Can Au Pairs shorten their Extension, once begun?

by cv harquail on February 5, 2012

Do you know the official answer to this au pair’s query?

And, if you were her LCC, what would you advise?


Dear Au Pair Mom,

I’m an extension Au Pair, living here in the USA since January of 2011 (13 months now). I wanted to know if there is a possibility to change the length of the second Au Pair program from 12 months until 9 months.

Last year, when I was with my first Host Family, I met my boyfriend in Maryland. Unfortunately, I met him after I decided to extend in with a second family, who live in Colorado. Now my boyfriend and I are far away from each other.

I really like my new family and everything is fine, but I miss my boyfriend really bad. We are already talking about what to do after my Au Pair year ends. We talk every day on skype.

We wanna live together for sure, but the only way to do that is getting married, which shouldn’t be a problem, because we really love each other and I wanna live my life with him forever!   

Okay but that’s not the question :) I wanted to know if there is a possibility to change the length of the second Au Pair program from 12 months until 9 months.

I don’t wanna quit anything, because I like the family and I would feel bad just leaving them, and I also wanna finish what I started.

But I wonder is there a possibility to change the length of my extension? It would be awesome if there is a possibility. If not I really have to wait all the 11 months… which is really hard for me..because I love him so much..

Thank you so much, I hope you can help us! RockyMtnAP

Image: Crossing Off The Days, on Flickr AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by lism.


HRHM February 5, 2012 at 8:59 pm

There is no mechanism for “shortening” your extension in the official sense. You can always go home early, you aren’t a prisoner in the US. :) Have you talked about this with your HF? Because even if there was an official way to do it, if they aren’t expecting it and weren’t prepared for you to leave early, they will be upset anyway. I can tell you that most HPs have a cycle for AP change out that suits the applicant pool, their lifestyle and their budget. They have paid for 12 months of childcare from you and if you leave early, they won’t just get another AP for 3 months. They will likely have to pay for another 12 months (or at least nine) and take a new AP for a year. That is, unless they are lucky enough to find another extension or transition AP who has less time left. Either way, you can bet it’s not what they hoped for when they chose you. In addition, you should consult an immigration attorney since the rules for staying in the US on a finance’ visa are complicated and you might have to return home to wait for visa approval (which I assume is even further from MD than CO is) Either way, you owe it to the family to consider how this will affect them AND to talk to them as soon as possible to sort it out.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 5, 2012 at 11:14 pm

You can leave early, but you will be penalized, unless your HF signs a waiver.

AP #3 left early, due to a family emergency. Because DH and I had preparations underway for a home modification project which eliminated the AP bedroom, we accepted her decision, and pushed for our fees to be held by the agency until we could accept a new AP. It took a lot of negotiation on our part.

My advance, which I gave to AP #2 is “Never do anything for a man. Make decisions that are right for you.” I believe that the United States has tightened up its wedding visas, which may not have an impact on you, because you are already in the United States.

As someone who lived apart from her husband for 3 years (the first year was Dublin, Ireland – Moscow, Soviet Union – so not even the phones worked and if it hadn’t been for his access to the diplomatic pouch we wouldn’t have had the mail, either), I would say, tough it out. In the long run, if you’re really meant for each other, 11 months is nothing in “the rest of your life.” BTDT.

My advice, spend the next 11 months strengthening your position for a permanent life in the United States. When you marry this guy, how will you spend the rest of your life? Do you want to stay at home, or have you garnered skills that will make you employable. Does he earn sufficient income to allow you the luxury of studying, or will you have to work?

It’s easy enough to stay in the US (legal or not), but it’s very very very hard to afford to live here. Take a deep breath and make decisions that are right for you in the long run. If he truly loves you, the he’ll come to visit for long weekends, and you should be able to turn your 2 weeks holiday into several long weekends. If your HF falls in love with you — and him — then they might offer you more lenient holiday terms.

My advice, knuckle done, do your work, and finish out your year. You have many tools to maintain contact, but don’t let desperation be one of them.

eM. February 6, 2012 at 5:14 am

I think that maybe you should just let things go going. Finish what you are enrolled on and then plan the rest of your life.

I’m young, but when I was even younger I left my city and a good job to move to Madrid with someone I loved so much. I know thats its not the same thing but I lost a lot for the same reason: I WAS IN LOVE.

