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Au pair

Au pair

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An au pair is a domestic assistant from a foreign country working for, and living as part of, a host family
In human context, a family is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence. In most societies it is the principal institution for the socialization of children...

. Typically, au pairs take on a share of the family's responsibility for childcare
Child care means caring for and supervising child/children usually from 0–13 years of age. In the United States child care is increasingly referred to as early childhood education due to the understanding of the impact of early experiences of the developing child...

 as well as some housework, and receive a small monetary allowance
Allowance may refer to:*Allowance *Allowances in accounting, see Accounts receivable*Personal allowance in the United Kingdom's taxing system* Jobseeker's Allowance, a term for unemployment benefit in the United Kingdom* EU Allowances...

 for personal use. Au pair schemes are subject to government restrictions which specify an age range usually from late teens to mid to late twenties. In Europe, where the concept originated, au pairs are only supposed to work part time, and they often also study part time, generally focusing on the language of the host country, but in the United States, they are permitted to provide full time childcare.

The title comes from the French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 term au pair, meaning "on a par" or "equal to", indicating that the relationship is intended to be one of equals: the au pair is intended to become a member of the family, albeit a temporary one, rather than a traditional domestic worker
Domestic worker
A domestic worker is a man, woman or child who works within the employer's household. Domestic workers perform a variety of household services for an individual or a family, from providing care for children and elderly dependents to cleaning and household maintenance, known as housekeeping...


Concept and conditions

The concept of the au pair originated in Europe after World War II. Before the war, an abundant supply of domestic servants had been available to look after the children of middle and upper class families, but changes in social attitudes, and increases in wages and taxes after the war, made the old system inaccessible to most middle class parents. At the same time, social change increased the number of middle class girls who needed to earn their own living, and rising educational aspirations for girls made experiencing foreign cultures and learning foreign languages more common aspirations. However, due to the stigma attached to being a "servant", an essentially working class status which even working class people were repudiating, this potential supply for domestic labour could only be utilised if a new non-servant role was created. Thus the au pair, who was supposed to be treated as a member of the family rather than a servant, and should not be required to wear a uniform.

An au pair receives an allowance, and a private room. The usual practice is that au pairs eat with the family most of the time, and join in some of the usual family activities such as outings and trips. However, host families normally expect to have some private time to themselves, particularly in the evenings. During this time, an au pair might retire to his or her room to watch television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

, study, or go out with friends. Provision is often made for the au pair to have time for studying, especially of the language of the host country. The Council of Europe
Council of Europe
The Council of Europe is an international organisation promoting co-operation between all countries of Europe in the areas of legal standards, human rights, democratic development, the rule of law and cultural co-operation...

 recommends that au pairs be issued standard contracts with their family.

Some au pairs are now male, but females remain the overwhelming majority. Many governments impose limits as to how many hours an au pair is allowed to work. Tasks can include taking children to and from school, taking children to after-school activities, cooking, cleaning, ironing, and babysitting. Each placement varies depending on the host family.

In many developing countries, an abundant supply of local domestic labour is still available, so there is little or no demand for au pairs.


The tradition of au pairing is well established in Austria, and prospective au pairs are served by several agencies who are accustomed to dealing with direct applications from foreigners. Requirements are not strenuous, and many inexperienced 18-year-olds are placed. The agencies can take a long time to reply and may need some follow-up emails and phone calls. The norm is for the agencies to charge their au pairs a fee equivalent to a week’s pocket money.
Officially, au pairs from outside Europe must obtain both a work and residence permit (Beschäftigungsbewilligung). The employing family should apply at their local employment office at least two weeks before the start date. Before the permit can be approved and an Anzeigebestätigung issued, the authorities must see an agreement or contract (signed by the employer and the au pair) and proof that health and accident insurance cover has been obtained by the au pair. A template of the contract is available on the Austrian Employment Service website (www.ams.or.at/download/aupair-vertrag.pdf). The agency should help with this process and tell the au pair where to take the documents to be stamped (for a fee).


Au Pair does not really exist in the same format as the rest of the world. The Canadian government has the Live-In Caregiver
Live-In Caregiver
The Live-In Caregiver Program is offered and administered by the government of Canada and is the primary means by which foreign caregivers come to Canada as eldercare, special needs, and childcare providers....

 program, which has broader requirements than the Au Pair program. Standard qualifications are regulated federally, though conditions of employment are determined at a provincial level. Requirements include a minimum of 6 months of training or 1 year of compatible employment within the last 3 years - though various exceptions and additional stipulations do apply. Such regulations and complicating bureaucratic procedures are the driving force behind the creation of Live-In Caregiver (or Nanny
A nanny, childminder or child care provider, is an individual who provides care for one or more children in a family as a service...

