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Au Pair in Chicago


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Working as an au pair has been less popular in the United States then in other countries, but is gaining credence as a efficient method of childcare. There are 11 agencies designated by the State Department to run the Au Pair Program. Both the host family and potential au pair typically pay these agencies an application fee and a program fee which varies from $4,990 to $6,955, depending on the agency used. 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).

Along with room and board, au pairs are paid a salary or stipend. To maintain the J-1 Visa au pairs must enroll in at least six hours of college credit classes or 80 lifelong learning hours in classes such as cooking, photography, pottery etc. at a local community college. Au pairs in good standing may apply for an extension of stay to continue participation in the program an additional 6, 9 or 12 months. The DHS allows J-1 visa holders to take an additional month at the conclusion of the exchange to travel in the United States. During that time, participants are free to travel independently of the program.

Au pairs placed with families who have children under 2 years old must have at least 200 hours of child care experience with infants under 2. Au pairs may only be placed in a family with an infant under 3 months old if a parent or other adult caregiver is also home and fully responsible for the infant.

The Au Pair Program is administered by the US Department of State. A typical 12-month program may have fees that resemble these from Au Pair USA:

Au Pair USA 12-Month Program Fees

Program Fees Amount Due Au Pair USA Services Covered
Application Fee
(Non-Refundable)
$250 With application Processing of the host family application and program approval
Deposit $2,500 Upon matching with an au pair Recruitment and screening of au pair, police clearance report, medical history, interview, matching and placement
Program Fee Balance $4,400* Upon the au pair's arrival or according to payment plan Au pair's visa, most of the au pair's round trip transportation, year-long support services of a local coordinator, a portion of the au pair's medical insurance and the au pair's training and orientation program

What the au pair must know

Basic application criteria vary from agency to agency, but there are a few typical requirements:

  • Speak and write conversational English
  • Be willing to share your culture and learn about others
  • Be willing to commit to 12 months in the U.S.
  • Agree to having a background check performed
  • Have at least 6 months childcare experience
  • Be able to provide 3 non-family local references regarding your experience and character
  • Possess a driver's license (or be ready to get one)
  • Be in good physical condition as evidenced by a Physician's Report
  • Pass a psycho-metric test given by the Agency

In addition to these requirements, it is common for families to ask for non-smoking, responsible or non-drinkers, and for females.

What the family has to do

It is the families responsibility to choose an agency that offers adequate screening of an au pair's background and mental make-up. The best situations are those in which the family and au pair truly like each other. It is also the families responsibility to be able to offer adequate room, board, and salary for the au pair as they are not a servant, but a valued employee.

Some addresses...

The designated US agencies are:


Update 16/05/2008

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