May 15, 2013
Comparing au pair agencies: understanding au pair agency costs

This is the first article in our three-part series comparing au pair agencies.  Not all au pair agencies are the same, and we hope to help you uncover the main differences between them so that you can choose the best au pair agency for your family.  This article will cover differences in au pair agencies’ costs.  Stay tuned for posts on the differences in how au pair agencies recruit au pairs and how au pair agencies work with host families.

Au pair agencies—the basics

The U.S. Department of State officially recognizes 14 au pair agencies.  According to their website, au pair agencies or sponsors are required to screen host families and au pairs, provide au pairs with training and orientation and ensure that au pairs do not work more than 45 hours a week and 10 hours per day.  However, au pair agencies are not all the same.  Agencies can vary significantly on many aspects including costs, how au pairs are recruited, screened and trained and the level of support  they provide to host families.

Au pair agency costs

Au pair agencies charge fees to host families in exchange for recruiting, screening and  training au pairs as well as managing the matching process, visa process and travel arrangements for the au pair and host family.  Once the au pair arrives to the host family, the au pair agency provides year-round support to the au pair and host family, both locally and from the central office.

Au pair agencies do not all cost the same, however. Fees can vary significantly, so it is important to consider all of the costs that the au pair agencies charge, not just the program fee.  Some of the fees au pair agencies generally charge are:

  • Application fee: This fee is generally charged by au pair agencies when a family applies to the au pair program.  This indicates that you are ready to start interviewing au pairs from that agency’s selection of au pair candidates.
  • Selection fee: Many au pair agencies also charge a selection or matching fee once the host family has chosen their au pair.  This fee indicates that the au pair agency can work with the au pair to start the process of getting their J-1 visa and making travel arrangements to come to the U.S.
  • Program fee: The program fee covers the costs of the services the au pair agencies provide.  Here is what Cultural Care Au Pair’s program fee includes:
  • Additional au pair agency costs:  Some au pair agencies charge extra for different programs.  For example, they may charge a higher fee for au pairs who are infant qualified or for au pairs who have professional childcare experience.  Other au pair agencies, like Cultural Care Au Pair, do not charge for additional qualifications.  Depending on where you live, you may also need to pay a domestic transportation fee to get your au pair to your home town.  Cultural Care Au Pair’s program fees include round-trip international airfare to fly au pairs to the training school in Tarryton, New York.
  • Other au pair costs:  In addition to what the au pair agencies charge, you will have to pay a weekly stipend directly to the au pair.  This amount is decided by the U.S. Department of State and is the same regardless of which au pair agency you use.  Additionally, the U.S. State Department requires host families to contribute up to $500 towards their au pair’s educational component.

When you compare the au pair agencies on cost, don’t forget to also consider the timing of the fees.  Many au pair agencies have high application fees over $300.  Cultural Care Au Pair has a low application fee of only $75, so host families can start searching for available au pairs without having to pay much.  Application fees are generally not refundable, so remember that this will be a sunk cost if you decide not to go with that au pair agency after you apply.

Additionally, au pair agencies may require different portions of the program fee to be paid at different times.  Some au pair agencies, like Cultural Care Au Pair may offer extended payment plans, so don’t forget to ask about your payment options.

Au pair agency discounts

Au pair agencies may have discounts you can qualify for.  For example, Cultural Care Au Pair offers the following au pair agency discounts to host families:

  • Military family discount: save $1,000
  • Make the Switch: Families who come to Cultural Care from another au pair agency save up to $1,000!
  • Pre-arranged match discount: Families who find their own future au pair are entitled to a $300 program fee discount.
  • Host family referral program: earn $250 for every family you refer who welcomes an au pair

Of course cost isn’t everything when you’re looking for quality childcare.  In next week’s look at the differences between au pair agencies, we will discuss how au pair agencies recruit, screen and train au pair candidates and what to look for to make sure you are getting the best au pair for your family.

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