An Open Letter to Au Pairs without an Agency, Outside the USA

by cv harquail on October 5, 2010

Be sure to read the comments! There is some terrific information about how agencies work (or don’t work) in specific countries!

Dear Au Pairs-

I’m writing this letter to you to tell you a cold, difficult truth:

As much as you hope that you did some careful screening of possible host families, and as much as you negotiated and clarified the terms of your arrangement with a host family before starting up as their au pair, the situation you are in has few protections. If things go wrong and your host family violates your agreement with them, resolving the problems will be all up to you.

Many host families — probably most host families — want to do the right thing, and will hold to the terms that they discussed with you. With these families, there will be issues (like the ones we discuss here on AuPairMom all the time) that are part of the normal back and forth in an au pair-host family relationship. With caring, forgiveness, and clarity, these situations can usually be resolved.

Some families will think that they are going to follow the terms of your agreement, but will discover as they go along that what they really want from you is something beyond your agreement. They may ask you to work more hours, work without a schedule, do more cleaning, drive less often for personal use, and so on, outside of what you agreed to at the start. Sometimes, you can bring this issue up with the host parents, they’ll recognize and apologize for going over the lines, and will change their behavior.

201010050802.jpgSometimes, however, a host family has little intention of following the rules. They may not know ‘up front’ that they are going to take advantage of you, so they may not be entirely bad people. However, any family that regularly goes beyond the terms of your contract, making you work too much, too often, on the wrong kinds of tasks, and without the personal space and autonomy you bargained for is likely to keep on doing it unless there is a significant penalty to them.

In the USA, au pairs are required to use an approved au pair agency. This requirement, along with clear-cut guidelines for an au pair’s and host family’s responsibilities, is all about protecting you, the au pair, from being exploited by host family. Some agencies in the US have more oversight and make more of a constant effort to check that the contract between the au pair and the host family is being followed, but all agencies have this responsibility.

Without an Agency

When you make arrangements to be someone’s au pair without using an agency, you have very little protection. There is no one but you to enforce the contract if things go bad. As far as I know, there is no one outside of the host family themselves that you can appeal to for help, or even for formal advice. You are on your own.

Here at AuPairMom we get about one email a week from an au pair in Europe or Australia who is working without the support of an agency. She is usually being expected to work far too much, has limited to no use of a car, can’t leave the host family’s house, and/or is having her pocket money withheld for problems she does not think she caused.

When this happens, there is not much that anyone can do for you, except offer you advice about how to stick up for yourself.  You have to work it out with your family, and you have to be ready to find somewhere else to au pair or find a way safely home. And, you have to do this on your own.

Because we on AuPairMom are based here in the US, most of the parents (myself included) know every very little about the legal details and options behind au pair arrangements in other countries. Most countries do have some kind of official rules for au pair relationships that people are supposed to follow. It may be that there are government offices you can appeal to. It may be that you have a contact person from a matching service who can help you. If so, that’s great. But our sense is, after getting these emails one after another, that there is very little to protect you if and when a host family steps over the line.

What does this mean for you?

We are not suggesting that you give up on the dream of being an au pair in Europe or Australia. Instead, we have some recommendations for you:

  • We encourage you to use an agency if you can. Yes, it costs more money and you need to make sure the agency isn’t taking advantage of you. But, oversight and contact people cost money, so when you use an agency you are actually paying for them to help you in an emergency.
  • Do your absolute best to interview a family thoroughly. (Interview their previous au pairs if you can).
  • Ask the family for references. Call these references. Even if they are friends of the family and the family is not being straight with you, friends may still find it hard to lie about families that are selfish.
  • Have a back up exit plan— a plane ticket home, another place to stay or somewhere go if things get bad.
  • At the start of your year, be clear and up front about expectations. Actively manage your orientation.
  • Follow up after the first week and have a conversation with your family about what’s working (or not).
  • Address issues earlier rather than later to nip problems in the bud.
  • Be ready to ‘train’ and inform a new host family of ‘how to have an au pair’ and what’s fair.
  • Print out pages from this website and official rules in your host country and give them to your host parents.
  • Print out a blank calendar page and ask your host parent to fill it in on Sunday with your expected schedule.
  • Manage your family.
  • Stick up for yourself from the very beginning.
  • Do a good job so that you are always standing on firm ground yourself.
  • Save your money.