I know you are and Iknow that long distance relationships are such a pity but it’s just waiting. Im not pretending to sound like a suicidal virgin or something but true love WAITS.

Enjoy your year and plan what u suppose will be the rest of your life.


NoVA Host Mom February 6, 2012 at 5:49 am

You are asking to end the contract with a HF who you made the commitment to for 12 months? Yes, you can always request rematch. Any bonus you were eligible for would be lost and your flight home while you waited for your new Visa would also be on you. The HF who took the chance and hired you would lose money as well and you would have placed then in a very bad position trying to find a new AP in a rushed time frame.

If I am doing the math correctly, you likely only met your boyfriend in that 2 month window after matching but before the move. It could have been less than that but I’ll try to give you the benefit of the doubt.

Is your boyfriend of less than three months prepared to fully support you financially? Until there is a wedding and a green card is approved (even as a wife you still have to apply and it can be denied), you will be ineligible to work legally in the US. It seems to me there is a great deal you have not thought out because you are in love.

Should be working February 6, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Yes, I also calculated that this relationship must be just a few months along. OP should consider all the good concerns above. In particular the OP should note that ‘fulfilling her commitment’ to the FAMILY, to whom she pledged 1 year, is different than fulfilling her commitment to the agency, even if the latter agrees to shorten her extension period.

NoVA Host Mom February 7, 2012 at 12:41 am

Agreed. Especially since the agency has no obligation to work with her while she tries to change over her J1 to another type of visa. They have the right to notify the state department that she has left employment and can revoke her J1 with little notice. I’ve seen it done (not at all randomly, as the folks I know have never taken this lightly, but they really don’t have an obligation to let you sting along on the J1. It can actually get hem into trouble).

In this case there would be several groups or people who she would be letting down and backing out on, causing great hardship for her own perceived benefit. And there is absolutely zero guarantee this will last past 6 months in the same apartment. At this stage, the fantasy is much more fun than the reality.

EC February 6, 2012 at 2:03 pm

While I understand the desire to be back with someone you love, it sounds like you are making some fairly major decisions on the basis of a relationship that is very new. You have promised your new family 12 months and trying to get out of that would be going back on your word. It would also put them into the difficult situation of having to find a new au pair sooner than needed, and all the hassle that goes with transition.
Now, putting that aside for a moment, even if you do shorten your time with them, which will leave you having to pay for a flight home if you need to leave, and will forfeit any bonus. You need to figure out if you can legally stay. My wife (who is American) and I (British) got married in October last year, after a long distance relationship of almost 5 years. It is not easy to do, but if you both really do love each other, it is worth it to take a little time and figure out how to make things work over the long term. We knew we wanted to get married after 3 weeks together, but were still able to wait until we could do things legally, and once we had taken time to really get to know each other. There is a big difference between the first excitement of “falling in love” and the deeper, longer lasting love that you build with someone over time, both are good, but the initial falling in love feeling fades eventually, because it is essentially a biochemical response, and you need to have built the deeper kind to make a marriage work. I would also say that if you really work at it, and put the effort into a long distance relationship, it can be an awesome thing for later when you are married, because you will learn how to communicate with each other much more effectively, (talking is really all you can do long distance) and will be better equipped to work through problems and disagreements that arise in your life.
The other thing that you have to look into is whether you visa says not subject to 212(E) on it somewhere. 212(E) is a rule that mandates that certain visa holders must return to their home country for at least 2 years before they can apply for another visa, or other legal status in the US. If it does say that, then you should have an easier time legally, if you do decide to get married. However, if it does not say that, then it is possible that even if you got married, you could still be forced to leave the country and apply to come back legally, which could mean being apart from your new husband for up to 2 years. I doubt that is how you would want to start married life together.
lastly, I want to just put a note of caution into everything. Knowing you WANT to marry someone you have been with for a little over 3 months and PLANNING to marry them are very different. Marriage is wonderful, but it is not easy, in fact a good one takes a lot of effort, and I am unconvinced that it is all that easy to know for sure after only a couple of months that you can make it work, even if you want to marry them. If after the rest of your extension, you have made long distance work and you still feel the same. I would say you might have a better idea of whether this is something you can make work.

