Am I being unfair if I move on, and find another au pair?

by cv harquail on November 20, 2010

Here’s a request for some of your host parent wisdom:

I am in need of opinions as to whether or not I am being unfair to our au pair.

We have had the pleasure of hosting a delightful young woman for 1 year and we both agreed to a year-long extension. We have been pleased with her work and genuinely like her. She has been with us for 16 months.

Just recently, one of our AP’s parents passed away, and our AP wanted to go home to attend memorial services. There was a great deal of difficulty with the au pair agency and their insurance provider regarding a round trip ticket home for her. They were both refusing to pay for her ticket home and back. There was also some reluctance to let her finish her year early and provide a one-way ticket home, as she did not “complete her contract” and the agency did not want to “set a bad example for other au pairs.”

Our au pair really wanted to finish her year with us, so my husband and a decided to purchase her round trip ticket so she could be with her family during this difficult time.  201011191607.jpg

( I was ready to end my relationship with the agency over this–I really could not believe how cold-heartedly they treated our au pair. If we had not been able to afford the ticket, she would not have been able to attend her parent’s funeral. Once I announced my intentions to take my business elsewhere, the agency agreed to reimburse me for the cost of the ticket.)

We realized that she would need to renew her visa and she was able to make an appointment midway through her three week visit to do so. She told us that without doubt she would find out the day of the interview if she could get her visa. That way, if she could not return to us, I would have at least 2 weeks’ warning and could start looking for alternative child care.

(During the 1 week before she left and the 3 weeks she will have been gone, we have had grandparents come from out of town to care for our only toddler. Both my husband and I work outside the home in demanding jobs in which we cannot easily take days off for child care issues.)

Now the date for the visa appointment has come and gone and she has been told she won’t know if she has gotten the visa until her passport is mailed back to her. She is not able to give me an idea as to how long this will take. Since the visa question was not answered the day of the interview as promised, I have given her an additional two days to find out if it will be granted or not. I have told her I cannot wait any longer before deciding what to do next because I need to find someone to care for our child.

I’m not sure if I am being unfair or unreasonable by setting this time limit. She knew when she left that this visa issue was time sensitive and that we needed an answer ASAP. We just can’t keep on waiting.

Do you think we are being unfair or unreasonable?

201011191608.jpgThanks for considering my question. Mommy Needs An Answer

Image: Orange vespa and pink wall from A National Acrobat


Gianna November 20, 2010 at 10:21 am

What a shame ! You have tried to bring back someone you really love and it just isn’t meant to be. What else can you do ? You do not mention which country your AP is from. If it is a country that typically has visa issues that could be why your agency was so cynical about picking up the tab for the ticket home. If that was the case, I think they should have said that instead of telling you that story about bad examples
for other aupairs. One idea: rather than give up just yet, why not call the embassy and see if you can light a fire under the people who issue visas. In this case , I might use the suggestion made yesterday of calling your congessional representative for help. Another idea comes to mind. I once had a situation where an aupair who was still in her home country could not get a visa because once of her parents died during the period of time when the application was being processed. The home government was afraid that she had very little reason to return. I have learned that this is typical in that country ( former Soviet Union ). That’s why I am wondering if your wonderful AP was from that part of the world. Talk about cold hearted !

franzi November 20, 2010 at 10:24 am

i may be wrong but in all my visa interviews i was told about the visa decision right away. is it possible for her to call the embassy she was at to ask about the decision and when she will receive her passport? do you know if she asked those questions at all?

unfortunately you can’t make the calls for her as no information will be disclosed for you.

germanchickx November 20, 2010 at 10:59 am

If they kept her passport and are mailing it back to her, I’m sure she gotten her visa. Why else would they keep her passport at the embassy?
My experience is if your visa application is rejected, you get your passport back and go home. They only keep the passport to put the visa in and email it to you. Usually the same day or the dat after. Once I had my passport beat me home.

BTW, in all my 4 visa interviews, I was told the visa decision. Maybe she didn’t listen. But just for the fact that they kept her passport, I think she gotten the visa.

germanchickx November 20, 2010 at 11:00 am

Sorry for the typos

former au pair23 November 20, 2010 at 12:38 pm

No, they keep the passports no matter what. Im from a scandinavian country and have renewed my visa several times and also applied for a student visa. its always the same thing, they did not tell me right away and i got the passport back a week later with the visa inside.
i think you owe it to her to wait. a parent died. and the fact that she actually wants to leave her family and home country to come finish the year with you, is pretty amazing. i dont know if i could’ve.
so yes, while i understand that you need to have the childcare situation sorted out quickly, i think it would be very unfair to move on before she even got her passport back! just my opinion..