Finding a great match between a family and an au pair is hard– if you use an agency, your chances of a good match are higher. Still, a lot of it is luck.

If you end up choosing a family that turns out to be untrustworthy, leave. And, keep your sense of adventure— there is likely another family who will treat you right, where you can contribute, and where you can grow.

Beware, though, that an au pair situation without an agency puts all of the responsibility on YOU.

Take charge, and don’t let yourself be taken advantage of.

Parents and au pairs, if you have additional advice and insight– please add it in the comments!

See Also:
Some examples of emails from au pairs in bad situations, without agencies, outside the USA:
Can you say “exploited” in French? Au Pair asks what to do
Exploited in Italy: What’s the best way to leave my host family?

Au Pair Asks: How can I get my Host Mom to give me a schedule?

If you were an Au Pair: Agency or Website?

{ 26 comments }

Should be working October 5, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Glad you posted this, CV. Many young women might not realize how insecure their status is as an au pair without an agency. They should think of the agency fee as insurance of a sort.

Having just finished most of a year as first-time HPs in the U.S., including a rematch, we recently moved to Europe for just one year, and in an unusual twist, we took the European AP we had in the US with us, thereby moving to a no-agency AP setup. But we essentially stick to our American guidelines (e.g. 150 Euros [approx $200]/wk for up to 45 hrs/wk instead of 260 Euros a MONTH for up to 30 hrs/wk) and the arrangement is mostly good for everyone, although the AP is going through a rough patch. The AP might leave us in a few months, however, and so I’ve begun investigating what it would mean to get an AP here. It seems to be all very flexible–differing lengths of stay, for instance. Apart from that, and not having to pay the agency fees, I don’t like doing the whole thing without an agency. I like the mediation of the agency, and the fact that I can pawn off responsibility onto them, ultimately, if something isn’t going well. I also realize how much the agency structure reins in possible HP abuses of APs.

Aupairgal October 5, 2010 at 12:47 pm

I’m glad that your situation is working out for your current aupair…but, not following the country’s rules regarding aupairs and instead using the American guidelines is against the law. You can in fact get in big trouble for that. I’m not sure which country you are in but most countries require at least one of the parents to be a citizen of that country as well as the primary language spoken at home to be the language of that country for you to get an aupair.

OnceAnAuPair October 5, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Should be working…
I don’t think it’s the best thing to apply American guidelines to Europe, even if you are paying extra. 45 hours in most European countries is well beyond full time work (especially for France that has a work week of 37 hours…). If you need 45/week care, you need to find a more specialized nanny. Or consider sending your children to a daycare or preschool, which might be good for their language skills anyone (if you’re not in an English speaking country).
Not only is 45 hours/week against the law for an au pair in Europe but once your au pair notices that all of her au pair friends are working 25-30/week and she’s working 45…she most likely will go through a “rough patch” and will put you into rematch, over and over again.

OnceAnAuPair October 5, 2010 at 3:11 pm

I meant anyway* not anyone.

Should be working October 5, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Thanks folks for the tips here, I should have made clear in my post that this is not just a renegade employment arrangement. The AP has proper insurance, is properly registered with local authorities, is already a native speaker of the language and an EU citizen, and most importantly, she works max 35 hrs/wk, usually less, which is also what she worked in the U.S. Plus we get her a monthly transportation pass, pay for classes (not language, but something she actually could learn from) and she has had plenty of vacation. I concede that we do exceed the 30-hr work limit by about 5 hrs/wk, but we exceed the pocket money by about 80 euros/wk, so all of us feel fine with that.

