Au Pair Asks: Will Host Family think I’m lazy if I can’t pay for my flight to the USA?

by cv harquail on April 27, 2011

Here’s an issue we haven’t seen before. This soon-to-be au pair has matched with a family who needs her right away. But– the au pair doesn’t have enough money saved to pay for her flight to the USA.

  • How should she discuss this with the host family?
  • What kinds of options might she suggest? And,
  • How can she manage the impression in might make on her host family that she doesn’t have much money saved?

Here are the details —


Hi! First of all I stumbled upon your website and I am so glad because I started my au pair search a few weeks ago and have already found a great potential host family whom I have been skyping with the mother and the children and their previous au pair. I am really excited to hopefully go live with them soon in the upcoming months however here is my dilema:

I am currently doing my 3rd year of undergraduate Studies and am taking sometime off to become an au pair to learn a new culture while still doing something that I enjoy, working with children and hopefully being able to share my knowledge of the english language to the children. And as with being a college student comes the hand in hand of being broke. I support myself (no family contributions/help from parents) by working two jobs part time as a nanny( because I love working with children) and part-time as a barista at a local coffee shop to make ends meet.

I have recently been searching for a family and I have found a great family whose au pair has already left them and the au pair they had lined up bailed on them at the very last minute so they have been in need of an au pair. So they would like me to come as soon as I can however due to some unexpected finances it is going to take longer for me to work and save the money for my plane ticket. And I know the au pair is responsible for paying for their flight and the host family said they will reimburse me when I arrive. I completely understand for security reasons because no HF wants to pay for a flight for an au pair but not have the au pair not show up.

However I’m a little embarrassed too tell them that I can’t afford the flight at the moment because I do not want to think I am lazy or irresponsible because I don’t have the money for a simple flight. Because I like to believe I am hard worker, I’ve been taking on more hours babysitting and working at the coffee shop and still going to school, I’m very tired, but I really want this opportunity of the great cultural exchange being an au pair offers.

So basically I don’t know if I should just completely tell them that I can’t go because I don’t have the money or tell them that I wont be able to come until a later date when I have the money for the plane ticket?

Any advice on this would be helpful :) Thank you!

We await your wisdom, below….

Image: Blossoms XII by LoriaMcKee This lovely 10 x 10 Print is for sale on Etsy.


My 2 cents April 28, 2011 at 11:29 am

I’m confused and may be woefully ignorant here.

Why are you responsible for paying for your flight? Who told you this? Aren’t the travel arrangements including cost the responsiblity of the au pair agency that you must be aligned with in order to even get a visa to board a plane and come be an au pair? Your potential host family’s fee paid to the agency is supposed to cover your travel to and from. If there’s extra fees, including travel fees, due to the transition of the first au pair and the need for immediate care, i thought that was handled between the agency and the host family, but certainly not the au pair.

hOstCDmom April 28, 2011 at 11:47 am

I think that she must NOT be coming to au pair in the US — both because the US aupair agencies do not make the APs pay their flights to the US (although they can, and do, charge the APs flight supplements if they are coming from China, other Asia, Australia, S. Africa etc.) In fact, the flight is ostensibly one of the things that the HF fee to the agency covers! I believe it is typical for APs in Europe/going to Europe to pay for their own flight to their destination HF.

And because the AP above mentions: “hopefully being able to share my knowledge of the english language to the children.”

An assumption, but I think a reasonable one, is that the OP AP isn’t coming to share English with kids in the US. (yes, of course there are many children, especially toddlers, who live in the US who do not speak English and rather speak their parents’ language(s); but it isn’t a common motivator for a US HF to seek an English speaking AP from abroad. Enrolling them in a local, English speaking preschool would take care of that.)

hOstCDmom April 28, 2011 at 11:52 am

Clarification – when I said “it isn’t a common motivator for a US HF to seek an English speaking AP from abroad” I meant that joining the US AP program to get an AP to teach your kids English (who otherwise do not speak English, but who live in the USA) was likely not a common motivator re getting an English speaking AP — not that getting an English speaking AP isn’t a common desire of HFs…since it clearly is, be it a native English speaker or a fluid/fluent ESL speaker :)

MommyMia April 28, 2011 at 11:51 am

I’m confused, too, as the first line paragraph does state “…to pay for her flight the the USA.” Perhaps she is not planning to come with an agency, but under a tourist visa or something else?

