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Explore the World: Your Guide to Becoming an Au Pair in the USA

an au pair interacting with a young child

Becoming an au pair is a popular way to hone language skills and see a different part of the world. Au pair arrangements often involve a cultural exchange component, where the au pair has the chance to learn the language and customs of the foreign country while sharing their own culture with the host family. Most countries have au pair programs and visas. Let’s explore what an au pair does and the requirements to become an au pair in the USA.

Learn more about Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), including qualifications, certification, and the types of jobs you can find.

What is an au pair?

An au pair is a young adult who travels to a foreign country to live with a host family and provides childcare and language tutoring assistance. In exchange for their work, au pairs typically receive room and board, a small stipend, and the opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture of the host country.

The daily activities of an au pair can vary depending on the specific needs of the host family, the age of the children, and any other responsibilities agreed upon in the arrangement. However, here’s a general idea of what an au pair might do on a day-to-day basis:

  • Childcare: The primary responsibility of an au pair is usually taking care of the children in the host family. This can include tasks such as dropping off and picking up the kids from school or play dates, helping with homework, and playing with the kids. Au pairs may also organize activities and supervise outings.
  • Light housework: Au pairs might be responsible for light housework related to the children, such as tidying up their rooms, doing their laundry, and preparing their meals. Some families may also expect the au pair to help with general household chores like washing dishes, vacuuming, or grocery shopping.
  • Language practice: If the au pair is in a foreign country to learn the language, part of their daily routine may involve practicing the language with the host family and/or taking language classes or participating in language exchange programs. For example, if a Chilean wanted to become an au pair in the USA, then they could be expected to teach the host family Spanish during the week.
  • Cultural exchange: Au pairs often participate in cultural exchange activities with the host family, which could include sharing meals, attending local events and festivals, or exploring the area together.
  • Personal time: Au pairs typically have some free time during the day to pursue their own interests, study, or socialize. Host families are usually expected to provide the au pair with enough free time to explore the local area and culture. The daily routine of an au pair can be quite flexible, as it often depends on the schedule of the host family and the needs of the children. Au pairs may need to adapt to changes in routines and be willing to help out with additional tasks as needed.

An au pair in the USA will be immersed in a household where English is the first language, so they will improve their grammar and diction, and pick up on local expressions as well.  

Being an au pair is a great way to grow your English language skills. For those breaking into TEFL, working as an au pair can provide an opportunity to immerse oneself in the language. Many employers require teachers to meet certain English proficiency level requirements and this experience can help build those necessary skills.

Looking for training to teach your young learners? Learn more about the Teaching English to Young Learners and Teenagers Specialized Certification.

a young woman with young children
Au pairs perform a variety of childcare duties that can include driving the host family’s children to appointments and taking them on outings.

How long can au pairs stay in the U.S.?

Au pairs in the USA typically enter on a J-1 visa, which is a non-immigrant visa category designed for cultural exchange programs. The duration of stay for au pairs on a J-1 visa can vary depending on the specific program they are participating in and any extensions that may be granted.

Typically, au pairs in the USA are allowed to stay for a maximum of 12 months. However, some programs allow for an extension of up to 12 additional months, for a total of 24 months. Extensions are typically granted if both the host family and the au pair agree to continue the arrangement, and if the au pair meets certain program requirements.

Interested in learning more about options for teaching English abroad? Read our step-by-step guide to teaching abroad.

How many hours can au pairs work in the U.S.?

Au pairs are allowed to work up to 45 hours per week in the United States. These can be split up however the host family and the au pair agree, but there’s a maximum of 10 hours of work per day. Additionally, au pairs are entitled to at least one and a half consecutive days off per week, typically a full weekend day and another day during the week. Both the host family and the au pair need to adhere to these time regulations to ensure compliance with the terms of the au pair program. 

What are the requirements to be an au pair in the U.S.?

Au pairs in the USA are typically sponsored by a program. Each program may have slightly different requirements, but many will be the same. And in any case, the foundational educational requirement will be the same for any program as specific au pair class qualifications are required for the J-1 visa. Let’s look at some of the typical requirements to be an au pair in the USA.

  • Health: Au pairs must be in good physical and mental health. They may be required to complete a medical examination to ensure they meet health requirements for participation in the program.
  • Background check: Au pairs must undergo a background check, which typically includes criminal history and child abuse registry checks.
  • Driver’s license: While not always required, having a valid driver’s license is often preferred by host families, especially in areas where driving is necessary for transportation.
  • Childcare experience: Many programs will require an au pair to have some previous experience working with children, such as babysitting or daycare experience.
  • Education: To be an au pair in the U.S., it’s required that you complete qualifying au pair coursework earning six academic credits (72 hours) at an accredited institution in the U.S. All of Bridge’s courses are accredited; for example, the 120-Hour Online Bridge Master Certificate meets the requirements and qualifies applicants for the necessary J-1 visa.
  • Age: Some programs may have slightly different age requirements, but generally, au pairs must be between 18 and 26 years old at the time of application.
  • Commitment to cultural exchange: Au pairs should have an interest in cultural exchange and be willing to immerse themselves in the culture of the host country.
  • Commitment to program duration: Au pairs must commit to staying with their host family for the duration of the program, which is typically 12 months, with the possibility of a 12-month extension.