Aupairgal October 5, 2010 at 5:37 pm

I would like to stress here however that this is probably only possible because she is a citizen of an EU country. EU citizens do need not need visas to work in other EU countries and can freely move within the EU. They must, however, pay taxes and if this Aupair isn’t registered as working as an aupair(as I doubt she is) should also be paying taxes. I say this because you are thinking about trying to get an aupair in Europe. This honestly may not be possible. Within Europe, EU citizen aupairs are very very rare and quite often go to countries within the EU to learn the respective language. Like I said, most EU countries require that one parent at least be a citizen of that country and the primary language be that of said country. With or without an agency, even if you are successful at getting an aupair, you will probably not be able to get her a visa in which case she will be sent home. I strongly suggest looking into other childcare options. If you perchance are in Germany, I can suggest some possibilites. If not, then I wish you lots of fun in Europe and good luck.

Family in Europe February 8, 2011 at 7:54 pm

We are am American family in Europe, and have run into quite a few roadblocks trying to get an AP or any type of in-home childcare, really. We are located in Germany, so any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Should be working February 9, 2011 at 1:13 am

There are au pair agencies in Germany, lots of them, some tiny one-person operations. Service is nothing like in the US, but then again the agency fee is about 10% of the US agency fees. You just have to do more of the work yourself, and the part-of-the-family rhetoric is much less.

cv harquail October 6, 2010 at 9:48 am

SBW, I appreciate the balance you are trying to create here– it must be weird to move with an au pair from the US to another country and have to readjust the relationship accordingly. Also, ‘knowing’ you from your longtime participation on the blog, I’m sure that you have taken note of the legal issues and are making sure that your au pair isn’t taken advantage of. cv

Should be working October 6, 2010 at 10:07 am

Aupairgal, thanks once again for the tips.–The tax issue is an important one, and we’re looking into that (remember last April there were lots of posts on this site about whether APs owe U.S. taxes or not–most APs did not pay them, and most families did not force them to, if I recall). If we get another AP in winter, it will be through an agency. I’ve already inquired with one agency, just to figure out what that would mean. I guess this would make me a ‘bicultural HP’, if we end up having hosted APs on both sides of the Atlantic!

CV, the situation is a little weird. It evolved because the AP’s year in the U.S. was ending but she is waiting to start university in winter, and we needed the help settling in, so the pieces just fell together. So these few months are an ‘irregular’ arrangement, but as you know from my other posts, I’m for the most part a stickler for rules and opt for generosity to the au pair whenever possible.

Alison P October 5, 2010 at 5:14 pm

I am a host mum here in New Zealand. Having au pairs is still quite a new thing here so many of the agencies are also new and quite small. There are no special legal rules for au pairs other than the normal (quite protective) employment regulations that apply to everyone. There are no special au pair visas, au pairs enter on a working holiday visa and can stay for a year.
While an agency may not provide a great deal more protection they certainly give au pairs an (fairly) independent third party to talk to if there are issues between the au pair and host family and can also be a great help in meeting other au pairs and settling in. When talking to my au pairs’ friends they often say that they have been surprised by how far out (or how close) they are to the city etc so this would definitely be a good thing to check with an agency who would be familiar with the area and perhaps more realistic than some host families.

We did go through an agency with our first au pair. She was only stayed four weeks (!) as she was very unhappy and felt New Zealanders were too informal and relaxed (she did not like people saying hi to her in shops etc). We really did go out of our way to try and help her fit in and, as we need less than 20 hours help a week she had a lot of free time. I think it definitely helped her having someone at the agency to talk to (who came from her own home country) and helped her organize her return home. Our current au pair came to New Zealand without an agency but felt her first host family took advantage of her (they misrepresented the hours, distance from the city etc). As she had made friends in here she was able to give notice confident that she had somewhere to stay while she looked for another family. If she was not such an outgoing person this might have been difficult and I think an agency would definitely have helped her in this situation. Of course as you visa is not tied to your job here you could come on a working holiday visa, stay in a youth hostel and find (via the websites or an agency) a family when you got here. Of course you would have be confident and there is a risk you would not find a role quickly but you would be able to meet the family first.

As an aside I just want to say I think this site is fantastic and really appreciate advise and encouragement it has given me.

cv harquail October 6, 2010 at 9:50 am

Hi Alison,
thanks for sharing the context for au pairing in New Zealand… I remember an email from an au pair in Australia, and being surprised at how very different her expectations were, and the norms for having an au pair were! cv

Europhile October 5, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Hi all — I, too, am a HM in a non-agency-regulated market (Australia). Just wanted to offer my perspective.