Should be working April 28, 2011 at 12:00 pm

This AP should WATCH OUT. This could be a really bad scam, esp. if this ‘host family’ says they are in the USA, because in the USA this whole story makes no sense owing to lack of agency (apparently, from this post). And if it is a real family, in the USA, then they are doing this all illegally and it’s still a bad idea. Who’s paying health insurance?

ap April 28, 2011 at 12:01 pm

The title says USA, but there’s no mention to the country in the letter…

CA mom to twins April 28, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Aside from the glaring problems mentioned by other commenters…

I think it’s important for the AP to be honest with the potential host family and mention her financial difficulties. Any reasonable adult would understand and sympathize with the problem. This could be an opportunity for a frank conversation (first of many!) to find out how each side handles it.

However, as a host parent, I am leery of paying for a ticket of someone from another country I’ve never met.

Let’s say the host family is really going to reimburse the airfare by some agreement, could the AP put the ticket on a credit card?

NHM April 28, 2011 at 3:52 pm

this is an interesting statement (the leery one) … aren’t you as an American HP always paying the ticket for someone you have never met when working with an AP agency? And not just the ticket but a whole lot more!

calif mom April 29, 2011 at 10:48 pm

We write the big, first checks to the agency, not to the au pair. We don’t pay an au pair anything directly until they have worked a week in our home. With the agency, we know how to leverage them if things go badly; we have some protections.

AFHostMom April 29, 2011 at 11:31 pm

exactly–paying the agency is like a positive form of money laundering :) We are paying for one au pair, and if that one falls through, we get to go through the process of finding a new one.
Califmom–how are things going since you rematched? Life in our house is a 180 degree change since we did. We love our new AP.

(Ex) Au Pair in CO April 28, 2011 at 1:42 pm

I am going to assume she’s American and will be going to another country as an au pair, because I believe Americans are the only ones to use the term “undergrad” about their bachelor’s degree.

If so, just tell the family the truth – you can’t afford to pay for the ticket right now. If they really want YOU, and not just a new au pair asap, they will help you figure this out somehow:)

3gr8tkids April 28, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Soon to be au pair — Do you also realize that you will need a visa if you plan to legally be outside of the U.S. for more than 90 days? Have you discussed health care with your potential family should you get sick? If you are not going through an agency you need to make sure you have expectations determined up front. Good luck. I hope this is a wonderful adventure and learning experience for you.

AP April 28, 2011 at 4:53 pm

I’ve been facing the same difficult situation; I’m a student and I’m quickly realizing all the costs that come with preparing to be an au pair. I’m American and not going through an agency and I though my biggest expense would be airfare but my visa was over $250 and I have to pay for my own insurance. I think it’s great you want to be an au pair but you should be honest with your family and if you can’t afford it maybe that’s a sign that you should wait until you can… Just my opinion.

Taking a Computer Lunch April 29, 2011 at 6:58 am

Of course it’s different for American HF, who pay enormous agency fees that include airfare and whatever orientation our agency offers to incoming APs. But we also pay separate fees: my agency charges the SEVIS fee and I pay for transportation from the orientation to my home separately. (Of course, totally worth it to me – not to have to take time off every time my kids are sick and on school holidays, means I actually get to have a vacation — albeit not an expensive one.)

However, when APs come to my house broke, I pay attention. Is it that they cannot manage their money? (The AP who best integrated into our family was perpetually broke and a poor financial planner.) Was there a crisis that precipitated the loss of money? Are they compelled to pay back family members who put up the subvention money for them to come to the US? (Chinese APs have to pay a surety to guarantee their return.) Are they supporting family members back home? (One Brazilian and the Chinese AP did.) There are many reasons why APs are short of funds, and not all of them point to an inability to plan ahead or spell trouble.

I would recommend being honest. “I’d love to join your family now, but I had planned to work for several weeks to earn money for my plane ticket. I don’t have that money now, but if you would like to purchase the plane ticket on my behalf, I’d be happy to join your family now.” Also, there are cheaper flight options – like flying standby. When I moved to Europe, I purchased an inexpensive ticket to fly standby. Yes, it meant standing around in the airport, not sure if I’d take off, but it was the cheapest way to go. It was cheaper for me, as a student, to do that and to purchase a student one-way ticket back to the United States, then to buy a round-trip ticket from the United States.

