Can male au pairs apply?
A: Yes.  Although not as popular, some families prefer male au pairs.

Q: Do au pairs speak English? 
A: Au pairs should have a conversational level of English.  Often reading and writing are initially better than verbal comprehension.

Q: Do au pairs have medical insurance?
A: Yes. Au pair medical insurance benefits vary among agencies. 

Q: How can I apply?
A: First complete the free au pair or host family interest form. This helps determine initial program qualification. A USAuPair representative will then contact you to explain program details.

Q: Can au pairs care for infants?
A: Yes, however, au pairs may not be left alone with an infant under age three months.

Q:  Can a host family select an au pair who speaks their native language, and then ask the au pair converse in the native language with the children?
A: The primary language spoken in a host family’s home must be English.  Families may ask au pairs speak their native language during specific limited times.  This may be during meal time or a couple of hours each day.

Q:   Can a non U.S. host family host an au pair?
A:   Both host parents must be either U.S. citizens or permanent legal residents of the U.S. (green card holders). 

Q:   How long does it take to have an au pair?
A:   The length of time depends upon host family availability and schedules.  It also depends upon seasonal U.S. Embassy visa appointment volumes and other factors.  USAuPair recommends host families apply early.  Never select an au pair under timeline duress.  Allow time to interview and dialogue with au pair applicants.  Generally host families allow eight to ten weeks to complete the entire process from initial application to au pair arrival. 

Q: Can multiple host families share an au pair?
A: No, the terms of the program limit au pair child care to one family. 

Q:  How much does it cost?
A:  Program fees for host families are located on the web site.  Program fees for au pairs vary from country to country.  Au pair applicants are informed about fees before they apply to the program.