J-1 Visa Required for USA Au Pair Program
The Au Pair Program in the U.S.A. is strictly regulated through the U.S. State Department and supervised through designated agencies like Go Au Pair. The only way to legally participate in the Au Pair Program in the U.S. is through a sponsoring agency and with an approved J-1 Au Pair visa. The visa application process and regulations set by the U.S. State Department for Au Pairs ensure participants meet program requirements, understand the purpose and mission of the program and help to facilitate successful experiences.
The J-1 non-immigrant visa category was created under the Mutual Education and Cultural Exchange Act (Fullbright-Hays Act 1961) and is for individuals participating in work-and-study based exchange visitor programs in the U.S. In 1989, the Au Pair Program was added as the 12th of thirteen total programs under the J category.
About J-1 Exchange Visitor Visas
All programs under the Exchange Visitor J-1 non-immigrant visa share the common mission of increasing mutual understanding between people of the U.S. and people of other countries. All programs focus on educational and cultural advancement through work-study experiences and include professors and research scholars, short-term scholars, trainees and interns, college and university students, teachers, secondary school students, specialists, alien physicians, international visitors, government visitors, camp counselors, au pairs and summer work travel.
J-1 visas for Au Pairs are entirely controlled by the U.S. State Department, including eligibility requirements, decision to approve or deny and the quantity of visas available each year for each sponsoring agency. As a designated agency, Go Au Pair sponsors the Au Pair’s visa and supervises participation in the program. Go Au Pair does not grant the visa. Only the consular officer at the U.S. Embassy in the Au Pair’s home country has the authority to grant a J-1 Au Pair visa. Every year the U.S. State Department reassesses how many Au Pair visas are available to each sponsor which acts as a great check to ensure sponsors are able to support participants adequately and fulfill all responsibilities.
Non-immigrant visas are for temporary visits to the U.S., not permanent stays. All Au Pair visas are valid for 1 year. Visas may be terminated early by Go Au Pair if a participant leaves the U.S. early or otherwise discontinues participation in the Au Pair Program. Au Pairs have the option of extending their program and time in the U.S. for an additional 6, 9 or 12 months after the expiration of their visa. The extension continues legal valid program participation, however, does not modify the actual end date printed on the visa document. To qualify for an extension Au Pairs must complete all program requirements in their first year including education and attending events.
J-1 visas include a travel grace period of up to 30-days following the end of program participation (Form DS-2019 end date). During the grace period Au Pairs may not work, but instead are able to travel within the U.S. and prepare for departure. Au Pairs may not re-enter the U.S. during this time, meaning once they have left the U.S. they are not allowed back in. The Au Pair is no longer under the sponsorship or monitoring requirements of Go Au Pair and departure travel must be confirmed prior to grace period beginning.
Au Pair Visa USA Requirements and Fees
The U.S. State Department created regulations and eligibility requirements for all Exchange Visitor programs to ensure participants clearly understand the program purpose, are best enabled for success and understand what to expect during their stay in the U.S. Eligibility requirements include a minimum amount of education, skills, abilities and training, a demonstration of program understanding and expectations for life in the U.S. and clear ties with the home country. Au Pair requirements are confirmed as part of the visa application process. Eligibility and suitability for program participation helps to ensure the safety and well-being of the participant during their time in the U.S.
Any exchange visitor applying for a J-1 visa must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Possess needs, experience and background suitable for the exchange program
- Be proficient in spoken English
- Receive information about the goals, activities, work responsibilities, compensation, travel arrangements, housing, fees, insurance and educational opportunities for the program
- Receive an orientation about life in the U.S., local community resources, healthcare, program description, rules, sponsor information, office of designation information, Wilberforce Pamphlet and address change requirements
- Insurance coverage during program participation meeting minimum requirements for accidents and illness
Exchange visitors applying for the Au Pair program have additional requirements including:
- Age, schooling, physical health
- Background checks, references, criminal report and psychometric assessment
- Information on Host Family including knowledge of all members of the family, description of the home, description of the local area
- Information on work duties and responsibilities, work hours, compensation and other benefits
- Previous work experience, education or training which matches the child care requirements of the family
- Child care training and education on the program
Additional regulations for the Au Pair program apply including regulations for us sponsors. For the complete list of regulations visit our regulations page here.
Go Au Pair ensures all applications meet the Au Pair visa requirements long before the visa interview at the Embassy.
The fees associated with a J-1 Au Pair visa include amounts paid to sponsor agencies, amounts paid to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and amounts paid to the U.S. Department of State. Host Families and Au Pairs pay a fee directly to Go Au Pair and Au Pairs pay a fee to their agency in their home country. These amounts are used for recruitment, education, training, screening and support services provided during the entire program experience. Amounts paid to DHS are included in the fee paid to Go Au Pair and processed when Form DS-2019 is issued. The fee paid to the U.S. Department of State is collected as part of scheduling the visa interview with the Embassy and covers interview expenses, visa processing and related administrative tasks.
How To Apply for an Au Pair Visa in America
Go Au Pair has over 30 years of experience helping Au Pairs apply for visas to come to America. Although a visa is never guaranteed, Go Au Pair has averaged a 96.9% approval rate over the last decade*. We help Au Pairs understand all visa eligibility requirements, simplify the fee payments and prepare Au Pairs for the visa interview and success in America.
