The au pair program

In the U.S., the au pair program is a J-1 visa exchange visitor program regulated by the U.S. Department of State—and a cultural exchange program at heart. Its goal is to create strong ties between American citizens and young people from around the world. “Au pair” means “on par” in French, which reflects the kind of relationship an au pair has with their host family: One that is equal, mutually enriching, and caring.

How the program works

Au pairs travel to the U.S. on a J-1 visa and live with an American host family for 12 to 24 months, providing childcare and becoming a part of the family. While in the U.S., au pairs also take classes, experience American culture, travel, and pursue other personal goals.

Host families gain:

A dedicated childcare provider they come to trust and know like family

Up to 10 hours a day or 45 hours a week of childcare on a flexible schedule

A culturally enriching experience for the whole family

Au pairs gain:

The chance to travel and experience American culture like a local—including 2 weeks of paid vacation

Free room, board, and a minimum weekly stipend of $195.751

The opportunity to study at an American college, subsidized up to $500 from their host family2

Can the au pair program work for my family?

The au pair program affords families the flexibility to set their own schedule each week, communicated in advance to their au pairs. While no two families have the same needs, below are a few examples of common weekly schedules.

Before- and after-school help
Au pairs help many families with school-age kids balance morning routines, extracurriculars, and all the things that come with the school year.
9-to-5 on weekdays
Families with younger children appreciate having au pairs help out on a regular schedule while they’re at work. Au pairs can feed, bathe, and put your little ones down for naps.
The unconventional schedule
Hosting an au pair is a great option for families with unpredictable or unconventional childcare schedules that cannot be accommodated by traditional options such as daycare.

Creating global families

The lasting international relationships that have been created over more than 30 years are a testament to the program’s continuing success. Families and au pairs often form lasting relationships and stay in touch over many years.

“Our au pair Hardjata has changed our family in a highly positive way. She provides laughter, love and friendship. She also provides safety and security to our children. She’s been an amazing big sister to our boys and a great friend to us. We love the diversity and culture she adds to our blended family. As she returns to France to complete her education, we know we will always stay in touch.”

— Aleshia Sambou, host mom in Illinois

Have more questions?

Schedule a call with a Program Consultant.

Frequently asked questions

What are the au pair regulations?

Cultural Care Au Pair is an official sponsor of this government-regulated program, meaning there are guidelines in place designed to protect both families and au pairs during the exchange year. View the full U.S. Department of State regulations.

What are the au pair requirements?

According to the U.S. Department of State regulations, au pairs must:

  • Be 18–26 years old
  • Be proficient in conversational English
  • Have successfully completed their home country’s secondary education or equivalent
  • Pass a physical exam
  • Undergo a background check including multiple verified references and a criminal background check

Additionally, Cultural Care requires all candidates to have at least 200 documented hours of childcare

What are the host family requirements?

All host families should be committed to cultural exchange and willing to welcome a young person from abroad into their home as a family member.

According to the U.S. Department of State regulations, the parents of host families must:

  • Be U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents
  • Be able to provide a private bedroom for their au pair
  • Be willing and available to attend orientation meetings and family conferences throughout the year
  • Abide by the guidelines set forth by the U.S. Department of State

Additionally, Cultural Care requires host families to have all adults living in the home complete a criminal background check prior to welcoming an au pair to your home. Read more about host family requirements.

What program benefits do au pairs receive?

Au pairs are entitled to the following benefits, according to U.S. Department of State regulations:

  • A private room
  • 2 weeks of paid vacation per calendar year
  • At least one complete weekend off-duty each month
  • A minimum weekly stipend of $195.75 (families and au pairs may agree on a higher stipend amount)
  • The opportunity to extend their visa duration for 6, 9, or 12 more months
  • Up to $500 per year from their host family towards their studies*

*The contribution towards an au pair’s education requirement is determined by the U.S. Department of State, and families agree to comply with any increase that is issued.

1The U.S. Department of State has determined that au pairs are required to receive from their host families at least $195.75 per week. Host families and au pairs are free to discuss and agree to compensation higher than the required stipend minimum; however, this cannot be in exchange for the au pair exceeding the regulatory limits on working hours (10 hours per day; 45 hours per week) or performing duties beyond childcare-related tasks. The State Department formula is based on the federal minimum wage and applicable room and board credits. Any change in the federal minimum wage or the applicable credits will result in an increase in this minimum stipend amount. Please note, should a family extend beyond the first year, they would be responsible for the stipend for each week of the extension term. 

2This contribution towards an au pair’s education requirement is determined by the U.S. Department of State, and families agree to comply with any increase that is issued.