Ever wonder what au pair agencies look for? Here CatherineRose, an American who is currently teaching English in France, shares the five most important things au pair agencies look for.
It can be difficult for non-US citizens to live in the States for an extended period of time. You might come over as an exchange student, but that's not an option for everyone, especially since you can't legally work on a student visa in the United States, even part-time.
Becoming an au pair is a great solution. You'll get a J1 visa and stay for one or two years with your host family. To be an au pair in the United States, you must go through an authorized agency.
It is not possible to find a family and obtain a visa independently. That's illegal, and believe me, you don't want to get in trouble with the Department of Immigration.
Going through an agency should mean a few good things for you: families are screened carefully, you'll have support before and during your time in the United States, and you'll have a clear and fair contract so that you're not left in the sticky situation of negotiating with a potential family.
You can learn more about au pair contracts and benefits with Great Au Pair USA or another qualified site.
So, what exactly do au pair agencies look for in candidates?
1. A Complete Profile
It can seem overwhelming, but it really is important to fill in all those little boxes! Just like you want to know all about the family you'll be living with, they want to know all about you too. Your profile is their first impression of you, so make sure to answer questions thoughtfully and completely, in English.
2. An Appropriate Photo
You're applying to live with a family and take care of their children, right? And the first time they see you will be in this photo. What kind of impression do you want to give? Here's a hint: you probably shouldn't slap your Tinder photo on your au pair application.
Smiling, surrounded by children and/or puppies = good. Sexy, pouting, cleavage = bad. (This may seem obvious, but it's been done!)
Remember, the families looking at your profile might be more conservative than you're accustomed to, so even if your tank top isn't considered provocative in your home country, potential families still might think you're showing too much skin.
3. Your Motivation
“Why do you want to be an au pair?” is a question you'll probably hear in your interview. If a candidate is only interested in earning money, that's not so good! With Great Au Pair, au pairs earn a little over $10,000 per year, which isn't bad at all, but it shouldn't be your main motivator.
If your motivation is “I really want to live in L.A.” well, that's a little tricky too. While it's important to know what kind of environment you prefer to live in, if your heart is set on one city in particular, it will be more difficult to find a family. Keep an open mind in terms of location, but do your research before accepting (Is it rural? Near a big city? What is the community like?)
4. Your Level of English
Your English doesn't have to be fluent or perfect, but we want to make sure you can communicate in English. You'll write a short statement in English on your application, and you'll have an interview in English. Your local representative is available to assist in your native language, but they'll make sure that you have a passable level of English too.
5. Your Qualifications
Au pair agencies want to make sure you meet their qualifications first and foremost.
Here's what is required of all au pairs at Great Au Pair:
- You must be between the ages of 18 and 26 the day you arrive in the US.
- You must have at least 200 hours of childcare experience
- You must provide a background check showing you have no criminal record
- You must have a driver's license
- You must have completed high school
- You must been in good health and a non-smoker (you'll provide a form signed by your doctor)
- You must be willing to commit to a year-long contract. You'll get two weeks of paid vacation and a month to travel after your contract ends. You can even renew your au pair visa and stay longer if you want to!
Have any questions about what au pair agencies look for?
You're welcome to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with questions about becoming an au pair in the United States, or you can get in touch with Great Au Pair or another authorized agency.
CatherineRose is a California native living in France. When she's not teaching French university students about phonetics and translation, she helps French and Swiss au pairs through the Great Au Pair J1 application process. You can find her on Instagram, Twitter, or her blog, where she writes about travel and expat life in France.