Au Pair Extensions: How do they work if her visa isn’t extended?

by cv harquail on September 9, 2010

Hi AuPairMom,3738235118_7cff0f664c_b.jpg

I am a new au pair mom this year. I love my au pair, we have a lot in common and she loves the kids. I was very happy to hear that she is interested in extending for 6 months, maybe even a year. But there ‘s a little bit of a glitch: She just found out that her Taiwan visa will not renew, so she will not be able to leave the U.S. during her extension.

Can anyone tell me:

– Is she technically illegal to be in the States (working or not working) if her home country visa is not renewed?
–is there any way to extend her visa so she can travel (since we may travel to Europe during her extension and would like to take her with us)?

Any advice that AuPairMom readers have would be great.

Thanks! Kathy

Extension Au Pairs, Visas and Travel

Kathy, I found some information about Visas and Au Pair Extensions on the APIA and AuPairCare websites:

Regarding legality, as long as your au pair’s extension has been approved through an official agency (one of the 12), s/he is legal to stay and ‘work’ for you until the end of her or his extension. From the standpoint of the US of A, she’s legal if we say she’s legal.

However, to travel outside the US with the ability to return to the US, your au pair has to have a legal visa issued by her own country. If her home country visa expires before the end of her extension year (which it likely does) she will probably not be able to travel outside the US and then return.

Travel: Visas and Extension au pairs

If you have been granted a program extension for 6, 9 or 12 months, this means that you are legally allowed to remain in the United States for up to an additional 12 months to continue on the Au Pair in America program. An extension of stay is for continued participation in the au pair program. However, the J-1 visa in your passport is at most a one-year visa. This means that during your program extension, it is likely that your visa will have expired. For the most part, you need a valid visa to enter the United States, and you therefore should not travel outside the country during your extension year.

Both sites advise that, although an extension au pair can travel to her home country, get a visa, and then return for her / his remaining (extension) time, there is no guarantee that her or his home country will extend the visa. If your au pair travels home and can’t renew her visa– you lose out.

Your au pair can go home while her current home country visa is valid, apply for an extension, and return with or without a home country extension as long as her current home country visa is valid. That means, she can travel home during month 10 to try to get an early renewal, and still be able to come back (supposedly).

Remember, our advice here is based on experience– don’t count on this advice being completely accurate and timely.

Call your agency for the full details before you decide.

Readers, any additional advice to share?

See also:

AuPairInAmerica site: Resources – Travel & visa
AuPairCare: Extension Program Travel

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{ 15 comments }

Pia aupair September 9, 2010 at 2:00 pm

I have done it. It works exactly like that. i traveled home in the 12th month (you should go earlier just to be safe) actually my american hostfamily came with me to germany for vacation in my family home. i renewed my visa and traveled back into the USA 10days later.
BUT a girls from my cluster from mexico was trying to do the same. her renewal got denied and her current visa got cancelled. she wasn’t even allowed to come back to the US to get her stuff. her hostfamily had a huge problem being left without childcare…

and even if you have a valid visa the last decision makes the immigrate officer at the airport. and if you try to get back into the US – lets say 2 days before your visa expires- he might deny you the entry course he could think you wanna stay illegally after you valid visa expires in 2 days. even if you have a valid DS2019 which would allow you to live in the US just not exit and enter it.

if she want to renew her visa she needs the new DS2019 from the agency which she can only apply for when she got all her credits complete.

KM September 9, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Our agency gave us a booklet that includes information on subjects just like this.

1. A visa is a document that allows a foreigner to enter the USA. It does NOT guarantee entry INTO the USA.
2. Au pairs have a DS-2019 form. This form documents an au pair is a participant in an exchange program.
3. In a perfect world, the expiration date on the U.S. J1 visa should match the program end date on the DS-2019 form. Sometimes it does not – be aware of this. Always look at the expiration date on the J1 visa.
4. A J1 au pair visa is obtained at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in a foreign country. It is not issued by another country. It is issued by a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
5. A visa can expire and an au pair can be legal with an expired visa only if the au pair is still active in the au pair exchange program. This is documented on the DS-2019 form and in the government SEVIS system. This should pose no problem if the au pair does not travel outside the U.S. after the expiration date on the J1 visa.
6. When an au pair travels outside the U.S. past the expiration date on the visa, the au pair may be denied re-entry into the U.S.
7. If an au pair extends, and the au pair does not travel outside the U.S., the au pair is still actively and legally participating in a cultural exchange program.
8. If an au pair extends, and the au pair wants to travel outside the U.S. during the extended period, then the au pair must obtain an new visa to allow re-entry into the U.S. The au pair should also have a new DS-2019 form with new program dates. This is needed to get a new visa.

