Changing Visa status… should you get involved?

by cv harquail on June 3, 2009

Here’s an issue I know absolutely nothing about– whether or not to help an au pair change her visa status. Here’s our host mom’s question:

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I am a first-time Host parent with a second year Au Pair. She has been with us for 8 months and has decided that she’d like to change her Visa status after she has completed her year with us. She’d like to have a Student Visa and says that she needs a sponsor to do so. She asked my husband and I to be her sponsor. Of course we’d like to help her if we can, but I am unclear as to what a sponsorship entails. While I want to help her follow her dreams, I must make sure I am doing the best for my family.

I don’t even know where to get counsel on this one. Before this sponsorship thing arose, she did indicate to me that she would like to change her Visa status. So I contacted my LCC to she if she had any advice. My LCC told me that the agency’s policy is to not get involved on changing Visas.

Has any of your Host Parent readers ever been approached by their Au Pair to be a their sponsor? What did your readers decide to do and why?

Any direction, advice or comments are appreciated. Thank you in advance.

{ 8 comments }

Mary June 3, 2009 at 12:41 pm

Our first au pair (we’re about to welcome #5 this Aug) asked us to consider sponsoring her for her student visa (F-1). I didn’t know much about it either so I did a lot of research on the State Dept website and found the nearby university websites directed at international students (George Mason, George Washington etc) to be very helpful. It can be done, but it requires you to vouch for her tuition and living expenses if she doesn’t have the money,and they don’t qualify for instate rates. Additionally, there are rules about the types of employment F-1 visa holders can have and child care isn’t one of them. The bottom line is that we did not want to be so financially responsible for this person. We are military and she wanted a guarantee that we would not move once she was admitted to a college, which was impossible to promise. She did go back to her home country and successfully obtained a F-1 visa and returned to the area about 1 1/2 yrs later in a manner that was more in the spirit of both the J-1 and F-1 visa regulations.

Calif Mom June 3, 2009 at 1:56 pm

When I researched this, the only work that one could do on a student visa was very specific, an internship for a certain limited number of hours per week, directly related to program of study at the university. Not exactly what most former au pairs are looking for!

Franzi June 3, 2009 at 3:10 pm

students on an F-1 visa are only allowed to work on campus, off-campus if it is directly related to their studies, or – and this is for special situations upon special application only – other jobs. that special situation mostly pertains to income problems but is not something that is granted for the fully study length. it’s more to be seen as a special permission in emergencies.

f-1 students are NOT allowed to work with their old host family!

truth is, many former APs who want to study/are studying in the US have a sort of agreement with their host family. they sponsor the studies, the girl does the childcare like back in AP times. is this illegal (the work, i mean) yes – for both sides.

as a family, you basically vouch that you will pay for her tuition and living expenses etc. if you want to do this then you need to make sure that this is really worth it.

there are other ways to study in the US legally, like mary pointed out.

Mel June 3, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Hi, I’m the host mom with the question – thanks for your insight! I had no idea that we’d be financially responsible for potentially so much. I certainly don’t intend for her to continue to work for me, it was difficult enough working around her study schedules with just one class. (BTW, I wish the post on the Education Requirement came several months ago.) I just wanted to help her where I can. This is all very helpful information. Are there any ways to help that doesn’t put my family on such a financial hook?

Calif Mom June 3, 2009 at 4:10 pm

You could write a generic letter of recommendation, that she’s a responsible young person. I think we did that once. There’s not really very much that you can do and stay on the up-and-up. Personally, given the endless list of folks who have had to recuse themselves from jobs or elected offices because of nanny (and tax) problems, it’s just not worth it. You never know what position you might want to be in one day. I know a former AP of ours is back in the area, working as a nanny on a visa that got her into the country last summer to work at a camp. For us, it’s not worth the risk to get involved. For her, she is willing to take the risk of deportation and being blacklisted from getting legal visas for several years if she is discovered. The family who has hired her is willing to pay under the table. YMMV.

Franzi June 3, 2009 at 4:18 pm

@ mel, it depends on where your AP is from. there are many scholarship opportunities. if she wants to study in the US, maybe she can work for one year to save money and then apply for the f-1 visa. this only works though if she has the option of finding a job back home.
it took me 5 years to get back to the US legally (fulbright scholarship) but i am glad i waited because i made use of the opportunities at hand when i knew what i wanted.

if someone would have asked me in my last 3 months if i wanted to stay in the US…oh i would have done everything to be able to stay. but truth is, sometimes it’s time to move on….

many girls who do this get an associates degree. at least with the options available in germany i cannot understand why someone would opt for an associate that is not a bachelor and not internationally recognized…

Jeana June 3, 2009 at 7:15 pm

Our first aupair decided to study in the US during the year she was with us. I helped her by meeting with the college, and understanding her options. The aupairs are expected to honor their commitment, and return to their home countries when they’re finished with the program. While it would have been possible for our aupair to change her visa in the US, I discussed this with her. She returned to Germany, when her year with our family was finished, and applied for a visa to study in the US. I made sure that our aupair understood that if she wanted to study in the US and travel back and forth between Germany and the US, she needed to abide by the rules. She hoped to study for two years, and the thought of her not being able to return to Germany whenever needed, and risk not being able to re-enter the US worried me greatly. I feared that she would have to choose between her family and education, in the event of a family emergency. Also, I had a good relationship with our agency and cluster leader. I wanted to do my part to support the program, as it is intended, and didn’t want to jeopardize my relationship with them. Johanna agreed, and returned to Germany. She was granted the visa and returned to our family within two weeks.

My daughter was in school full-time and I did not need an aupair during the two years that Johanna studied in the US. Johanna did not act as our aupair during the two years she resided with us, when she was studying. Johanna traveled back to her family several times. Our family had grown to love Johanna. She was one of the first people to hold my youngest niece, two hours after she was born. She will always be part of our family, and I was so happy to be able to share our home while she studied. Johanna and my daughter, Hannah, were incredibly close. We think of Johanna and often talk of her. We remain in contact. The additional two years were such a blessing to all of us. Johanna didn’t have living expenses, and we truly enjoyed sharing our home with her. I taught her to play Rummikub, and she taught me how to play it better!

During the two years that Johanna traveled back and forth from Germany and the US, my daughter saw that she could have contact with Johanna through phone calls, e-mails, and letters when she was gone. My daughter was five when Johanna came to be our aupair, and she sobbed when Johanna would go to Starbucks with her aupair friends. If Johanna had left our family permanently at the end of her first year, it would have been devastating for my daughter. We all cried the last few months, before Johanna left. My sister and her husband, my daughter, and I attended Johanna’s graduation, and we had a party for her, as she was returning to Germany shortly after her graduation. My daughter had a great role model of a young woman, committed to her education. Johanna just graduated with her Masters Degree in International Business, in Germany. We’re so proud of her, and we love her.

The night Johanna left, Hannah was actually asleep by the time Johanna was walking out the door. We’d prepared for our goodbyes, cried together many times, and Hannah had said goodbye before she’d gone to bed. Johanna came into Hannah’s room, and we woke her, but she was incredibly sleepy. Johanna and I were crying, and I was thankful that Hannah was so sleepy, for the actual final goodbye. She knew what was happening, but was hours into her sleep, and very out of it. (I’m crying as I write this!!!)

We’ve really been blessed with our aupairs, and I’m so thankful that my daughters (I have two now) have had role models of young women who value their education, and make decisions about how to spend their time, as they pursue their education.

Mel June 4, 2009 at 9:34 pm

Thanks again. So much useful information. I’ll let you know what we end up doing.

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