Calif Mom November 20, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Our Brazilian au pair encountered the same delay and uncertainty and literally could get no information in person or on the phone about the status of her visa until it arrived in the mail. This really does depend on the country.

As for whether the HM is being unfair; it’s not like the au pair is being negligent or not assertive enough. From my reading of the OP, she did what was required and is being held hostage by the system. So yes, frankly it seems a bit unfair. But fairness may not be the criteria you need to make decisions by right now.

You have already worn out your back up caregivers. (I can’t imagine any of the grandparents watching our kids for an extended period, whether toddlers or 11 year olds!) I know that your jobs are stressful and you and your husband don’t feel like you can take extended time off work. You are undoubtedly thinking about this every moment that you aren’t in meetings. The uncertainty is a burden on your family. Setting up your next situation will take lead time while you take time off for interviewing, visiting facilities, or whatever you decide to do.

Have you looked at a nanny share in your neighborhood, as stop-gap? Have you asked your local counselor if there is a rematch au pair who needs a place to stay for a week or two while she tries to find a new family, in exchange for caring for your toddler?

Since you love this au pair, if I were you I would try to honor our commitment and wait as long as we could. I mean, the loss of a parent is bad enough for her to bear right now. But you would be perfectly reasonable to seek longer-term solutions, as well. Ideally, you would find a back up solution that would be flexible enough that if her visa arrives in 10 days, you could welcome her back and not have to deal with finding childcare for several more months, until her extension year ends.

Best of luck!

Julia November 20, 2010 at 8:23 pm

I have been in a similar situation and no they might have not told her right away because they wanna run security checks on her. Has she gotten any forms from the embassy for further evidence? Thats what happened to me and i provided the evidence but was not allowed to call or interfere with the embassy for 30 days after submitting my further evidence. I was told especially by the embassy staff NOT to bother or call the agency and just to wait it out. I went there monday and I got my passport back friday and there was a holiday in between and I’m from Germany,
I have no suggestion for the HM here then just wait another couple of days. What day did she apply, which country she is from and if she needed to provided further evidence

momof4 November 20, 2010 at 9:55 pm

Why wait? There are plenty of wonderful young ladies out there. I kind of think if it wasn’t meant to be, then it wasn’t meant to be. Just my opinion. Your family needs come first…

former au pair23 November 20, 2010 at 11:09 pm

wow.. don’t you think that she should stick to what she agreed to with the au pair?? all i can say is that i am so glad i have a good family who was willing to let me go home when my aunt died and WAITED for me to get my new visa. once they told me to go home and renew my visa, i OFCOURSE expected them to stick to that deal or else i wouldnt have gone home.
do you realize that we au pairs also have to pay a lot just to apply for a visa?

PA AP mom November 21, 2010 at 2:08 am

They left the AP go home and now they have run into a big hassle which won’t allow for a quick return. I realize that it’s not the APs fault, but her end of the bargain isn’t being held up. Remember that she is also being paid for by the family for all the time she isn’t there.

It’s a tough situation. They need childcare, she isn’t there and there’s no end in sight.

PA host mom November 21, 2010 at 10:16 am

Also, with the passing of her parent – I’d think she might be having second thoughts about coming back and completing her year. It may well be a benefit to the AP to be able to stay with her family and not need to feel rushed to get back. Depending on her age, she can always apply to be an AP again after 2 years if she’d really like to return to the US.
Unfortunately, for AP’s host families must think of their needs first. Any way you think about it, the host family/AP relationship is temporary as far as childcare goes – but parenting a child and making childcare arrangements is not!

former au pair23 November 21, 2010 at 11:51 pm

i see what you’re saying, and as an au pair, i obviously dont know exactly what you as parents are going through, but i STILL think she owes it to this girl to wait. she can of course still start LOOKING just in case it doesnt work out, but i know that if i were this girl, i would be devistated and probably would regret going home in the first place, which is not fair to the au pair at all.

