Au pair

Au pair

An au pair (plural: au pairs) is a foreign-national domestic assistant working for, and living as part of, a host family. Typically, au pairs are girls or young women and take on a share of the family's responsibility for child care as well as some housework, and receive a small monetary allowance for personal use.

The title comes from the French term "au pair", meaning "on a par" or "equal to", indicating that the relationship is intended to be one of equals: the au pair is intended to become a member of the family, albeit a temporary one, rather than a domestic servant. In the best circumstances, both parties benefit from learning about the other's culture.


An au pair placement is an arrangement where an unmarried person between 17 and 30 years old (age 18-26 for the U.S. program) lives for up to two years in a foreign country as a member of a local family, helping in the home for a set number of hours a day, often with at least two full days off per week. In return, they receive a reasonable allowance and a private room.

The Council of Europe recommends that every au pair be issued a standard contract with their family.


An au pair should be treated as an equal part of the family, not as a servant, and shall not be required to wear a uniform. There can be misunderstandings on both sides about what this means. The usual practice is that au pairs eat with the family most of the time, and join in some of the usual family activities such as outings and trips. However, host families normally expect to have some private time to themselves, particularly in the evenings. During this time, an au pair might retire to his or her room to watch television, study, or go out with friends.Being an au pair can be a great opportunity to experience a different country and culture. The "job" of the au pair will vary depending on how much the host family expects. As an employee, many countries have government limits as to how many hours an au pair is allowed to work. Jobs vary from taking children to and from school, taking children to after school activities, cooking, cleaning, ironing, babysitting, etc. The au pair is given a monthly allowance and all expenses are paid by the host family.

pecific countries


An au pair’s responsibilities also include light housework, totaling six hours a day, five days a week.Fact|date=March 2008 The au pair has her/his own room, is provided with food and is paid a weekly allowance amounting to at least 252 per month (minimum set by Finnish law).Fact|date=March 2008 Additionally, the host family will arrange a Finnish language course to help the au pair communicate better with the children and get more out of his or her stay in Finland.Fact|date=March 2008. Au pairs can stay with their host family for up to one year or negotiate a shorter stay.Fact|date=March 2008

United Kingdom

An au pair in the United Kingdom must be a national of the European Union or of one of the following countries: Andorra, Faroe Islands, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greenland, San Marino, Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Croatia or Monaco.Fact|date=March 2008 Although other European Economic Area nationals are not included in the au pair scheme, they are free to take au pair placements in the UK.Clarifyme|date=March 2008

Nationals of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republic of Croatia, Macedonia, and Turkey need a visa from their British Embassy or Consulate.Fact|date=March 2008

Au pair permits are limited to candidates who are unmarried, have no dependants, do not plan to stay in the UK for more than two years as an au pair, and can support and accommodate themselves without help from public funds.Fact|date=March 2008 They are also required to leave the UK after completing their au pair period. Au pairs may move to another family as long as the new arrangements continue to meet immigration requirements.Fact|date=March 2008

The "British Au Pairs Agencies Association" (BAPAA) was created by 23 members of the "International Au Pairs Agencies Association" (IAPA).Fact|date=March 2008 The main goal of BAPAA within the UK is liaising with the Home Office and other government officials to improve the process of visa applications for those countries where a visa is needed and setting standards for the industry within the United Kingdom.Fact|date=March 2008

United States

The United States au pair program offers qualified young people between the ages of 18 and 26 the opportunity to live and study in the U.S. for one or two years in exchange for providing up to 45 hours of childcare per week. [ [22 CFR 62.31(c)(2)] The au pair program was recently granted permission from the U.S. Department of State to offer a second year extension au pair program (6, 9 or 12 months), as well as a summer au pair program.Fact|date=March 2008

At the same time, the au pairs are required to complete an educational component of six semester hours of academic credit or its equivalent. [ [22 CFR 62.31(c)(3)] ] At the end of one year, au pairs generally return to their home country, unless they and their host families choose to extend their stay for a further 6, 9 or 12 months. [ [22 CFR 62.31(o)] Alternatively, the au pair can choose to extend her period in the US with a different family.Fact|date=March 2008 Most au pairs choose a family in a different part of the country, allowing them to have a different experience.Fact|date=March 2008

The rules of the Au Pair Program in the US are clear: au pairs are provided a private bedroom, meals, remuneration tied to the minimum wage ($157.95 per week, rising to $176.85 from 23 July 2008, and $195.75 as of 23 July 2009Change in US au pair stipends for minimum wage increase (US Department of State) [] ] ), 1½ days off weekly plus a full weekend off each month, two weeks' paid vacation and the first $500 toward the costs of required course work to be completed at an accredited institution of higher education in order to satisfy the requirements of the educational component of the program.Fact|date=March 2008 Au pairs are not to work more than 10 hours per day or 45 hours per week, and are not to serve as general housekeepers or assume responsibility for household management. [ [22 CFR 62.31(j)(2)]

The US EduCare Au Pair Program is also available for families with school-age children. In this program, the au pair works a lower number of hours (not more than 10 hours a day and not more than 30 hours a week) for a weekly minimum wage of $118.46 (raising to $132.64 on 24 July 2008, and $146.81 on 24 July 2009 in accordance with the federal minimum wage increases).Change in US au pair stipends for minimum wage increase (US Department of State) [] ] The family pays $1000 in educational expenses, and the au pair is required to complete 12 hours of academic credit.Fact|date=March 2008

Au pairs placed with families who have children under two years old must have at least 200 hours of child care experience with infants under two.Fact|date=March 2008 Au pairs may only be placed in a family with an infant under three months old if a parent or other adult caregiver is also home and fully responsible for the infant.Fact|date=March 2008

The Au Pair Program is administered by the US Department of State. Participating families and au pairs must work with one of the currently 12 approved agencies. Au pairs enter the United States on a J-1 Visa.Fact|date=March 2008

Basic Application Criteria

Potential au pairs must:
* be aged 18-26
* have professional or practical childcare experience for at least 200 hours if looking after a child under 2
* agree to commit to a full year’s stay in the USA and be prepared to provide up to 45 hours of childcare a week
* have completed their secondary school education.
* be proficient in spoken English
* have no criminal record
* have not previously been an au pair in AmericaFact|date=March 2008

There are twelve sponsoring au pair agencies designated by the State Department. [ [ List of Au Pair Sponsoring Agencies] US State Department website. Retrieved July 31 2008.] Host families typically pay these agencies an application fee and a program fee which varies from $5,500 to $7,200, depending on the agency used. The program fees cover expenses related to the arrival of the au pair and compliance with regulations governing the program. These include, but are not limited to, airfare, medical insurance, mandatory 32-hour education session on child development and safety and other expenses. Au pairs pay fees which vary depending on the US agency and the home country agency they use (if they do not apply directly to the US agency).


A new organisation named the European Committee for Au Pair Standards (ECAPS) was founded with the objective to create uniform European rules and guidelines for au pairs, host families and au pair agencies.Fact|date=March 2008 ECAPS is an initiative of the International Au Pair Association (IAPA), RAL Gütegemeinschaft Au pair e.V. (GAP) and participating national au pair agency organisations including the British Au Pair Agencies Association, Union Francaise des Association Au Pair, Au pair Society and Netherlands Au Pair Organisation.Fact|date=March 2008

ee also

* Immigration
* Student exchange program


External links

* [] contains information for families looking for an au pair. Based in Herndon, VA but offers au pairs around the U.S.

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