I have had four APs and have worked all the different routes, including agencies and sourcing APs directly from the web. Here is what I have found:
The agencies are good at providing a loose framework (above all for first timers). However, once they have taken their fee after a “deal” is through, they are completely out of the picture. No help for either HPs or APs. What I do like about the agencies is that they provide a bit more up front — the applications are asking a lot of the questions that I would be asking somebody that I source from the web, so it definitely alleviates the search. That said, last time I contacted my agency, they had nobody that I liked on paper.
Sourcing girls from the Internet is hard work for HPs. I have done it a few times now. Here’s what I find — a lot of them are very ill-prepared. None of them has any references lined up and are often even puzzled we ask for them. As a reference, we offer up all of our previous APs. I have a detailed handbook that I send out when things get serious, so each and every one of them knows what the assignment is. One of the biggest problems with sourcing APs through the web is that you have to make sure to converse with a handful of prospective APs at the same time, so that people don’t drop out all of a sudden. You wouldn’t believe how many APs write back and then all of a sudden disappear off the face of the earth (and you thought this was your favorite AP). That’s why I try to conduct my search over a very short period of time (usually 2 weeks), with many balls in the air at the same time to ensure we get a suitable candidate. It’s exhausting. Communication is very important, and I have seen many APs communicate poorly. And no, it’s not a language thing.
For you US-based HPs out there – we get to choose from a broad array of APs in Australia. Australia is attractive, and APs don’t have to sign up for a whole year. Many in fact want to come for 6 to 9 months and then travel. So it’s a very different setup from the US.
Just like anywhere else, AP-HP relationships can turn sour here. We haven’t yet had that problem, thankfully. I’d say our setup is very well structured (no surprises) and we compensate our APs fairly (a bit more money than you pay in the US, as cost of living here is more expensive), plus they work around the 30-hour mark. They have to fly themselves over, though, which is quite pricey, and are in charge of their own health insurance. We pay them a bonus if they stay for the agreed time, which will take care of some of these costs.
So what I would suggest APs do if there is no agency involved – talk to other people who have been APs, set up a list of what is important to you, be prepared and communicate with prospective HPs. You might not want to choose a family that’s a first time HF if there is no agency involved (it’s hard to be the first one for sure – that was certainly true for ours, too). Furthermore, if I don’t hear back from an AP within a couple of days, she’s off my radar. So make sure you communicate and are on the ball. Speak up for yourself and be honest about what you want to achieve.

Good luck!

Another Aussie Mum October 5, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Like Europhile, I am a host Mum in Australia. We have sourced all of our aupairs (except one Australian girl) off a well-known internet database. We have always been extremely honest with our aupairs up front with our expectations, that way there are no suprises. If they don’t agree with the tasks during email, they soon ‘disappear’ and we don’t hear from them again. Others have taken to abusing me over email about the tasks we ‘dare to ask’ (apparently horrifying to some) and how some families have maids/chefs/housekeepers AND the aupair so we should too! I quickly find out their reasons for wanting to be an aupair – and believe me when I say, those searching for a ticket to freedom or fortune soon get corrected! There’s plenty of ‘fish in the sea’ so to speak, and there are plenty of young women keen for the opportunity to be with our family in such a wonderful country.
Sometimes I wish we were with an agency, but like Europhile pointed out, they don’t seem to be there after the initial ‘agreement’. I feel I’m far to nice when it comes to resolving conflict, and tend to simmer on it rather than say something immediately (particularly now when I have other stressors to deal with).
We pay what I’d call a fair amount, we include the aupair in everything the family does, and we give them loads of free time. From what I hear from other aupairs, some families pay nothing! I’ve often trawled the internet database looking at what other families offer, and I have to wonder how they get an aupair at all!

Europhile October 5, 2010 at 9:57 pm

So true, Another Aussie Mum — what we both are trying to say — there is two sides to every story. If there is no agency involved, HPs have to do all the educating. APs in the States at least have had an introductory session and know what is expected — they are briefed.

