You’ve decided to become an au pair in America. Are you ready to take the next step? Before you apply with the agency of your choice, make sure you fulfill the following requirements.
The U.S. Department of State and the au pair agencies set up certain regulations for au pairs to make sure you’re well prepared and ready to successfully finish your au pair year. Every au pair (and also their host family) will be screened carefully. These regulations mainly exist to ensure your safety and to determine whether you’ll be able to adjust to the new culture and language in your host country.
You can become an au pair if you:
Have more than 200 hours of recent childcare experience
Have you been spending a lot of your free time babysitting? In order to become an au pair, you have to prove that you have a minimum of 200 hours of non-family childcare experience. For most agencies these hours must have been collected within the last three years. Your agency will ask you for contact information of the families you have been babysitting for. They will call them to verify the information you provided in your application. Of course childcare is not just babysitting. If you were an intern in a preschool, worked in a summer camp or even if you’re a teacher, perfect, that should take care of your childcare hours!
Are between 18 and 26 years old
If you want to become an au pair in America, the program requires you to be between the ages of 18 and 26. I was almost 25 when I came to America as an au pair and was definitely one of the older participants of the program.
Have a secondary school degree or equivalent
In order to be accepted into the au pair program you need to at least have a high school degree or equivalent.
Are physically and mentally healthy
Your au pair agency will require you to take a physical exam with your doctor and provide your medical history. This is to ensure that you are physically and mentally fit for your year abroad.
Are able to communicate in English
Your au pair agency will invite you to an interview with one of their representatives. You will probably be a little nervous, but this is really just a little conversation to test your English. They will ask questions about your life and what you would do with the children in certain situations. Just be yourself and I’m sure it will work out well. Also, if you don’t understand certain words, don’t be afraid to ask. The agency does not expect your English to be perfect, they just want to make sure you’re able to communicate and say what you have on your mind. After the interview the representative is going to write a report about your English skills, which will later be available for potential host families to read.
Have a clean criminal background
In order to become an au pair, you need to have a clean criminal background. Your au pair agency will determine your criminal history by reviewing your certificate of good conduct or police record. Additionally, the United States embassy in your home country might ask you questions about whether or not you have a prior criminal history when you are there for your J-1 visa interview.
You have a driver’s license*
Having a driver’s license and a good amount of practice will definitely increase your chances of finding a host family that suits you. Many families require their au pair to drive the children to school and to after school classes. As the public transportation in many towns and cities is not very well developed, it will also give you a lot more freedom in your free time. Au pair agencies will ask about your driving skills and experience in your application.
* Having a driver’s license is not a requirement by the U.S. Department of State, but rather most au pair agencies.
You love to spend time with children
This one should be obvious, but unfortunately many au pairs come to America to enjoy the cultural aspects and forget how much time they will spend with the kids. Au pairs can work a maximum of 10 hours a day and 45 hours per week, which is more than your average 9-5 job. So, if you love to play dress-up, read goodnight stories and play catch in the backyard, this program is perfect for you.
You are interested in the American culture
Are you open to get to know a completely different way of life? It’s not just the food that might be different in your American host family. You might also be surprised about how children are being raised and how the holidays are celebrated.
Gathering all this information and completing your application will be quite a bit of work, but in the end it’s all worth it. You’ll have the time of your life! Don’t be intimidated by all the requirements.
When I decided to become an au pair, I felt like I did not have enough experience with younger children, even though I fulfilled the requirement of 200 hours of childcare experience. I wanted to gain more experience with toddlers, so I asked a local preschool if I could intern two days a week for a few months. Doing this made me feel a lot more confident taking care of younger kids. The internship also gave me a lot of ideas for educational activities that I’ve done with my host kids.
Are you ready to start your au pair application process? Do you fulfill all the above mentioned requirements? Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below, I will do my best to help!