One last minor detail. An au pair who travels outside the U.S. needs to send the DS-2019 form to the agency for signature by the agency. Can you tell we recently went through this? lol

Taking a Computer Lunch September 9, 2010 at 9:52 pm

The only AP I had who was able to renew her visa was from Austria. She had agreed to extend with us on the condition that she be able to return home for Christmas in her extension year. It worked. As for APs having trouble getting renewals – I have even had trouble getting one Brazilian AP into the country in the first place – she ended up visiting the embassy twice – the second time with a thick packet of letters of support from us and APIA.

No AP is permitted to leave the country 12 months after getting the visa (APs get the visa in their home country before they arrive in the US) and return. APs seeking to return home for a complete renewal need to do this before their visa expires. In the past, my LCC has recommended that no AP leave the country in their 12th month, perhaps because of the visa DS-2019 discrepancy.

Gianna September 10, 2010 at 8:43 am

I suggest to all of my aupairs that they travel ( if they wish to ) outside of the US
during their first year : Mexico, Canada, Paris for the weekend, the non-US Virgin Islands, etc. Then, if they have the money and want to go home to update their visa, great. But if they choose to extend without going home to extend their visas, the US is a huge country with lots of places to visit : Puerto Rico, Florida, California, Chicago, Washington, Denver … the list goes on. I think people get panicky at being told that they ” cannot ” do something but in my experience the US has very easy entry and re-entry procedures compared to everyplace in the world.

MommyMia September 10, 2010 at 1:23 pm

Don’t forget Hawaii (tropical rain forests, snorkeling, volcanoes, whale-watching) and Alaska (glaciers, magnificent mountains and wildlife, snow), which also have some very awesome scenery and unique things to see and do, depending upon the AP’s interests!

Michael McHugh September 10, 2010 at 10:51 am

Part of the confusion around this topic comes from the terminology used. For example, we often think in terms of au pairs having a “work visa” but the visa is actually just one of the two official documents needed to work as an au pair in the USA. The visa itself- the sticker put in the au pair’s passport by the embassy- does not actually grant the visa holder the right to work. It simply allows the au pair to cross a border into the US. The second official document, the DS-2019 form that the au pair agency signs and sends to the au pair before arrival defines the “Duration of Status” (DS) for the au pair. In other words it says, “for how long” and “in what capacity” the person named can be in the USA. Both of these documents are needed to begin the au pair program.

But once an au pair arrives into the USA and begins the work defined on the DS-2019 form, the visa can expire without affecting the au pair’s ability to continue working. The visa is only necessary for crossing a border into the USA. Most au pair visas are only issued for 12 months so if the au pair extends, the visa will be invalid for re-entry. Still, the au pair is able to stay and work for the rest of the time defined on the DS-2019 form, which will have been updated with the new extension dates by the au pair agency.

As has already been mentioned, au pairs can apply for a new visa outside the USA. The danger here is that by simply applying for a new visa, your old visa is “canceled without prejudice” even if there was time left on it. This means the au pair is now back to square one and has to interview and prove again why they should be granted a visa to travel to the USA. For many European au pairs this hasn’t been a problem. But we have had experiences with some South American au pairs being denied on the second attempt, leaving them unable to return even to collect their belongings. Obviously this is very unfortunate for everyone involved. Hope this helps in some way!
Michael McHugh
InterExchange Au Pair USA

cv harquail September 15, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Hi Michael-
Thanks for the clarifications… these issues are too tricky to leave to our ‘best guess’. Also, I apologize for your comment taking so long to post… it got caught in the filter b/c of the # of links… and I only just found it. I appreciate having you be part of the conversation! cvh

Gianna September 15, 2010 at 2:21 pm

I have been hearing that it is not necessary for the aupair to return to her home country in order to extend her visa. I am told that it is okay to go to Mexico or Canada and extend the visa. I have heard this from aupairs. I called my agency and was told that my aupair must go home to her originating office to extend the visa.
I have an aupair who wants to go on vacation to Mexico and extend from there.
Is this possible ? I am not a person who likes to take those kinds of chances.

Deb Schwarz September 10, 2010 at 11:36 am

Some au pairs have had luck in traveling to Canada and Mexico in their 2nd year without a 2nd year visa (obtained in their home country), but check with your agency first. It’s true that some au pairs get denied for their 2nd year visa back in their home country and cannot return. During the first year that extensions were allowed, I had a South African au pair who went home and was denied a 2nd year visa in J-burg. The next day she flew to Capetown and got it, so it really just depends on the consulate officer, and what risk they assess that the particular au pair will return to their home country at the end of their second year. It also varies by country – I haven’t heard of any Swedes or Germans, for instance, that have been denied a 2nd year visa, likely because the “return rate” of au pairs is higher than other countries.

