Helping Your Au Pair Extend, with Student Status: Advice Wanted

by cv harquail on January 10, 2010

Hi Au Pair Mom Readers! Love the site and am totally addicted. The advice is so helpful!

201001101458.jpgI need advice on the subject of college education for my au pair. Our au pair has indicated an interest in attending university here in the U.S. instead of in her home country (Germany). It’s unclear whether she wants to pursue this for only a year or for all four years, but what is clear is that she wants to take credit classes and probably have at least a partial if not full course schedule. In other words, she wants to be an enrolled student at a college and take courses that will further her ultimate goal of attaining a teaching degree.

We love our au pair and would love to extend with her. Is it possible for her to do both, even if realistically she could only attend college part-time ? If she is not permitted to be an au pair or work for us full time while she is enrolled as a student, where can we find information for her about how to apply for a student visa and what she needs to do to apply at a college as a foreign student? We love her to the point that we would help facilitate her college enrollment even if that means she cannot extend with us as an au pair.

I know there are other parents that read this site that have been in this situation and have already done the research and can offer practical solutions. I really don’t want to reinvent the wheel and have to search for and then read piles of INS forms and college websites to figure out what someone else already knows!

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franzi January 10, 2010 at 6:01 pm

a foreign student would need a U.S. sponsor who is willing to cover tuition etc if she is not able to provide enough money herself.

what is happening a lot is that the former host family acts as sponsor and host and the former au pair is a full time student “thanking” the family for the sponsorship by babysitting aka doing what she did as au pair.
it is illegal to have the person you sponsor work in return for your sponsoring.

also, the student visa does not allow to work off campus (only in very special circumstances of hardship) and on campus work is often sought after and time intense and paid at minimum wage. so not enough for her to support herself.

Anonymous January 10, 2010 at 6:32 pm

We looked into this for our current AP. The local University and community college listed the commitment as 19K and 21K respectively. You need to get a certified letter from your bank stating that you have the money in a (non-retirement) account. She would also need to be accepted into school. Most have a web-page for international students that will tell you how much you have to commit for that institution. I believe that she is required to go full-time. If you still need an AP, she would be working for you illegally (I know not everyone cares) but you would also lose a lot of your flexibility. She would be required to have health insurance. In addition, how would she pay tuition (would you actually pay it or would her family?) – technically you are signing a form saying that you will make sure that she has a place to live, food to eat and that her tuition will be paid. If you actually plan on paying for all of that (plus weekly “spending money”) WOW! She must have been a great AP!
We can’t afford it and neither can our AP and her family. Plus we still need full time childcare. I’m also afraid that if something terrible happened to her while here (accident, illness) that we would techinically be responsible for her, and I can’t afford that either.

ArwenAuPair January 10, 2010 at 6:39 pm

I am also from Germany and currently studying in the U.S. (I am a former Florida au pair! :-) ) What Franzi wrote is true. If you let your au pair stay with you while she is studying, you are both very close to illegality. She would need a student visa which comes with many restrictions: 1) She has to prove that she has enough money to pay for tuition and her living expenses (as an out-of-state, international student this amount of money is usually pretty high!) 2) She is only allowed to work on-campus. However, assistantships are usually only given to graduate students. Undergraduates usually have to pay for their tuition. I am not sure about scholarships, how available they are for foreign undergraduate students. As a foreigner, she is not able to apply for governmental support.
Unless your au pair has rich parents, i.e. enough money to cover all her expenses, it would be pretty difficult to be an undergraduate in the U.S. The student visa is only issued if she can prove (via bank statements etc.) that she has enough money to support herself. For myself, it was a good decision to start my studies in Germany and now finish them as a M.A. graduate student in the U.S. Sorry, I did not have better news for you. Good luck to your au pair and your family!