I say it again — if APs who want to go to countries that are not agency regulated (which includes some fabulous places), it pays off to do their homework and be prepared. That way, the likelihood to end up with an excellent situation is very feasible and they don’t just have to take what is available. It’s still an AP job, though — so princesses beware.

cleo October 5, 2010 at 9:56 pm

I agree with Europhile. Agencies in Europe too often provide no support to their clients. They find you a host family and if things don’t work out, you’re on your own! It doesn’t offer any more guarantee than with a family you find on the Internet.

It seems to be different in the United States where the agencies are regulated by the State Department.

Aupairgal October 5, 2010 at 11:20 pm

I found the agencies in Europe very helpful.

HoBath October 6, 2010 at 6:21 am

I’m from the UK and currently working as an au pair in Spain and love it, my family are great and I’m slowly managing to adapt and make friends here. Firstly I would have to agree with those that said that agencies in Europe were often unhelpful – the only people that I know that have used agencies have had numerous problems and not a lot of support. Whilst the ‘insurance’ aspect would be beneficial a friend of mine was given incorrect addresses and such leaving here with a hefty bill for re-directed luggage; not all au pair are going to need advice from an agency if their family are treating them badly but they are definitely going to need the initial basic support. Most of my friends used aupair-world online database to find a family and asked for references and made contact over time with both the family and their previous au pairs. I would also argue that the European system, whilst lacking in the same structure as the US one, can allow for more flexibility: I give English lessons to the kids in the house rather than looking after them so do a lot fewer hours and get paid less a setup which (as far as I’m aware) wouldn’t be feasible in the states. As the majority of au pairs here are EU citizens the cost of getting home isn’t as high and there would be violation of visas if an au pair stayed in the country after leaving a family. I’m not sure how it works in other countries but I think that non-EU citizens that need visas to work here need to go through some sort of agency anyways (correct me if I’m wrong, all the APs that I know have EU passports)

A friend of mine worked with a family that basically exploited her and she left them after a few months. There was really nothing that an agency could have done to make it any better as my friend wouldn’t have stayed on with them even if they had been made to agree to a different work schedule due to the bad blood between them. She also warned their future au pair of what had happened and found herself a lovely new family very quickly.

I agree with most of CVs points to take into consideration. I think one of the most practical advantages for an au pair with an agency is that they can help you to meet other APs in the area. Whilst this would have been great for me the lack of agency usage in Europe means that most girls wouldn’t be placed near to other agency APs. I’ve found that most families can point their APs towards other families that have APs and that they all tend to go to the same language schools.

Basically I hope that any prospective APs take note of the advice but don’t let it put them off becoming an au pair because it’s an amazing experience that you hopefully will love!

HMinNL October 6, 2010 at 8:17 am

Hi there

I am a host mom in the Netherlands and want to clarify a couple of things about the way it works here at least. We do not use agencies for our au pairs. The main reason is that I wanted an American or Australian au pair and found that most agencies deal with au pairs who come from countries where it is harder to obtain a visa. I have also found that this is largely the extent of the agency’s services: finding an au pair and providing legal paperwork, as well as making the pre-arangements. Usually they also organize some types of activities for au pairs to meet each other – but rarely (if ever?) do they offer other type of support like the LCCs I see people here speak of, or rematch services.

For our au pair we did all the paperwork ourselves. In it, we had to provide a contact and have our au pair read to the foreign office – in English – that she understood all of the requirements as well as her rights. She had to sign that she agreed that she cannot work more than 30 hours/week and 8 hours per day, and it was asked numerous times. Then, she was given an au pair hotline and a government contact person for in the event that we did not follow our end of the bargain, or if she needed advice.

I work with a Phillipino woman who used to be an au pair through an agency, and did not feel that she received any support whatsoever from the agency. Also, the au pair get togethers were once per 4 months and she did not get much out of this. This definitely influeneced our decision to not go through an agency.

I just wanted to bring up another perspective because in some countries like mine, there is support for au pairs and in my opinion it is not necessary to go through an agency in a great deal of cases.