Pia aupair November 22, 2010 at 5:03 pm

no she cant come back to the us as an return aupair if she hasnt finished her first program successfully. she s not even gonna get a note from the agency that she has ever been in the program…

Bruna November 21, 2010 at 8:31 am

Hint hint… everytime I needed a US visa in Brazil I was told right away it was granted…

germanchickx November 21, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Exactly! By all my 4 visa, I always knew if I gotten it or not. Even as Au Pair, and with my Green Card.
I have a hard time believing that they didn’t tell her at all.

Aupairgal November 23, 2010 at 8:06 am

It often depends on what country you come from. If you are from Germany they won’t be as strict and won’t do as much “research” on you. If you are from a country that “America doesn’t like that much(if America has pleasant relations with said country)” (which has happened to many of my friends) they will do extensive research on you, make you go through a lot of bulls!§&, take your passport, make you pay large amounts of money, make you think you have a visa but then after a few months tell you no….the list goes on. I definitely believe that they didn’t tell her at all and might be just jerking her around.

Taking a Computer Lunch November 23, 2010 at 8:29 am

It’s not always a matter of “like” or “dislike” — the United States does extensive checks on any person whom they consider a permanent immigration risk on a temporary visa. If you are living in a country from which millions of people have entered the country illegally or stayed in the country on a temporary visa illegally, you are more likely to have your application denied. Europeans, being wealthier (and perhaps preferring their own economic system better) are not considered a risk. American families are warned that their favorite candidate may not get her visa – although a good agency should prepare candidates for how to handle their interview if rejection is an issue.

fifomom November 21, 2010 at 8:59 am

I don’t mean to hijack the thread, but how likely are extension visas granted? We have a Polish au pair who wants to go back and get an extension so she could travel back to her country for her brother’s wedding next year. However, with the timing of things, the earliest she can do that is 2 weeks before I have to go back to work (I’m currently on maternity leave).

So if she doesn’t get the extension on her visa, we would be left with no childcare and no time to look for one for both of our kids (a toddler and 4months old). So far we’ve told her that we cannot tale the risk and thus cannot extend with her, but if everybody gets an extension and the risk is really small, then we might reconsider. So far she’s been great as an au pair.

I’d love to hear some thoughts! Thank you!

AP2B November 21, 2010 at 1:04 pm

I wouldn’t lean on the fact she gets an extension. Generally speaking I think in the Eastern European countries it’s so so so much harder to get the visa even for the first time that extending it is not likely. There are exceptions of course, but I would not take the risk especially with you having so little time to arrange for alternative childcare. The risk would be much smaller if she were from Scandinavia or Western Europe, but Poland just strikes me as a very strict country visa wise…

Taking a Computer Lunch November 21, 2010 at 9:59 pm

I assume that your Polish AP’s visa has not expired. If it has, then she shouldn’t take the chance.

On the other hand, we had a Austrian AP who flew home to get a new visa and it wasn’t a problem. However, we a Brazilian AP who had to interview twice to get a visa to enter the US in the first place.

Ask your LCC how likely it is for a Polish AP to get a second visa. My guess is that will be unlikely, but you may be able to write a letter on her behalf explaining her importance to your family (and she should make it clear in her interview that she really wants to return to Poland at the end of the second year [and isn’t that clear that her family ties are strong after all she wants to return for her brother’s wedding]).

Should be working #2 November 21, 2010 at 9:48 am

Given the fact that she has been with you for 16 good months and everthing that comes with that – I think you should try and find a short term solution for the next 2-4 weeks until you know for sure if she can come back or not. I think you ‘owe her’ that much; she did not go back for a holiday.

Taking a Computer Lunch November 21, 2010 at 10:09 pm

I agree – she lost a parent! If she is important enough to your family, and you are able to afford the luxury of allowing her a little time to grief, then it’s in your best interest to do so. Although it’s understandable that you want her to be on schedule to return, any action she takes right now is completely clouded in grief. Continue to check in with her, ask after her surviving parent, ask how she is doing. If it comes to a point that you need to set a benchmark date for finding a new au pair, then be gently honest with her. After all, burial customs are different in each country. A friend used to say of his country, “It takes a day to marry them and a week to bury them.”

Anna November 21, 2010 at 12:32 pm

My first reaction when I read about the situation, was that your au pair got a visa denial, and has scheduled another visa appointment for a second attempt; but she doesn’t want to tell you and is trying to string you along for a bit longer.
Now that I read that in some countries it is true and the applicant might not know the answer for a while, I am more inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt.