Read about the requirements for teaching abroad with schools, companies, and programs, as well as online.

What are some au pair programs?

Prospective au pairs should spend time researching and comparing different programs to find the one that best fits their needs and preferences. Each program may have slightly different application processes, fees, support services, and program requirements, so doing your due diligence to fully understand all details of the program options will help you make the best choice.

Here are some popular au pair programs in the U.S.:

  • Au Pair in America – Focused on the cultural exchange experience, this program provides detailed information on the application process and qualifications for au pair applicants based on their country of residence. They also provide resources for current au pairs and an au pair blog.
  • Cultural Care Au Pair – Dedicated to the learning and growth goals of its participants, this program provides global support during training, preparation, application completion, and the visa process. Applicants complete an au pair profile, attend an informational meeting, complete an interview and English evaluation, and submit a personality profile and background check. A 32-hour Au Pair Training School is completed before beginning the exchange experience in the U.S.
  • AuPairCare – This program helps match you with a family and takes care of your flights to and from the U.S. Au Pairs begin with AuPairCare Connect, a two-day welcome event that connects au pairs and includes a city tour and group activities to set you up for success during the program year.
  • Go Au Pair – This program has a simple three-step process that includes applying, choosing your family, and getting started. The program includes an orientation, support staff, and a local area representative.
  • EurAupair – This program arranges for your travel to New York City, and then to your homestay community. With departure months of January through November, you can choose the dates you’d like to travel and ensure you’re in the U.S. during the season you most enjoy.
  • InterExchange Au Pair USA – A designated sponsor of the U.S. Department of State Exchange Visitor Programs, this program arranges travel and provides training that includes an online academy training program with child development, first aid/CPR, and American culture instruction.
a young woman in a garden with young children playing with emerging butterflies.
Being an au pair in the USA can provide opportunities to immerse yourself in American culture and improve your English language skills.

How to become an au pair in the USA

There are several steps to complete to become an au pair in the USA. You’ll want to research program options, become familiar with the requirements for the visa and program you choose, be sure you can fulfill all qualifications, apply to your program of choice, and then start your adventure as an au pair.

Read more about au pair classes and other requirements to become an au pair.

Researching au pair programs

When researching potential au pair programs, consider factors such as reputation, support services, fees, and eligibility requirements. Review the program’s host family requirements and all program benefits for au pairs. It’s also important to think about your goals in spending a year or more as an au pair. Are you simply looking to experience a new culture? Are you looking for a way to improve your English through immersing yourself in the culture? Are you pursuing an education or work experience?

Some people take an au pair position to attend an American college. Many au pair programs provide a stipend contribution toward an au pair’s education requirement in addition to a general stipend. The amount of the educational stipend is determined by the U.S. Department of State, and families must agree to comply with any increase in amount.

Learn about teaching English abroad salaries, including where you can make the most money.

Meeting au pair program qualifications and requirements

Some au pair qualifications may vary from program to program, but you will need to meet the educational requirements of the J-1 visa, which requires training at an accredited U.S. institution for at least six credits. All of Bridge’s courses are accredited. For instance, the Bridge Master TEFL Certificate meets U.S. au pair education requirements. As an accredited training provider, Bridge provides certificated training for English language teachers around the world. Online with tutor support, the Master Certificate course can be completed at your own pace in three months or less. The course provides:

  • Core teacher training
  • English grammar certification
  • A specialized teaching module
  • A job advising module

You can earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs) through the 120-Hour Master Certification. CEUs are nationally recognized units of participation in continuing education programs. Bridge is accredited by ACCET (Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training) and AQUEDUTO (Association for Quality Education & Online Training).

The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) is the regulator of qualifications, examinations, and assessments in England and the regulator of vocational qualifications in Northern Ireland. Bridge courses have been similarly reviewed and recommended for university credit equivalencies by ACE CREDIT® (American Council on Education’s College Credit Recommendation Service) and many university partners.

Learn more about Bridge’s accreditation.

Applying to an au pair program

Once a suitable program is selected, you’ll need to apply through the program’s website. Applications typically require you to note your personal information, educational background, childcare experience, and references. After applying, there may be required interviews and screening processes. This may include language proficiency assessments, background checks, and medical examinations.

Starting your job as an au pair

The au pair program will work to match you with a host family based on preferences, skills, and needs. Upon confirmation of the match, it’s time to apply for a J-1 visa, which is the category used by au pairs in the USA. Upon completing the visa application and obtaining any necessary travel documents, it’s time to travel to the USA and begin your au pair adventure.

Living and working in an English-speaking environment provides au pairs with an excellent opportunity to improve their language skills through daily interactions with their host family, community members, and language classes. Overall, becoming an au pair in the USA offers a unique and enriching experience that combines cultural exchange, language learning, childcare experience, and personal growth opportunities.

Ready to become an au pair? Find out more about the Bridge 120-hour Master TEFL Certificate, which meets au pair learning requirements.

Rashmi is a culture vulture who hopes to travel the world. News is her second love, after coffee.