AnonHM Europe October 6, 2010 at 8:34 am

So far we always went with an agency because I hoped they could offer a better advice about the girls. They interview the girls and they are able to check the references as well as honestly talk to the girls about us (we stick with the same agency for 5 years now, so we are well known). Still: If problems occur, many agencies stick to the family no matter what happens. Most of the girls coming from their home-countries weren’t so perfect after a couple of days so we had to rematch very quickly. Some just left the family within hours – they didn’t feel obliged to their contract with the agency. But, there are a lot of agencies out there, who have girls matched with incredible host families only taking advantage of the girls. And they are registered and approved by semi-official authorities. These girls usually find on different web-sites/social networks other APs from their home-country, find about their agency (ours) contact our agency and (re)match with us.
Why am I telling this: There are so many agencies out there, and many, many will just collect the money and provide addresses. After matching they are out. They won’t check whether the hostparents information about expected working-hours, duties, rooming and so on are true. They won’t tell the host-families that they take advantage of the girls. Why should they? The host-family will pay next year for the next AP, the AP will not pay anything. What does it (legally) need to be an agency in Europe? Nothing. A website and and email-Address is helpful. No special knowledge or skills are needed, no intercultural background, no infrastructre, nothing. Of course, there are good agencies out there. But they are so rare and in my opinion it’s pure luck to find a good one. As I heard some churches may have good au-pair-programms – but I won’t discuss the church – and –children-matter here.

I would rather stress the advise to ask for references of former APs and I would recommend not to take a non-experienced family, since it is bound to have many more problems.

Also you must remember that in Europe girls from very poor countries work as APs. For example the African girls are mostly willing to work extremely hard and they won’t complain – their families sometimes paid the amount of a years-family-income to get visa-matters-fixed and plane-tickes bought. In the eastern Europe/Asian cultures many girls are brought up not to complain against older (HP-age) people. These girls will work as well – no matter how many hours for how little money. There is always the threat to have to return to their home-country or to stay in Europe illegally – some even prefer that situation, as I can understand well. So the situation for all girls are not perfect at all compared to the american system.

Very important: Find out as much as you can about your target country and the family, and be prepared to manage your stay on your own. Speak up for your rights! Host parents will expect you to manage a great deal of the every-day family life- they will not be willing to manage your life/problems as well. (good ones will give advice of course :-)) Many families will appreciate your asking about former experiences and asking about references.

aria October 19, 2010 at 3:56 pm

To use a completely ridiculous (I honestly can’t come up with a better alternative :/) expression, I have to admit that my feathers were a little bit ruffled by this post. I just don’t think it’s a very fair look at both sides of the story, and the underlying message I got was almost ‘don’t complain if you have problems when you don’t sign up with an agency,’ and that’s awfully one sided, IMO.

To begin with, I don’t think ANY country has such a detailed and meticulously organized au pair program as the United States, and comparing agencies there with agencies in Europe, for example, is like comparing apples and oranges. Good or bad, it’s the truth, and it’s not realistic to have the same expectations (i.e. of support, of security, of fairness) in other countries as one would in the States.

My second point is joining an agency does not guarantee a successful year with a legitimate family, not in the States, and even less outside of the States. Yes, an agency can go a long way to weed out the bad apples, but IMO, it’s no more than say, a website like GreatAuPair.com can, where au pairs and families are free to post complaints which are then stuck to the user’s profile. I actually PREFER reading personal complaints- one girl’s problem could be exactly the situation I’m looking for, and vice versa. Agencies are not fail proof in this aspect, and I think we’ve all heard of nightmare families who want servants, not au pairs, yet are not kicked out of the program or tagged with unflattering comments on their profile. They just keep coming back, or switch agencies.

Working with an agency, however, DOES guarantee that an au pair’s salary (and I’m talking more Europe now, specifically France, where I worked) will stay locked into an unfair bracket well below minimum wage. The au pair will most likely have to pay some sort of registration/membership fee to simply ‘join’ the agency, and will probably be given little to no support in the event of disagreements between her and the family (do you think places like Coulommiers have an LCC within X kilometers of each family?).