) placement agencies, who act as a mediator between families, caregivers, and the government - providing support for documentation and advice on the program.


An au pair’s responsibilities also include light housework, totaling six hours a day, five days a week. The au pair has her/his own room, is provided with food and is paid a weekly allowance amounting to at least
The euro is the official currency of the eurozone: 17 of the 27 member states of the European Union. It is also the currency used by the Institutions of the European Union. The eurozone consists of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg,...

252 per month (minimum set by Finnish law). Additionally, the host family will arrange a Finnish or Swedish language course to help the au pair communicate better with the children and get more out of his or her stay in Finland. Au pairs can stay with their host family for up to one year or negotiate a shorter stay.


Au pairing has long been a favored way for young women to learn French and, increasingly, for young men too. The pocket money for au pairs in France is currently Euro 60 per week plus in most cases a 20-euro-a-week contribution to language classes; in Paris families may also provide a carte Navigo (urban travel pass) which is worth 52 euros.
North Americans can fix up au pair placements directly with a French agency, but they should bear in mind that high placement fees may have to be paid in advance and that in some cases little advance information about the family will be made available. Enrollment in a French language course is compulsory for non-European au pairs.
A number of established agencies belongs to UFAAP, the Union Francaise des Associations Au Pair, an umbrella group set up in 1999, based at Europair Services in Paris. In Paris, the notice board at the American Church (65 Quai d’Orsay) is crammed with announcements of live-in positions.

Basic application criteria

Potential au pairs must:
  • Be aged 17–27
  • Have basic skills in French
  • Be able to commit to a period of at least 10 months (most Host Families prefer Au Pairs who can stay for the school year from September to June).
  • Attend French language classes while in France (this is a requirement to obtain the Long-Stay Au Pair Visa)


Dozens of independent agents have popped up all over Germany, many of them members of the Au Pair Society which has two offices in Germany and more than 40 members. The Society’s web site carries contact details for its members with links to agency web sites. Commercial au pair agencies do not charge a placement fee to incoming au pairs.
The Au-Pair Society e.V. is member of the International Au Pair Association
International Au Pair Association
IAPA, established in 1994 is the world’s leading trade association for the Au Pair industry. It represents trusted organisations specialising in Au Pair and Cultural Exchange services...

 (IAPA) and is also in a commettee ECAPS (European Committee for Au-Pair Standards) where members of National Organisation from several European countries have defined new Standards for Au-Pair programme in Europe.
Non-EU citizens no older than 24 can become au pairs through a German agency. Americans and Canadians do not need to apply for a residence and work permit before leaving their home countries; however it is a general requirement that au pairs prove that they have studied German.
The monthly pocket money for an au pair in Germany was raised to 260 euros ($300+) in 2006. The majority of families also give their au pairs a monthly travel pass and other benefits such as a contribution to course fees or travel expenses.

Basic application criteria

Potential au pairs must:
  • Be 18–25 years old
  • Have some child care experience.
  • Be a non-smoker and non-drug user. Some families will accept smokers.
  • Display basic conversational language ability Level A1
  • Be able to make 6 to 12 month commitment. Shorter placements of three months can also be arranged but only for citizens of the European Union (not including new EU members as they need a work permit).


It is possible to apply independently through an Italian agency, but first make sure that you won’t be liable to pay a hefty registration fee. There are many opportunities for au pairs during the summer holidays when most Italians who can afford au pairs migrate to the coast or the mountains and take their helpers with them. The weekly pocket money for au pairs is average or above for Europe, starting at 60-70 euros for working 30 hours a week, 80-100 euros for 40 hours, though many families in the big cities pay more than this.
Non-European nationals are not eligible for a Permesso di Soggiorno (stay permit) unless they arrive with the appropriate visa from the Italian embassy in their country. The best route is to obtain a student visa which permits the holder to work up to 20 hours per week (live-in or live-out). To obtain a long-stay visa, non-EU au pairs will need to enroll in and pay for an Italian language course at an approved school or college. The school registrar will issue a certificate which must then be stamped by the local police (Questura). The visa will be valid only for the length of the course. You must also show sufficient insurance cover, a return air ticket, proof of accommodation stamped by the police and a contract specifying dates, pocket money and benefits stamped by the provincial labor office and/or the police.
If you are already in Italy you can check classified adverts in English language journals, many of which are published online such as Wanted in Rome (www.wantedinrome.com) aimed at the expatriate community. Try notice boards in English language bookshops, English-speaking churches, student travel agencies and language school notice boards.


In 2010 there were 1509 au pairs working legally in Norway.