Au Pairs who choose Go Au Pair can expect to follow these steps in obtaining an Au Pair visa.
Step 1. Apply to become an Au Pair
The Au Pair application process confirms applicants understand all aspects of program participation, can satisfy Au Pair in America requirements, are prepared for life in the U.S. and are likely to have a successful experience. The application process is thorough and extensive with over a dozen documents completed and verified. Au Pairs can expect the application process to take one to three months to complete. Education (including screening requirements) about the Au Pair program is the critical first step for acquiring a J-1 Visa. [possible link to https://www.goaupair.com/au-pairs/3-steps-become-au-pair/apply-now/]
Step 2. Choose your family.
Some Au Pair requirements are specific to the Au Pair’s Host Family and cannot be satisfied until the Au Pair has matched. After the Au Pair screening and education process, the Au Pair’s profile is made available to interested Host Families. Families educated on the Au Pair Program who meet requirements interview Au Pairs who may be a good fit for them. A Host Family extends an offer to the Au Pair giving the Au Pair the final choice. Only the Au Pair makes the final decision to accept or decline a Host Family offer. Choosing the right family requires careful consideration and patience. Accepting an offer is agreeing to all work duties, schedule and benefits and is acknowledgement of expectations of life with the family in the local area. Au Pairs may take months or sometimes up to one year to ensure they choose the best family for their experience in the U.S.A.
Step 3. Prepare Visa Application Documents
The consular officer is the final review of all visa requirements and program suitability for the Au Pair. Preparing the visa application documents is the final comprehensive check for both Family and Au Pair before the interview. The Au Pair’s education, program knowledge, placement knowledge, training, requirements, and expectations are confirmed by Go Au Pair one last time before the Au Pair applicant is registered with SEVIS. SEVIS is the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s system for maintaining information on international nonimmigrant exchange visitors in the U.S. The system enables Go Au Pair to generate Form DS-2019 which is printed and endorsed by an Alternate Responsible Officer. This piece of paper is the crucial document required to make the appointment at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to interview for the Au Pair visa. This original document is physically mailed internationally to the Au Pair (via our partners worldwide).
Step 4. Schedule Visa Interview Appointment
Go Au Pair’s partners worldwide help Au Pairs complete online Form DS-160. Form DS-160 is used to schedule the visa interview. The Au Pair needs their passport, dates of previous visits to the U.S., application with work experience and educational background, SEVIS ID number (provided by Go Au Pair from Form DS-2019) and a photo (with very specific requirements similar to a passport photo) to complete Form DS-160. After correctly and completely submitting Form DS-160 a barcode and confirmation page provide the application ID number needed to schedule the visa interview. The fee is collected when the appointment is scheduled and payment methods vary by embassy. The fee is valid for one year in the event the appointment is rescheduled.
Step 5. Interview with Consular Officer
The interview with the consular officer lasts only a few minutes. Au Pairs bring to the appointment Form DS-2019, Form DS-160, passport, photo and evidence of “binding ties” to their home country. Other documents may apply and Au Pairs should confirm with both the embassy website and the agency in their home country. During the interview the consular officer confirms the applicants (1) is a good fit for the Au Pair Program in the U.S.A. based on goals, experience, education and family attributes, (2) has a strong desire to return to their home country and (3) has the financial ability to participate. These checks are for the safety of the participant and to preserve the mission and objectives of the U.S. State Department Au Pair Program. The decision to approve or reject a visa is made at the end of the interview. Approved visas begin administrative processing and Au Pair documents required for travel are held at the embassy during that time. Once the visa has been processed all documents are physically mailed to the Au Pair.
*Visa approval rate calculated as of October 2020.
Visa Rejections and other Barriers for Visas as Au Pairs
Applicants who are denied a visa on the first interview have the opportunity to try one additional time. The decision to apply a second time considers the reason for denial and is mutually agreed to between Au Pair and Host Family. A second fee is collected when the second interview is scheduled and steps 4 and 5 above are repeated.
The reasons for a visa denial vary and most of the time no explanation is provided at all. The most common known reason for visa denial is “insufficient ties to the home country”. The U.S. State Department explains, “Applicants must demonstrate to the consular officer that they have binding ties to a residence in a foreign country which they have no intention of abandoning, and that they are coming to the U.S. for a temporary period.” Other less common reasons for visa denial include having a family member living in the U.S., a previous visa problem such as overstaying on a tourist visa, a family member violating terms of a visa, insufficient finances to support program participation, applicant not prepared or confident enough with responses and applicant doesn’t meet eligibility or objectives.
In some countries there is an almost 100% likelihood for being denied an Au Pair visa. Country-wide Au Pair visa denials are the result of prior participants in Exchange Visitor programs not returning home after the program ends. The U.S. State Department, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection closely monitor Exchange Visitor participants and quickly identify trends. Because former Au Pairs did not honor their obligation to return home future Au Pair applicants from Mongolia, Philippines, Georgia, India, Kenya, Albania, Armenia and Cameroon cannot be considered. All Au Pair visas from these countries are denied. Au Pairs who do not return home after the program not only hurt future applicants but also their own family members who are very likely to have any type of visa to the U.S. denied.