I have absolutely no regrets about choosing to become an au pair sans agency last year, and I think I ended up with a much fairer deal than if I had signed up with one. I was able to negotiate a MUCH fairer (though still not great) wage for the hours I worked, pick and chose whichever family I wanted without worrying about if we had the same agency or not, and after things went south quickly with my 1st family, I was able to leave without having to justify myself to an LCC. When I began to have issues with my second family, yes, it’s true that I didn’t have the ‘support’ of an agency, but I don’t think it’s so much of a bad thing not having someone to hold your hand every time there is a problem. I grew so much during my au pair year, mostly because… I basically had to, I was on my own and nobody but me was going to stick up for me! And guess what, everything worked out and I still see my boys at least once a month even now that I’m not their au pair anymore.

I’m not saying it’s better or worse to be with an agency, but I think it’s only fair to give an accurate picture of both sides. Working as an au pair without an agency is not necessarily a bad thing, and in many ways it can be a very GOOD thing. It all depends on the person. :) But I’m so glad that this was posted, because I think it’s such a relevant topic for anyone thinking about being an au pair outside of the States- it’s good to have as much info as possible from both sides! Whew, I’ve finished my dissertation!!

camila November 9, 2010 at 8:26 am

is there any possibility when an au pair goes to US but can’t finish her program (by any reason) to retry? I heard that it is not possible because they want to see that you commit, but then again I also heard that there is an agency sending letters to some au pairs that couldn’t finish. have anyone heard about it?

Darthastewart November 9, 2010 at 5:21 pm

I’d guess that you’d have to have significant documentation. Failure to complete an au-pair year and inability to prove documentation as to the reason could conceivably cause issues with visas in the future, especially as our government’s ability to track these things gets better. If you can’t complete, because of a family emergency, or whatever reason, you’d probably better be able to prove it.

vicky January 20, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Hello does anyone know anything about Expert Au Pair agency please?
As I am thinking of coming to America by this agency and I know they are a designated agency approved by the US state department, but you never can be too careful, so I was wondering if anyone has some advice about this agency.

Thanks
vicky

Josy July 4, 2011 at 12:40 pm

I agree that for Au Pairs that have to travel very far it is better to use an agency for reasons already mentioned.
But I am from Europe and I will be an Au Pair in another European country. If things with my host family do not work out or they try to exploit me I will just buy a plane ticket home which would cost me less than 100€, if I book long enough in advance I can even get one as cheap as 30€. When I am home then I can just search for a new family on the internet and fly to them with another cheap flight. All in all that would cost me less or at maximum the same as an agency would but on the internet I have a much larger database of families to chose from than I would with an agency and I can interview them much more carefully (which of course I also have to, because there is no agency providing a guarantee the family is “safe”) to find a perfect match for me.
Plus I have the control about everything. There is no agency that “filters” which families resumees they will even send to me or that pressures me into making a decision. It is all under my control and still it does not cost me a cent. Of course I also take the risk that I might choose a family that made me match with them under false pretenses, but I think that risk is relatively low if you interview them very carefully and also see them on Skype and things like that. Besides from what I hear some LCCs (or whatever they might be called in other countries) don’t take their job very seriously and so I might end up with a “bad” and unchecked family even with an agency….. No, I really prefer to have the control about everything myself rather than trusting an agency. At least in my situation, where I can always get a cheap flight home if things don’t work out and don’t need a visa. If I was going to the USA or Australia or somewhere else far away I would of course use an agency not only because at least in the USA I would be required by law to do that, but also because it is safer. I don’t want to take the risk of being thrown out of the house by a family in Australia where I can’t just fly home for little money. But I can totally take the risk of that happening in Europe, if a family throws me out I just take a taxi to the airport and I am home a few hours later for usually less than 100€. That is a risk I can take.

cdunn October 14, 2011 at 9:31 am

I would like to note that while some of the benefits of agencies are true, I agree with Aria that not using an agency also has a plus side, and doesn’t always leave the au pair unprotected.

For example, in The Netherlands, the Dutch government has a hotline specifically for au pairs who are having trouble with their host families, agency or not. The visa agreement also allows for changing families or getting government mediation if things aren’t working out.

Going without an agency is more of a gamble, but do your research. Depending on where you are, you may have more legal protections and recourse than you think, and by leaving the agency behind, it’s you who can make sure the family & their references & background are what you’re looking for, not someone you’ve never met.

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