About Au Pair
Fostering daily cultural exchange in American homes for nearly 30 years
For more than 30 years, the Au Pair Program has supported American families and American diplomatic objectives.
The Au Pair Program connects welcoming American families with young people from around the world for an exciting, life-changing, cultural exchange experience. Au pairs provide valuable childcare services for American families and introduce American children to the wider world by sharing their culture. In return, au pairs gain an introduction to the American way of life by living directly with their American Host Families. When au pairs return home at the end of their programs, they have a clear and personal understanding of American values and people, which they share with their friends and family. This multiplier effect fosters peace and counters misunderstanding.
The genesis for the idea of the Au Pair Program comes from the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961, Senator J. William Fulbright’s legislation to increase mutual understanding between Americans and the people of other countries. This legislation created such important academic exchanges as the Fulbright Program. Programs like the Au Pair Program developed as the direct result of his vision.
The Au Pair Program was officially created in 1986, when the United States Information Agency (USIA) created an au pair “pilot program.” After extending this trial period by two years, Congress enacted the Eisenhower Exchange Fellowship Act, which allowed USIA to extend the au pair program permanently. After the dissolution of USIA in 1999, regulation of the program transferred to the Department of State, Educational & Cultural Affairs Bureau.
Over 30+ years the Au Pair Program has become the world’s gold standard au pair program. Since it is privately funded, the Au Pair Program achieves valuable diplomatic and foreign policy objectives without costing the U.S. taxpayers anything. In addition to its diplomatic and foreign policy benefits, the program has evolved to become an important piece of the American child care system, providing an affordable, legal option for families who want live-in childcare.
Au Pair program participants are adventurous young women and men with child care experience who want to utilise this experience living with an American family and providing care to the family children. Being on a J-1 visa allows them to stay in the U.S. for 12 months and experience all the country has to offer.
Au pairs come from 70+ countries, including those important to U.S. national security and American economic expansion such as Brazil, China, Israel, Poland and the U.K.
Host Families are typically middle-class American families with working parents and multiple children. Faced with the high cost of childcare, and looking for the opportunity expose their children to new cultures, they open their home to an international au pair for a 12 month placement. During this placement, au pairs become extended family members, taking part in family meals, social events, vacations, and milestones.
True to Senator Fulbright’s vision for American exchange programs, the Au Pair Program operates as a public-private partnership. The Department of State partners with (and regulates) U.S.-based cultural exchange organizations, known as sponsors, to facilitate the program.
Sponsors have Local Representatives monitoring the au pair placements and working to create positive, memorable experiences for everyone involved. Sponsors and their Local Coordinators support the Au Pairs throughout their stay in the U.S.
The Au Pair program is governed by Department of State regulations that protect the health, safety, and welfare of program participants. These regulations are seen as the gold standard and a model for other countries’ au pair programs.
Key program regulations:
- Au pairs must be between the ages of 18 and 26 year of age when they arrive to the U.S.
- Au pairs can only provide childcare related work for their Host Family for a maximum of 10 hours per day, 45 hours per week.
- All au pairs must pass a background check including an in-person interview, police background check, and vetting of child care references.
- All Host Families must be vetted and approved before au pairs arrive.
- Sponsors must provide monthly monitoring of the au pair placement throughout their time in the home.
- Au Pair Sponsors must provide around the clock support and have local representatives nearby each au pair placement.
- Au pairs complete not less than six semester hours of academic credit in formal educational settings at accredited U.S. post-secondary institutions.