How to become an au pair in United States of America?

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rules & regulations

Au pair

minimum stay

A one year commitment is the expectation at the outset to qualify for this program.

maximum stay

12 Months

working hours

An au pair cannot work more than 45 hours per week and not more than 10 hours per day.

days off

The au pair is entitled to 1.5 free days per week, as well as 1 free weekend per month. The free weekend starts on Friday evening and ends on Monday morning.

Au pairs staying with host families chosen by sponsoring organizations are entitled to a full weekend off each month in addition to regular weekly/monthly time off.


Host Families must provide a minimum of two weeks paid vacation for each 12 month exchange term (prorated for extension periods of six or nine months).

allowed work

Au pairs' responsibilities vary, but most contribute to their host family households by:

  • Dropping the children off and picking them up from school or after-school activities
  • Taking children to lessons, play groups, parks and other fun outings
  • Helping children with homework
  • Assisting in keeping the children's rooms and play areas clean
  • Preparing snacks and meals for the children
  • Staying home during school vacations, when a child is sick or on other unexpected days off

Responsibilities as an au pair are only related to child care. As a member of the household, the au pair might contribute to small, everyday tasks like washing dinner dishes or taking the dog for a walk, but only in a way that is equal to the contributions of other members of the family.

Which work should and can be done by an au pair? Which work an au pair definitely doesn't have to do? Discuss with others in our community!

forbidden work

The au pair does not have to:

  • manage the whole household
  • prepare meals for the parents
  • make the host parents' beds and clean their bathrooms
  • clean the floors
  • clean the windows
  • take care of the pets
  • do gardening
  • supervise/take care of other children that aren't the host kids

pocket money

Financial Compensation: Au pairs are compensated for their work according to the Fair Labor Standards Act as interpreted and implemented by the U.S. Department of Labor.
The calculation for the minimum Au Pair stipend is as follows:
(Federal Minimum Wage) x (Number Hours worked per week) – (40% credit for room and board) = (Au Pair stipend)

($7.25) x (45 hours) – (40% credit) = $195.75 per week

board and lodging

  • The host family is required to provide an appropriate suitable private room and three meals a day for the au pair;
  • Au pair’s board includes food which the family normally buys and consumes including eating out in restaurants when the au pair is invited
    • Au pair’s board includes basic toiletries such as toilet paper, tissues, shampoo, soap, etc.


Host families are required to provide their au pair with a private bedroom:

  • The au pair’s room has a door which closes and which is not used for any other household purpose outside of housing the au pair (i.e. cannot also be used as an office, den, access to laundry room or porch, etc)
  • Must be furnished with basic necessities such as a bed, dresser, closet and have basic amenities such as windows and pleasant decoration
  • Have access to private bathroom or share a bathroom with the children only. It is recommended that au pairs not share bathrooms with the Host Parent(s).

language course

The au pair must be fluent in english to apply to the U.S.

Each au pair enrolls in and attends courses at a post-secondary institution during the exchange program.

Host families on the Au Pair and Extraordinaire programs pay tuition and fees (books, etc.) up to $500; $1,000 on the EduCare program for each 12-month term; up to $500 ($1,000 for EduCare) during the 9 month extension; and $250 ($500 for EduCare) during a 6-month extension.

Host families establish agreeable time frames to attend classes, assist with course registration and provide transportation to and from classes.

travel expenses

The au pair's journey to the Host family: Even if the host family wants to pay a part or the whole expenses of the au pair's travel costs, it is strongly recommend not to send money (or tickets) to the au pair in advance. Unfortunately, it sometimes happens that money is sent and the au pair does not arrive. Please reimburse the traveling expenses only after the au pair's arrival.

Many families wish to employ an au pair from a far-away country, "exotic" according to their opinion. But they do not pay attention that the average monthly income of a family in those countries is very low. The host family must please take into consideration that the au pair has to pay for his/her flight costs. Even though it might be difficult for the au pair to afford the flight ticket due to the normal income in those countries, do not make any advance payments.

The au pair's return journey: If the host family is satisfied with the au pair, it is recommended that the host family pay the costs of the return journey.

health, accident and liability insurance

J-1 visa insurance requirements:

  • Medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness
  • Repatriation of remains in the amount of $25,000
  • Expenses associated with the medical evacuation of the exchange visitor to his or her home country in the amount of $50,000
  • A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness

social welfare system

An au pair must acquire a Social Security number or Tax ID number. The purpose of the social security card is for employment authorization under the terms of the au pair regulations. Please consult the information below and make sure to apply for a social security card.  

Information on securing a Social Security Number here.

Social Security and information regarding tax paying for the au pair


Income Tax Filing

Most au pairs are nonresident aliens, and therefore will be required to file Form 1040NR or Form 1040NR-EZ to report their au pair wages. As a nonresident alien, an au pair is not eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Hope Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit. An au pair is not really a "student" in the United States, and therefore is not eligible to exclude his au pair wages from gross income under the student article of any U.S. income tax treaty. An au pair who is a nonresident alien is not required to file a U.S. federal individual income tax return if his only U.S. source income is wages in an amount less than the personal exemption amount (Refer to Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information).

The IRS* (Internal Revenue Service) considers you, as an au pair, to be an employee of the host family.  The weekly stipend you receive from your host family(ies)  is considered by the IRS to be taxable as earned income and requires you to file U.S. individual income tax returns. You will owe taxes if the total stipend earned is more than $4,000

Tax information for au pairs in U.S.

cost for host family

  • agency fees: up to $8,000
  • language studies: $500 a year
  • pocket money: $195.75 per week
  • board & lodging: ~ $300 a month
  • public transport: ~ $30 a month
  • insurance: usually included in the agency service
  • car insurance fee if the au pair is using the car
  • return flight for the au pair if this is agreed to be host family's responsibility

This sums up to about $1,900 a month, plus the extra insurances and possibly the return flight for the au pair. 

placement fee

This depends on the agency, usually $6,000 - $8,000

ending of contract

There is no official notice period for au pairs in the U.S. But, if you wish to terminate the au pair contract that you have signed, it is recommended you do so by giving two weeks' notice, leaving enough time for your host family to find a replacement au pair and for the au pair who is departing to either organise a return trip or find a new host family.

Upon completion of the program, the au pair has a grace period of 30 days to depart the United States.

All questions and concerns should be addressed to the sponsoring organization. The Form DS-2019 contains the name and telephone number of the participant’s sponsor. To locate a designated sponsor, please visit the list of Designated sponsor organizations

Discuss with others in our community what one can do should problems arise with your au pair / family!

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Hi, my name is Taina Karttunen

and I’m responsible for this country information

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