I also though doubt that she will be able to do as good a job as she was doing before, after her loss. Loss of a parent is a major event in ones life, and she needs time to grieve. It is natural. Even in America in our fast paced jobs most companies grant a bereveament leave. I would speak to her offering her to stay home and take time to grieve her loss, and end her second year early; and start looking for another au pair yourself.
I don’t think it is unfair. She is young and when she agreed to come back I don’t think she realized herself that things will not be the same; or she didn’t want to disappoint you.

Deb Schwarz November 21, 2010 at 5:27 pm

What country is she from? I have never heard of a second year visa rejection from Sweden, Germany, Australia – but have heard them come from some South American countries, South Africa, Russia, and some Eastern European countries – where there is a low “return rate”. I’d say wait it out for a week after the visa appt. (it doesn’t usually take more than a week for them to return their passport with the visa in it). Good luck! I hope it works out.

OP November 22, 2010 at 6:27 am

Thanks for all of the opinions. We have good news. Her visa has been renewed and she is returning on schedule. She feels very strongly that this is the right thing for her at this time. She mentioned before leaving that after the memorial, her relatives will disperse to the usual homes and families and she would feel best returning to her job here and getting on with her life.

cv harquail November 22, 2010 at 10:46 am

OP, I’m glad that this resolved in the way that you had originally planned, and that you’ll be able to get back to ‘normal’ when your au pair returns. I’m wondering, too, how this trip home and the concerns that it raised for you might influence your feelings in the remaining months of your match. Will you keep this question in mind, and come back to tell us if there is an interesting shift? This situation could make your host parent-au pair relationship stronger/ weaker, and it could just shift the qualities of the the relationship. Either way, it may be interesting.

We’re exhaling with you- cv

BLJ Host Mom November 22, 2010 at 4:11 pm

OP, this is just GREAT news. I’m so glad that everyone gets to move forward without the feeling of dissapointing someone else. You were not in an easy position, should you have had to make another decision.

I wanted to warn you to be cautious/realistic about your expectations from her upon her return. Our AP lost a family member last year, and it was about 2 months before it didn’t feel like she was just going through the motions with the kids, glassy eyed and straight faced. This wasn’t a parent, but another close relative. She did go home for the funeral and it was so difficult when she came back a few weeks later. It was hard for her to leave all those still mourning. Her eyes looked blank and she just looked like she didn’t want to be here. The kids started really acting out due to the change in her energy and enthusiasm with them. They started with the negative attention seeking from her to the max. I finally had to call her on that, let her know that she had to snap out of it. That is also a tough call, because of how individual grief is. You can’t usually “snap out of it”. At the end of a WONDERFUL year with her, she shared with me that when I had the gentle sit down with her to tell her that I thought she was acting like she really disliked her job, it was one of the saddest things of her life. She felt like it was almost as bad as losing the family member – now it was about her not responding properly, and it internalized the thing even more. That broke my heart. I was trying to liken it to a business job, or a customer service job, you have to put on a happy face at work, even when you don’t feel like it sometimes. I was hoping to show her that the kids would be SO much easier if she was happy with them. She said that it was just that she felt like it was a feat getting through each day, and for me to ask her to dig deeper, do better, was really tough.

I didn’t know it at the time, because she DID dig deeper, do better. And she started enjoying the kids and the rest of her year again. So in hindsight, it was the right thing to do, even if she had to “fake it till you make it”. As always, it is a matter of being gentle, but firmly (and oh so gently in this case) drawing the line if something becomes unacceptable. In the end, you are the adult here who can help guide her through this grief in a healthy way. So it would probably be a good idea to think about that a little, since it’s likely to be in your future to some extent.

Best of luck to your family, and wishing her peace in her grief.

Nadzy Au Pair December 30, 2011 at 2:04 pm

This is so weird.. I know it was solved probably… but my friends that were au pairs abroad travelled normally back home to Brazil for Christmas and didn’t need to renew visa or anything, they were traveling within the program… they also went to Europe on vacations…

My visa I got the answer right beforehand, but my mother had to wait until it was mailed back to her and my coleague(who wasnt approved) had not had her passport witheld, they gave it back to her straigh away saying she didn’t make it

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