Payment was minimum Norwegian kroner 4000 every month in addition to mandatory fringe benefits of "free travel [to and from Norway], insurance and tuition
Tuition payments, known primarily as tuition in American English and as tuition fees in British English, Canadian English, Australian English, New Zealand English and Indian English, refers to a fee charged for educational instruction during higher education.Tuition payments are charged by...

 at a language school
Language school
A language school is a school where one studies a foreign language. Classes at a language school are usually geared towards, but not limited to, communicative competence in a foreign language...



The chance of arranging an au pair placement in Spain is very good. The majority of jobs are in the cities and environs of Madrid and Barcelona, though jobs do crop up in glamorous resorts like Marbella and Tenerife from time to time. Several au pair agencies in Spain are associated with language schools such as Centros Europeos Galve in Madrid, Kingsbrook in Barcelona, Crossing Limits in Seville or ServiHogar in Cádiz province.
Most of the Spanish families do not request domestic task and the only requirement is the au pair teach English to their children.
The minimum pocket money for au pairs at present is 55-60 euros a week. There are also opportunities for young people to stay with Spanish families in exchange for speaking English with the children without having any domestic or childcare duties. Americans and Canadians who wish to work as au pairs should apply for a student visa before leaving home. Officially, the Embassy requires both an offer of employment from the family and a letter from the school where the au pair is enrolled (or will enroll) to study Spanish for at least 15 hours a week.

Basic application criteria

Potential au pairs must:
  • Be between 17 and 30 years old.
  • Have some child care experience.
  • Be a non-smoker and non-drug user. Some families will accept smokers.
  • Speak basic conversational Spanish (not mandatory).
  • Native English speakers are in high demand from Spanish families.


Those interested in a domestic position with a Swiss family should know the rules laid down by each Swiss canton. You must be a female between the ages of 17 (18 in Geneva) and 29 from Western Europe, North America, Australia, or New Zealand, stay for a minimum of one year and a maximum of 18 months, and attend a minimum of three hours a week of language classes in Zürich, four in Geneva. Families in most places are required to pay half the language school fees of 500-1,000 Swiss francs for six months.
Au pairs in Switzerland work for a maximum of 30 hours per week, plus babysitting once or twice a week. The monthly salary varies among cantons but the normal range is 590-740 Swiss francs after all compulsory deductions for tax and health insurance have been made.

United Kingdom

Au Pairs now mainly come to the UK from the European Economic Area
European Economic Area
The European Economic Area was established on 1 January 1994 following an agreement between the member states of the European Free Trade Association and the European Community, later the European Union . Specifically, it allows Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway to participate in the EU's Internal...

 under European freedom of movement regulations. There are specific arrangements for Romanian and Bulgarian nationals wanting to come to the UK as Au Pairs.

Historically, Au Pairs came to the UK under an Au Pair immigration
Immigration is the act of foreigners passing or coming into a country for the purpose of permanent residence...

 category, which was closed in November 2008 Home Office, when a new points based system was introduced, which included a Youth Mobility Scheme under tier 5 of the points based system Youth Mobility Scheme for the nationals of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Monaco.

In the UK, there are many Au pair agencies that provide assistance to families looking to engage Au Pairs. These agencies are all privately owned and are not regulated by the UK government.

The British Au Pair Agencies Association was established to set standards for the Au Pair Industry and to promote Au Pair programmes as rewarding cultural exchange experiences. The BAPAA website contains guidelines for Au Pairs and Families on typical hours, pocket money and types of Au Pair duties.

BAPAA members are listed on the website and must meet firm business and ethical standards and agree to abide by BAPAA's code of conduct, which signifies competence, fair dealing and high integrity.

United States

The United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 au pair program offers qualified young people the opportunity to live and study in the U.S. for one or two years in exchange for providing up to 45 hours of childcare per week. The au pair program was recently granted permission from the U.S. Department of State to offer a second year extension au pair program (6, 9 or 12 months), as well as a summer au pair program.

At the same time, the au pairs are required to complete an educational component of six semester hours of academic credit or its equivalent. At the end of one year, au pairs generally return to their home country, unless they and their host families choose to extend their stay for a further 6, 9 or 12 months. Alternatively, the au pair can choose to extend her period in the US with a different family. Most au pairs choose a family in a different part of the country, allowing them to have a different experience.

The rules of the Au Pair Program in the US are: au pairs are provided a private bedroom, meals, remuneration tied to the minimum wage
Minimum wage
A minimum wage is the lowest hourly, daily or monthly remuneration that employers may legally pay to workers. Equivalently, it is the lowest wage at which workers may sell their labour. Although minimum wage laws are in effect in a great many jurisdictions, there are differences of opinion about...

