Au Pair Frequently Asked Questions
Applying & Selecting an Au Pair
Hosting & Living With an Au Pair
Q. What is an au pair?
A. Au pairs are young adults between the ages of 18 and 26 who come to the United States and live as an extended member of their host family. An au pair provides up to 45 hours per week of live-in child care in exchange for room, board and a small weekly stipend. Au pairs expose families to other cultures, languages and customs, offering valuable cross-cultural experience. Au pairs are also one of the most affordable child care options available, especially for families with more than one child.
Q. What is the difference between an au pair and a nanny?
A. A nanny is strictly a domestic employee. An au pair is a participant in cultural exchange program. While you “hire” a nanny, you “host” an au pair, and welcome her or him as a member of your extended family. Children receive an enriching cultural experience that isn’t always available from a nanny. Learn more about the differences between au pairs and nannies.
Q. Are all au pairs female?
A. No. While the majority of au pairs are women, both men and women serve as au pairs.
Q. How long can an au pair stay with my family?
A. An au pair's original program runs 12 months. Many host families are so pleased with their au pairs that they want them to stay beyond the first year. An extension option is available to extend an au pair's original term by six, nine or 12 months.
Q. What countries do the au pairs come from?
A. We have applicants from:
Bosnia and Herzegovina
View all of our
featured au pairs
Q. Do all au pairs speak English?
A. Yes. All au pair applicants must speak English. InterExchange verifies each applicant’s English skills during our screening and interviewing process. You will also have the opportunity to interview potential au pairs over the phone to make sure you are comfortable with their English abilities.
Q. Do all au pairs drive?
A. Most au pair applicants have a valid driver's license. If an au pair is a driver, she or he will be required to obtain an international driver's license prior to their arrival. During your telephone interview, you may ask the au pair about the extent of his or her driving experience. Once you select an au pair, you should also be sure to contact your car insurance company about how to insure your au pair.
Q. What is a Local Coordinator?
A. Every au pair program is required by the American government to have Local Coordinators in the areas they serve. Your Local Coordinator is always available to answer questions and provide assistance before and after your au pair arrives. When you first apply to join the Au Pair USA family, your Local Coordinator will meet with you to discuss your needs and answer your questions about the program. She or he will also be in close contact with you and your au pair throughout the program—especially during the early stages of the placement. Learn more about the role of the Local Coordinator or find the Local Coordinator in your area.
Q. What type of visa do au pairs need?
A. All au pairs are on the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa, which is a non-immigrant visa granted by the U.S. Department of State. InterExchange Au Pair USA serves as the visa sponsor for the au pair and will make all the arrangements for the au pair to receive the visa from his or her nearest American Embassy or Consulate.
Q. How much does it cost to host an au pair?
A. It probably costs less than you think! With Au Pair USA, the total cost of full-time, live-in child care is about $355 per week. (That includes the au pair’s weekly stipend plus the program fee.) Even if you have more than one child, the rate stays the same. Review a full breakdown of Au Pair USA program costs and host family discounts for new and reapplying host families.
Q. What does the Program Fee cover?
A. As a nonprofit organization, InterExchange is committed to keeping its program fees as low as possible. Our program fee covers your au pair's J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa, most of the roundtrip transportation to and from your au pair's home country, a portion of your au pair's medical insurance and your au pair's training and orientation in New York City.
Q. How much do I pay my au pair?
A. The weekly pay rate for au pairs is determined by the U.S. Department of State, and is based on the federal minimum wage. Currently, the weekly payment is $195.75. You’ll also pay your au pair an educational stipend to help cover the cost of her or his accruing six academic credits. The maximum amount for the stipend is $500.
Q. Does my au pair pay taxes?
A. Here are some general guidelines to give you an idea of how au pair taxes work. Because tax requirements vary according to state and according to your family’s situation, InterExchange recommends that you consult a tax advisor for specific information about your tax situation:
Au pairs are exempt from Social Security and Medicare taxes.
An au pair’s income is considered “wages” and is subject to Federal income tax. However, depending on what time of the year your au pair arrives, it is possible that he or she will make below the minimum amount required for taxation in that year.
The IRS considers your au pair to be a household “employee” and the host family to be the “employer.” However, host families are not required to withhold taxes unless the au pair requests that taxes be withheld and the host family agrees to do so. Your au pair is responsible for declaring his or her own income and paying taxes at the end of the year.
Host family fees paid to InterExchange Au Pair USA and the weekly stipend paid to your au pair may qualify as a deductible child care expense. (Please consult a professional tax advisor for an opinion.)
If you wish to take the child care credit on your Federal Income Tax Return or if you wish to take reimbursement from a flexible spending program, be sure that your au pair has a Social Security number. Each au pair must acquire her or his Social Security number individually. InterExchange provides au pairs with a letter during orientation in New York to assist them in obtaining a Social Security number.
Applying & Selecting an Au Pair
Q. How do I apply?
A. Simply fill out an application.
Q. What happens after I send in my application?
A. After you submit your application, your Local Coordinator will contact you to schedule a meeting. The Au Pair USA placement team will then begin presenting you with au pair candidates based on your family's preferences.