Carlos April 29, 2011 at 7:58 am

I’m a male au pair and right now I’m waiting for a match with culturalcare aupair, but I know that the next payment that I have to make includes my visa, my driver’s license and my flight to new york and the family pays for my flight/bus or they can even go pick me up at new york if they live near .. I think that’s what’s confusing everybody…

Since I’m mexican and I live at the very north, my gateway is Tucson airport and I know that I’ll pay my trip from my city to Tucson and then the flight to New York.. THAT’S! The payment that’s she’s talking about, not the payment from New York to your house, dear and beloved host families

hOstCDmom April 29, 2011 at 10:04 am

Carlos – that is very interesting about you having to pay for your flight from Mexico to the USA. I believe you, but I have to say I’m confused. Here’s why–

We were with Cultural Care for 4 years (switched a year ago to another agency). CCAP always told us that they – the agency – paid for the APs ticket to the USA (and in fact that was what a portion of our HF agency fee was for). Now, they did tell us, and several of our APs confirmed, that there were flight supplements from certain locations. Each of our APs from China had to pay a $200 flight supplement to the USA, and one had to pay a flight supplement of $300 for the return ticket, another a flight supplement of $400 for the return ticket. None of our European APs had to pay for their tickets to the USA, nor for their tickets home.

(We were told that CCAP paid for the APs return ticket if s/he successfully completed the program, meaning that s/he did a full year, went to 10/12 of the cluster meetings, and fufilled the education requirement. )

Therefore, I am a bit mystified why you have to pay for your ticket from Mexico to NYC…

***I wonder if any CCAP LCCs can weigh in here and clarify how this works?***

Has there been a change in policy?
Is there something special about CCAP in Mexico that requires APs from there to buy their tickets?

Also, are there any current CCAP families who know anything about this? Were any told what I was? something different?

I would be very annoyed to learn that CCAP was making APs pay for their tickets to the USA…and at the same time telling HF that CCAP wasy paying for the tickets to the USA for the APs…and saying that our HF agency fee partly went to said ticket…that would seem like some pretty unfair double dipping….

German Au-Pair April 29, 2011 at 11:45 am

Not an LCC- but a friend of mine had to pay 175$ (from May to October it’s 100$) for the flight from Germany to the US last year with CC.
Though it’s not specificly listed on the CC-Site as “due to the flight”, she was clear about that being her share of her flight ticket, so the agency must have told her.
Maybe that is what the au pair meant?

ap April 29, 2011 at 1:43 pm

I guess the thing is that every AP(at least with CC) has to also pay her chunk of agency-fees to actually become an AP. I don’t know in Mexico, but in my home-country(also latin america) the agency didn’t exactly tell us what we were paying with that fee (around $1700 here) just what that included: Flight costs to and from the US. The insurance. The 4-day-training in New York. Room & meals for those 4days. and not sure what else, so I guess the thing is that, at some level, both families and APs have a share in their fees that cover for a part of the flight tickets???? Not sure, but actually now would love to know exactly what my fee payed & did not….

hOstCDmom April 29, 2011 at 1:59 pm

ap — so would I !!

The things you list were the EXACT same items that CCAP told me that *my* fees were paying for…. they even said that *HFs* pay *all* of the APs’ insurance costs via our agency fee (unless AP elects the insurance add on/premium insurance, in which case s/he pays that amount on the margin)…

calif Mom April 29, 2011 at 10:55 pm

I’m shocked, shocked to hear that neither APs nor host families have solid info on what their money is going to. It sort of doesn’t matter–we pay a certain amount that goes to the agency. They have overhead and they have costs. We pay more for certain things they can sell to us–like the airlines starting to charge luggage fees. Luggage isn’t suddenly expensive; the airlines need money to cover fuel costs. It’s spin. But it’s the way it is. Of course they’re double dipping and spinning us about what our fees — and the au pairs’ fees– are covering.

Carlos April 29, 2011 at 11:11 pm

But all I see is that you guys keep telling that you pay the agency for the transport of the au pair, but us aupairs need to may for our driver’s license, visa, and other stuff, what I meant is that cultural care, in my case, gives me the gateway, which is tucson in my case, and there’s a flight from tucson to nyc that I have to pay, and I also need to pay for my gas or my trip from my city to tucson. The hf will pay my trip from NYC to THEIR city… that’s the charge that they may be referring to.. :/ don’t you think?

DarthaStewart April 30, 2011 at 10:08 am

It would be nice to know what that 7K is going towards. We are specifically told flight, orientation, insurance, etc.- I believe that au-pairs have to pay fees… I wonder if the amount that the au-pair pays depends on which country they come from, and how much the agency thinks that they can get out of them? I had a Georgian au-pair back in 2000-2001, and she had to pay nearly $3000 to get here.