 ($195.75 per week as of 24 July 2009), 1½ days off weekly plus a full weekend off each month, two weeks' paid vacation and the first $500 toward the costs of required course work to be completed at an accredited institution of higher education in order to satisfy the requirements of the educational component of the program. Au pairs are not to work more than 10 hours per day or 45 hours per week, and are not to serve as general housekeepers or assume responsibility for household management.

The US EduCare Au Pair Program is also available for families with school-age children. In this program, the au pair works a lower number of hours (not more than 10 hours a day and not more than 30 hours a week) for a weekly minimum wage of $132.64 (raising to $146.81 on 24 July 2009 in accordance with the federal minimum wage increases). The family pays $1000 in educational expenses, and the au pair is required to complete 12 hours of academic credit.

Au pairs placed with families who have children under two years old must have at least 200 hours of child care experience with infants under two. Au pairs may only be placed in a family with an infant under three 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. Participating families and au pairs must work with one of the currently 12 approved agencies. Au pairs enter the United States on a J-1 visa
J-1 visa
A J-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa issued by the United States to exchange visitors participating in programs that promote cultural exchange, especially to obtain medical or business training within the U.S...


According to the Internal Revenue Service
Internal Revenue Service
The Internal Revenue Service is the revenue service of the United States federal government. The agency is a bureau of the Department of the Treasury, and is under the immediate direction of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue...

, an au pair will almost always be a nonresident alien, and will be required to file a tax return on Form 1040NR or Form 1040NR-EZ IRS tax forms#1040NR and 1040NR-EZ to report his or her au pair wages. Au pair wages, however, are not usually subject to social security and Medicare taxes because of the au pair's status as a J-1 nonimmigrant and as a nonresident alien. However, if the au pair had previously been in the United States as a student, teacher, trainee, or researcher in F, J, M, or Q nonimmigrant status, then the au pair might be a resident alien during his current stay in the United States, and might be subject to social security and Medicare taxes if his annual au pair wages exceed the applicable dollar threshold found in IRS Publication 926. If the au pair is a resident alien and his or her annual au pair wages exceed the applicable dollar threshold, then the host family must withhold social security and Medicare taxes and report them on Schedule H of Form 1040 and on Form W-2. The host family will need to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) if it is required to withhold tax and file Form W-2.

Basic application criteria

Potential au pairs must:
  • be aged 18–26
  • have professional or practical childcare experience for at least 200 hours if looking after a child under 2
  • agree to commit to a full year’s stay in the USA and be prepared to provide up to 45 hours of childcare a week
  • have completed their secondary school education.
  • be proficient in spoken English
  • have no criminal record

There are twelve sponsoring au pair agencies designated by the State Department. Host families typically pay these agencies an application fee and a program fee which varies from $5,500 to $7,200, depending on the agency used. The program fees cover expenses related to the arrival of the au pair and compliance with regulations governing the program. These include, but are not limited to, airfare, medical insurance, mandatory 32-hour education session on child development and safety and other expenses. 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).

Famous au pairs

  • Louise Woodward, convicted of involuntary manslaughter
  • Elin Nordegren
    Elin Nordegren
    Elin Maria Pernilla Nordegren is a former Swedish model and the ex-wife of professional golfer Tiger Woods.- Early life :Nordegren was born in Stockholm, Sweden. Her mother, Barbro Holmberg, is a politician and the former Swedish migration and asylum policy minister, and the current Governor of...

    , model and former wife of Tiger Woods
    Tiger Woods
    Eldrick Tont "Tiger" Woods is an American professional golfer whose achievements to date rank him among the most successful golfers of all time. Formerly the World No...

  • Ségolène Royal
    Ségolène Royal
    Marie-Ségolène Royal , known as Ségolène Royal, is a French politician. She is the president of the Poitou-Charentes Regional Council, a former member of the National Assembly, a former government minister, and a prominent member of the French Socialist Party...

    , French politician
  • Eva Joly
    Eva Joly
    Eva Joly is a Norwegian-born French magistrate and politician for the French Green Party.-Early life:Born in Grünerløkka, Oslo, she moved to Paris at 20 to work as an au pair...

    , Norwegian-French
    French people
    The French are a nation that share a common French culture and speak the French language as a mother tongue. Historically, the French population are descended from peoples of Celtic, Latin and Germanic origin, and are today a mixture of several ethnic groups...

    A magistrate is an officer of the state; in modern usage the term usually refers to a judge or prosecutor. This was not always the case; in ancient Rome, a magistratus was one of the highest government officers and possessed both judicial and executive powers. Today, in common law systems, a...