Q. How long does it take to welcome an au pair into our home?
A. The process usually takes between eight to 14 weeks from the time your application is received to the time your au pair arrives at your home. After being matched with a host family, each au pair candidate must apply and be approved for a J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa. This process takes several weeks. Before arriving at your home, your au pair also attends a mandatory five-day orientation and training session in New York City.
Q. What if I already know someone I’d like to host as an au pair?
A. Great! If you’ve already found an au pair, we call it a “Pre-Match.” As long as the person you’ve selected meets the requirements to be an au pair, InterExchange can provide J-1 Visa sponsorship and support throughout the program. Plus, if you have a pre-matched candidate, you will save $300 on your program fees.
Q. Will the application process be quicker if I already know my au pair (a pre-match)?
A. If you already know who you would like to host as an au pair, the process may be quicker by one to two weeks, since you will not need to go through the matching process. However, both you and your au pair must follow all Au Pair USA and governmental procedures in order for the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa to be granted.
Q. How does my family choose our au pair?
A. You’ll be able to interview your au pair over the phone at least twice before making your selection. (Here are our recommended questions to ask an au pair.) You’ll have ample opportunity to discuss your expectations and requirements before making your final decision. You are also welcome to contact your au pair applicant via email at any time.
Q. What kind of screening process do InterExchange Au Pair USA au pairs go through?
A. InterExchange has a thorough and comprehensive screening process. Initial screening is conducted in your au pair’s home country by a representative known as an international cooperator. The cooperator interviews each au pair applicant and obtains a confidential medical history report. The cooperator also gathers a police clearance report, personal references, two child care references, proof of secondary education and a personal essay.
Q. Can I request an au pair who has experience working with infants and/or toddlers?
A. Yes. You'll be glad to know that au pairs must meet even more stringent requirements in order to care for very young children. Specifically, they must provide references proving that they have had at least 200 hours of experience caring for a child under the age of two.
Q. Can InterExchange accommodate families with special needs?
A. Yes. If your family has special needs, we will work very closely with you to evaluate your specific situation. Because we want to match you with an au pair who can meet all of your needs and expectations, the matching process may take slightly longer.
Q. If I am a single parent do I qualify to be a host family?
A. Yes, as long as you meet all of the host family requirements.
Q. May I select an au pair from a specific country?
A. You are welcome to request an au pair from a specific country. Just be aware that it may take longer to match you with an au pair from your desired country, depending on how many qualified candidates are available at the time of your application.
Q. Can I request an au pair who speaks a certain language?
A. Absolutely! Simply be aware that the matching process may take longer depending on the amount of qualified candidates that meet your language preference.
Hosting & Living With an Au Pair
Q. What sort of orientation will my au pair receive before she or he arrives at my home?
A. InterExchange Au Pair USA is committed to preparing all of our au pairs thoroughly so that they can provide the best care for your children. During the five-day Orientation and Training Program in New York City, au pairs learn CPR and first aid through hands-on practice, not just watching demonstrations. Au pairs also learn about child development, health and safety, emergency procedures, the 911 system and how to deal with culture shock. This orientation ensures that your au pair is ready to provide top-quality care for your children.
Q. Should I provide my au pair with her or his own bedroom, bathroom and car?
A. Host families are required to provide their au pair with a private bedroom. It is not required that your au pair have her or his own bathroom or car. That’s up to you.
Q. May I ask my au pair to speak her or his native language exclusively (no English)?
A. While au pairs often help teach children words or phrases from their own language, they should primarily speak English in the household. The cultural exchange aspect of the au pair program is meant to benefit both the host family and your au pair. Many au pairs join the program in hopes of improving their English skills.
Q. Can my au pair perform other household duties besides caring for the children?
A. Your au pair may assist with household duties related to the children (such as picking up after the children, preparing snacks and meals and doing children's laundry). However, your au pair should not be expected to clean the entire house, do the family laundry or to regularly prepare meals for the entire family.
Q. Can my au pair do extra work for extra money?
A. No. This would be a violation of your au pair’s visa.
Q. What if I would like my au pair to stay with my family longer than one year?
A. The Au Pair USA program lasts one year but can be extended for an additional six, nine or 12 months with a mutual agreement between the au pair and host family. If so desired, InterExchange will request a program extension through the U.S. Department of State. Information on our Extension Program will be sent to your family toward the end of your au pair’s original stay.
Q. Can my au pair travel with my family?
A. Certainly! If you are traveling to another country, just be sure that your au pair is in compliance with the specific visa rules and regulations of the destination country prior to departure. Also, be aware that your au pair must carry her or his DS-2019 form at all times.
Q. Can my au pair stay home with my children when I travel on business trips?
A. While au pairs can accommodate some flexibility in their schedules, they are not permitted to be home alone with children overnight, and never while parents are out of town.
Q. What if our au pair doesn’t work out for some reason?
A. Most host families have a wonderful experience with their au pair. Our matching process is designed to help you find the ideal au pair for your family. In the unusual event that a family is having issues with an au pair, the Local Coordinator will attempt to help the family and the au pair resolve any problems. If the situation cannot be resolved, a transition team from InterExchange will assist the family in finding a new au pair and finding the original au pair a better host family match.