Related to this topic, many au pairs think that they can change their extension time period (e.g. from 6 months to 9 mo. or a year), but, a word to the wise, after the extension paperwork is sent to the State Dept. (it has to be there no later than 1 month prior to the end of their first year) – then it is NOT changeable, so be sure to think through the time period very carefully. (btw, it’s usually easier to place a year or 9 month extension au pair, than a 6 month one, so keep this in mind). Also, your educational component must be completed and documented prior to the end of your 11th month – so plan carefully if you want to extend.

Former Aupair September 11, 2010 at 12:54 pm

I am from Brazil and I decided to come back and renew my visa, so I could travel outside to US on my second year. However I have a lot of friends who renewed the second year without getting a new visa. As long as the aupair DS2019 is up to date, she is legal in the country.
It all depends on which plans the aupair has for her second year. I only traveled back home because I got the ticket as a birthday present. Otherwise, I would chose places inside to US.

Chev September 12, 2010 at 6:18 pm

I extended 9 months and didn’t get a new visa, so my original visa is expired but i have a current signed DS2019 form that doesn’t expire until November 15 and i’ve traveled outside of the states a few times in my extension period. I’ve been to Canada twice and just got back from Mexico yesterday. I haven’t had any trouble with reentry but i’m also Australian and that might have something to do with it.

My company stresses that you’re only allowed to go to specific countries during your extension period and it’s risky because you’re not guaranteed entry back in. The countries we’re allowed to travel too are Canada, Mexico and most of the countries in the Caribbean but not Cuba. So i don’t think she’d be allowed to go to Europe with you and expect to get back into the States.

Sue May 1, 2011 at 12:24 pm

I took our French AP on a weeks vacation to Jamaica in her extension year. Jamaica is one of the “adjacent” islands covered by the automatic visa revalidation program. Some au pair agencies aren’t familiar with the program and tell extension au pairs not to travel outside the US. If you follow the rules and travel to the approved places, it should not be a problem. We had no problem reentering the US from Jamaica.

gene January 3, 2012 at 8:48 pm

We have extended with our Aupair, but her LAR told her she could extend for 6 months and then again for another 6 months for a total of two years. She is now being told she can’t do that. I see above that if you extend for 6 9 or 12 your extension is good for 12 months regardless as long as your agency shows your aparticipating in the program. Is that true or is it once you extend for 6 months you have to leave? How can we fix an error on the part of the AuPair service? Thanks

NoVA Host Mom January 3, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Sounds like you need to speak with your national office. Ours (APIA) is very specific when they send out the extension forms. Everything is in bold when it explains that you can select to extend with your AP (or your AP can choose to extend with another family) after the first contract (12 months) for one of three options: 6 months, 9 months, or 12 months. BUT… they (you) must choose which option you wish at the initial time of extension (for our early-Feb 2012 contract end, this was a deadline of early November 2011) and you are not able to change your minds. If the AP says in Oct/Nov she wants to extend for only 6 months, then 3 months into that changes her mind and wants to stay the full 12, she is out of luck. Her time as a legal AP ends at the conclusion of those 6 months (when that extension contract is over).

While they do not need a new visa from their home country to stay in the US (the DS form is what shows they remain in the US legally, say, if they were stopped by a federal agent, and to renew their driver’s license for the term of their current contract or extension), I kind of get the impression that there is still paperwork filed within the US State Department system about the comings and goings of APs within the contract programs, so that if someone was to question why an AP did not return home after 12 months, the agency is able to verify they are under a new contract for however many months they had elected to extend. Just a guess, of course, but based on the wording in our extension letters, it’s what I surmise.

Like I said, this is all over the extension stuff and contract info we get from APIA, so I would definately talk to your main office. If your deadline has passed and you are now realizing that what you had planned for (a 12 mo extension) is not what was signed off on (a 6 mo extension), you will be likely looking for a new AP to start in 6 months.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 3, 2012 at 9:33 pm

It used to be that an AP could decide to stay for less than an extra year and then extend for a total of 12 months. But, several years ago, the State Dept. decided that au pairs needed to seal their extension at the point they make their decision. Your LAR was incorrect. If she put her mistake in writing, you might be able to get the agency to appeal for a further extension with the State Dept or Homeland Security.

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