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Have any remaining questions about the au pair program? Below are our answers to some of the most common inquiries we receive.
If your question is not answered below, do not hesitate to contact our local office! We are just a phone call or email away.
For information about the current covid-19 situation and what it means for the au pair programme, visit our Coronavirus Updates & FAQ page
Can I travel to the USA as an au pair for 3, 6, or 9 months only?
According to the U.S. Department of State's visa requirements, each au pair applicant must stay with their host family for at least 12 months. This regulation applies therefore not only for Cultural Care au pairs, but also for all other agencies.
Over 40% of our au pairs choose to extend beyond 12 months and stay for 6, 9, or 12 months more, to spend more time with their host family, or explore more of the USA.
Will I have the option to extend my stay in the USA?
Yes. In addition to the minimum 12 months you commit to being an au pair in the USA, you also have the option to extend your stay for 6, 9, or 12 more months. Over 40% of our au pairs choose to take advantage of this great opportunity!
Do you accept male au pairs?
Men are welcome in the Cultural Care Au Pair program! However, keep in mind that the search for a host family can take a little more time for male applicants. Therefore, you should be especially open-minded and motivated and have a lot of great childcare and driving experience. As with any au pair, the more childcare experience you have, the greater your placement opportunity.
What if I already have a host family in the USA?
If you have already found a host family, contact us today so our office can enroll your family in the program, and ensure that you can obtain an official J-1 visa. As we are dedicated to promoting your success on the program, your host family will still be thoroughly screened by us, and will need to follow our normal review procedure, including criminal background checks.
What is the difference between an “au pair” and a “nanny”?
“Au pair” is a French term translating as “on par” or “equal to” – meaning the au pair lives on equal terms with their host family. Au pairs come from another country and both the host family and the au pair have an interest in learning about each other’s customs and lifestyle through cultural exchange. An au pair must have experience caring for children, but it is not necessary to have formal qualifications in childcare. In the USA, the au pair program is a regulated visa program that restricts the age of an au pair to between 18-26 years old, and comes with specific rules about responsibilities, working hours, and compensation. In contrast, a nanny normally has studied childcare and gained a formal qualification in the subject. A nanny does not always live with the family and often does more household duties than an au pair is permitted to do.
What is the weekly stipend?
All au pairs in the USA receive a weekly stipend directly from their host family. The stipend is subject to income tax, and you will need to pay tax for your time in the USA. The U.S. State Department’s regulations set forth the minimum amount host families must provide to au pairs, which is currently calculated as at least $195.75 per week. Host families and au pairs are free to discuss and agree to compensation higher than the required stipend minimum of $195.75; however, this cannot be in exchange for the au pair exceeding the regulatory limits on working hours (10 hours per day; 45 hours per week) or performing duties beyond childcare-related tasks.
The Application & Matching Process
How soon after applying will I be able to leave for the USA?
We need at least 2-3 months to process your full application, find you a host family, and prepare you for your year. The speed of the process is dependent on how actively you complete your profile, engage in the matching process, and make travel preparations. If you are not in a hurry, you can apply up to one year in advance.
What is a childcare reference?
A childcare reference is any adult individual who can confirm that you had a certain childcare experience. References can be: Parents whose children you took care of; an educator or co-educator of the school or nursery in which you had an internship; a fellow coach or board member at an organization where you train or work with children; or a representative from the youth program you were involved with. If you babysat siblings or relatives, members of your own family can also complete a childcare reference.
What is a personal reference?
A personal reference is any adult individual who can confirm that you are suited to living as an au pair with an American host family. Because our host families are more likely to trust the word of other adults from middle age due to their advanced life experience, you should not submit a personal reference from friends or peers. Try to get references from teachers or superiors, such as the parish priest of your community, or other public persons in your environment. People who are more biased to say favorable things about you, like friends or family members, are not valuable references.
How many references do I need?
In total, you need three references from three different adults who are not related to you. At least one of these three references must be a childcare reference.
How does Cultural Care check my references?
We call each childcare reference and confirm the details of your reported experience with them, including your approximate childcare hours. We also call your personal references.
I don't have my drivers’ license yet. Can I still apply?
It is a requirement of the program that all au pairs hold a valid driver's license, so we cannot accept your application until you have passed your driving test. However, in the meantime, we recommend that you complete the rest of your application so that we are ready to accept you once you’ve passed your driving test. For safety reasons, it is essential that you are an experienced, responsible driver, and will feel comfortable driving in the USA.
How does the matching process work?
Our matching team in the USA is the largest worldwide. We suggest your Au Pair Profile to a family who will then decide if you are the right au pair for their needs. At the same time, families can also search for the right au pair through our website in the USA or their account independently before they match with you. Every time a family matches with you, you will receive an e-mail from us as well as all of the family's basic information at a glance. You can then make phone calls, Skype, and e-mail each other to determine if it is a good fit. If you both decide to move forward with each other, congratulations — you have your final match!
Your Au Pair Experience
Can I change my host family if we don’t get along?
Our number one priority is that both you and your host family have a great experience, and you should allow time to get to know one another. Sometimes, personality conflicts do arise between an au pair and a host family. In these cases, Cultural Care Au Pair will work to find the best solution for both sides.
How can I make new friends as an au pair?
There are many opportunities to make new friends during your au pair experience! Here are just a few:
- At the Au Pair Training School you’ll share classes with au pairs from all over the world who will travel to the USA at the same time as you.
- At occasional get-togethers in the area. Your Local Childcare Consultant will connect you with other au pairs living close by.
- Through connecting with other au pairs during monthly support or social calls run by our Cultural Care team in the USA.
- At the course you choose to take at a local college or university, where you’ll come in contact with other American and international students.
- Through your host family and the communities they’re a part of.
Will I have the opportunity to study?
As part of the au pair program regulations set forth by the U.S. Department of State, all au pairs must enroll in a post-secondary study program during their year in America. This is a great way for au pairs to meet people of their own age whilst studying something that could be useful in their future life and career. Former Cultural Care au pairs have taken subjects ranging from computer studies to American culture, and from foreign languages to childcare-related courses. Keep in mind that your studies should fit around your childcare schedule, which will be set in advance — and in collaboration — with your host parents. Studying at an American College or University is a visa-compulsory component of the au pair programme. In South African terms Universities tend to offer a wide range undergraduate and graduate programmes and have a significant student body whereas Colleges are normally smaller institutions that only offer undergraduate programmes.