I hope that helps in some way

Julie February 6, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Great post, EC!

NoVA Host Mom February 7, 2012 at 12:46 am

Standing O on this one!!! Well said!

EC February 7, 2012 at 6:30 pm

Thanks :)

Newhostmom February 6, 2012 at 4:02 pm

I think others have good points and this kind of thing requires some significant planning to work out. OP – what would your boyfriend say if you told him you were ready to stop being an au pair and research how to get married and stay in the US? I think my first step would be to discuss this with him and see if he is also ready for this type of commitment. PPs are right – he will likely need to financially support you for quite a while until you can work. And there are many many young Americans out of work right now, so you can’t assume that you can just get a job as soon as you’re ready. So things that need to be planned before you make your final decision:

1. Is your boyfriend on the same page and ready to start putting a plan in place to marry you?
2. What is the process for getting a visa and residency?
3. What is your employment plan for after you au pair? Do you have any special skills that you could turn into a job here?
4. Are you ready to be a US resident and NOT a resident of your home country? How would your parents feel?
5. What is your plan for if you put this plan in place and for whatever reason, you break up? How are you protecting your own interests?

If, as a host mom, my new au pair approached me and told me she was in love with a guy she has know for just a few months, I would ask her about the things listed above. I will warn you – if my au pair did not have an answer to these, I would also have to assume that perhaps she was too immature and flighty to be responsible for my children.

I’ve been in love and I love being in love and I know how full of promise it makes everything. And yes, usually things work out somehow, even if life sucks for a while. But when you make this kind of leap, you have GOT to at least do your best to make a plan before you take any actions. I wish you all the best and hope it works out for everyone.

DCMomof3 February 7, 2012 at 9:43 am

Yep, agree. While there are certainly cases of new and young love working out in the long run, sometimes you need to just give things a little time. I just went through this with an au pair who started dating a guy between the time she matched with me and came to the US. A month later, they were talking about her going home and moving in with him in the city where he attends university. I had the same concerns about her judgment. Now, 2 months after planning her life with him, she is planning to do an extension year in the US. To me, this just demonstrates the growth and change that happens during an au pair year – and it should be a time when you get to experiment and change your mind a lot. If you dump your host family to go back to Maryland in order to be closer to this guy and that relationship does not work out, then where will you be?

Taking a Computer Lunch February 7, 2012 at 12:43 pm

One more question to the OP – have you talked to the guy? Does he feel the same way?

Some guys are ready for commitment and some are not.

AP #2 fell in love with a guy. I convinced her to go home and figure out what she wanted to do for the rest of her life (never met the guy, but he called her at midnight to drive to his home even though we permit male overnight guests – and never sat at our table. Bottom line – he called all the shots and as far as I could see gave her nothing in return.) She went home and returned a few months later for a holiday (she stayed with us, but visited him frequently) and learned that he had visited a city near hers for a week and never called her.

I realize that being an AP is not your “calling,” but it is just a year in your life. Use it as a test year for your relationship. Will he come visit you? (Even if it means staying in a nearby hotel if your HF does not permit guests.) Will he call you? If you find yourself being the one who initiates contact & does all the traveling, then better to find out now.

As I have written elsewhere, DH and I lived apart for 9 months in two different European cities back in the days before Skype. We had limited time together during those 9 months, and because of his visa, I was the only one who could travel, but he made me feel special when I did visit. Afterwards, we traveled together for 2 months to see if we could maintain our relationship in an intense experience.

However, DH and I had lived together for a couple of years before we moved apart. If you’ve only known this dude for a couple of months, then some time apart will be helpful in figuring out if he’s on the same page as you. If “he’s the one” then he’ll be waiting for you at the end of your year, having partnered with you to figure out how to maintain your residency status and have a life with him.

Meanwhile, work well with your new HF and do your best to make it work. The last thing you want to have happen is for them to send you into rematch because you’re pining away for someone while you figure out if he’s Mr. Right or not.

azmom February 13, 2012 at 1:34 am

No you really cannot… but my thought is this – if it is mean to be, he’ll still be there a months later… plus you did commit to the family. What if the family decided randomly they no longer wanted an au pair and just said, sorry, we’ve decided to use a nanny starting next month… Do what you can to make it work and enjoy your free time and freedom!

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