NoVA Host Mom January 9, 2012 at 11:25 pm

Actually, Carlos, no. When we are told we are paying for plane tickets via fees to the agency, we part of our fees are going towards the AP applicant’s airfare (minus SEVIS) to the US from their gateway location. We purchase the travel tickets (either by plane or train) from the training center to our home independently (at least with our agency). For me, I make the purchase on the Amtrak website and then need to forward the travel docs to the agency for them to provide to the AP who is then at training.

I do know that the APs pay agency fees as well, and with all the offices and fees and documentation, I’m sure there is a “bits-n-pieces” sort of blending for the fees, but it would be nicer if we could all really know what portions we pay for. It’s not a small amount and with so many people having not only no raises, but also no Cost of Living increases (even a tiny bit), I sure do like to know where my pennies go.

Amelie ex-pair April 29, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Not related to the topic, but….

Are families aware that most au pair pay a not so cheap fee to apply for the au pair program?

I ask that because one HF once was really shocked when I told them how much I had paid to be an au pair…

hOstCDmom April 29, 2011 at 1:47 pm

I think that varies from country to country – and so does the amount of the fee. Three of my European APs did NOT pay a fee; they went through local agents that worked with CCAP and the agents have “specials” throughout the year when there is no fee. They also didn’t have to pay a deposit (i.e. deposit that they would get back when they successfully completed their year) because they applied during a time when the deposit was waived in order to drum up more candidates.

(Ex)Aussie Aupair June 14, 2011 at 2:13 am

My host family were very surprise to hear that my aupair charges amounted to more than US $1500. The Largest component was supposed to be the airfare supplement of $500. When I was looking at some companies costs were more than $3000 in one case! My host family were so shocked because they were charged a large extra supplement due to me coming from Australia – Seems to agency were charging us both for the same thing!!!!

I have a friend with CC who paid a variety of fees including a $750 flight supplement. She has now been told that the $500 end of year bonus promised is paid to any other nationality other than Australia – her $500 is suppossed to be in the form of the flight. I am so upset for her – she has to cancel travel plans because CC’s main selling point over here is the so called ‘Bonus’ and she expected to receive it in her 25th month.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 14, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Did your friend have it in writing that she would receive a $500 bonus and the agency reneged, or just a verbal promise? If she has it in writing (somewhere, anywhere doesn’t have to be her contract), then she should push it with the headquarters of the agency (she still might, but it’s greater that the “No.” will remain no).

Nonetheless, the bonus shouldn’t replace setting money aside. The LCC in our cluster advises APs to save $100 each week, which sounds like a huge sum of money, when most are making slightly less than $200. She does this so that they quickly amass a sum to pay taxes, doctor’s bills, course fees, car insurance deductibles, and travel funds. Some of my APs have listened, some have not. One AP traveled in her 13th month and still went home with $800. My current AP is parsimonious and has saved enough to fly to Alaska in her 13th month.

scandinavian ex aupair May 1, 2011 at 5:34 pm

hmm, i didnt pay anything at all to become an au pair.. nothing. i just had to pay for the insurance and the fee to the american embassy.

Eastcoaster May 1, 2011 at 8:49 pm

I don’t know the answer as far as who pays what, but I do know that when APs don’t have to pay anything there’s not much incentive for them to stay and complete their year. I have a friend who had one AP go home after 2 months because she missed her boyfriend back home. The only downside for the AP was that she had to pay for her flight home.

aupair25 May 4, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Well.. i thought every Au pair had to pay for her flight ticket.. mine was included in the fees i paid yo the agency ($1000) including insurance and the ticket… I’m with APIA and from south America (not Brazil) … is not fair that depending on your country you have to pay for it

cv harquail May 10, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Hi Au Pair mom!
Just wanted to say thanks for posting my questions on your site. I
went through and read the advice that other users were giving and
although I think some where confused because I am in the US going to
Europe as to why I had to pay for my flights, but I did find some good
advice as one user had said to be completely honest with the family
and tell them my situation and if they really wanted ME as an au pair
and not just an au pair immediately they would probably understand my
situation. Which is what I did and they were sooo understanding about
everything and my situation so we had a skype date to discuss
everything with their entire family and so they have went ahead and
booked my plane ticket I leave May 16th and I am very excited to going
to a great family who is very caring and understanding. But just
wanted to thank you for putting my question up cause I got some great
Thanks again, Katrina

Comments on this entry are closed.