Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in the USA? Becoming an au pair is a fun and challenging way to learn about a new culture, while living side by side with an American family. Each year, the US Department of State authorizes thousands of foreigners to come live and work in the USA on a short term au pair visa. Becoming an au pair is a great way to experience what its like to live in another culture, improve your English, take classes in an American college, and travel around the USA.
There are a few requirements set out by the State Department, which must be met in order to participate in the program. The requirements are that the au pair candidate must be:
- Between 18-26 years of age.
- Able to speak, write, and understand English.
- Have a high school degree, or equivalent.
- Willing to commit to 12 months of work.
- Have a minimum of 200 hours of experience working with children.
There are many steps involved in getting a job as an au pair, so it is best to start the process as far in advance as possible. The whole process can often take several months.
1) Find a local au pair agency
- All au pairs must first apply through an au pair agency located in their native country. These local au pair agencies work closely with the American au pair sponsor organizations, and they will screen you to make sure that you are qualified for the program. A good way to find this local agency is to contact an American au pair sponsor, to see which agencies they work with in your country.
2) Fill out an application
- The local au pair organization will have a very detailed application that you must fill out. This application will usually contain personal and professional references, a criminal background check, medical report, and an essay to potential host families. This application will be sent to an American au pair organization, who will try and match you with a host family.
3) Waiting for an Interested Family
- American au pair organizations will have a group of host families who are interested in hiring an au pair. They will view your application and will contact you if they are interested.
4) Host Family Interview
- If a host family is interested in you they will contact you for a phone interview. These interviews are generally casual, and are used by the host family to get to know you better, and to assess your English level.
5) Confirming a Match with a Host Family
- After a few phone interviews, a host family may decide that they want to bring you to the USA to work as their au pair. If you agree to the match, you are confirmed to come to the USA as an au pair!
6) Going for a visa interview
- After matching with a host family the last hurdle is to get approved for a US visa. You must make an appointment at the closest US embassy. During your visa interview the US Consular Official will interview you to make sure that you fit all the program requirements. If he is satisfied, they will issue you a J-1 visa that will allow you to enter the USA.
Many potential au pairs find it difficult to be hired as an au pair. Often candidates will spend weeks putting their applications together, only to never have a host family contact them. While each American host family has different preferences for their au pairs, there are several areas where potential au pairs can improve their applications:
Improve Your English: Host families are always looking for au pairs who have great English skills. Spend some time working on your English, especially your spoken English, and you will find that many more host families will be interested in you.
Get more Childcare Experience: This is one of the first things that host parents will look at when selecting an au pair. Find opportunities to babysit, tutor, or teach children in your home country and your application will be much stronger.
Become a more confident driver: This may not be as obvious as some of the other criteria, but it is one of the most crucial things in being a great au pair candidate. In America, it is necessary to drive in order to get almost anywhere. As you will be driving children to school and other activities, host parents will place a huge emphasis on driving experience.
Get Certified: Take a course to become CPR or First Aid certified. This will make your application stand out among other au pair candidates.