Franzi January 11, 2010 at 7:40 pm

that’s what i did too, get my undergrad in Germany and then with the help of a scholarship i returned to the US to get my masters.

university education in germany is close to free (especially compared to the tuition costs in the US)! there are all-english programs, there is basically every subject you can study…it’s not as imperative as it first may sound to study in the US.
many former APs just want to stay to be in this “happy dozy life is good” APstage forever.

Sara Duke January 11, 2010 at 8:04 am

We applied to sponsor our first au pair as an employer (she had been a pediatric intensive care nurse in her native country and we have a medically fragile child whose two life-threatening medical conditions were diagnosed while she was living with us). While you can sponsor someone as an employer, “domestic” help is at the bottom of the heap for the U.S. Dept. of Labor, which must review the application before it can to Homeland Security. In the 4 years we waited for our former au pair’s application to rise to the top, she would not have been able to leave the U.S. at all.

The solution? We sponsored her as a student in a local community college with a wink and a nudge. We paid for her tuition (fortunately only at the foreign student rate for one year) and continued her stipend (she was an Au Pair Extraordinnaire in our program). She worked full-time for two years (before our son was ready for preschool) while going to school full-time. It was not easy for her, of that I know, but she was determined to make it work. She lived with us for a total of 3 1/2 years.

The fees were a killer the first year – we were broke paying $21,000 combined for tuition and stipend (in 2001), but it eased up in subsequent years.

Was it worth it? For us, it was. Our children had stabile child care with someone who was dependable. It was extremely important for our daughter, whose health was so shaky. In the end, au former au pair was ready to move on before the U.S. Dept. of Labor reviewed her application (she rose to the top about 6 months after she left us).

If you are serious about sponsorship, get a lawyer, because it is imperative that the application be done correctly. If you want to be generous and sponsor your au pair as a student then make an agreement with your au pair (when is she allowed to study, giving time off to take exams, etc). You will end up paying more in tuition than you would fees to your agency. We were fortunate that our local community college accepts sponsored students as in-county during their second year or it would have broken us financially, especially the last year this woman lived with us when we paid $13,000 in medical co-pays when our daughter had brain surgery (by that point it was cheaper to pay tuition and stipend than paying fees to an agency).

Would we do it again? No, but then again, our childcare needs have changed. Both of our kids are in school all day and have adjusted to the comings and goings of teachers and au pairs. Was it the right choice for us then? Absolutely.

Jeana January 11, 2010 at 8:06 am

The info that has been provided so far is accurate. Our first aupair decided she wanted to go to college in the US for two years. This is how we handled it. I understand the importance of the aupairs completing their commitment and returning to their home countries. I felt it was very important to follow through with the rules of the program and didn’t want to do anything to cause a problem for our agency, or jeopardize my relationship with them. We met with the college our former aupair wanted to attend, and she had a letter indicating she’d been accepted. At the end of her year as our aupair, she returned to her home country, Germany. She had the letter of acceptance. She also had a letter and bank records from family indicating she had the full amount of tuition for her time studying in the US. I wrote a letter indicating that our aupair would be living with us during the time that she studied, and she would not have any living expenses. Our aupair flew to Germany, and was granted permission to return, as a student. My older daughter was in school full-time, and I had not adopted my younger daughter. It was wonderful having her with us for two additional years. She didn’t work as an aupair during that time, and her visa only allowed her to work on campus. By the time she began school full-time, Johanna was part of our family. My daughter was so attached to Johanna that she would sob when Johanna went out for coffee with a friend. During the second and third year that Johanna lived with us, my daughter was able to see that Johanna could leave us, to return to Germany, and she would return to us. My daughter was able to speak to Johanna on the phone, and knew we could e-mail. My sister, brother-in-law, my daughter, and I attended Johanna’s graduation when she received her Associates Degree in business, and I hosted a graduation party for her, so her friends could see her, before she returned to Germany. We were very sad to see her leave, but she is still part of our family. Johanna went home to complete her Bachelor’s Degree, and just completed her Masters Degree in International Business. We’re so proud of her!!!

Deb Schwarz January 11, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Most colleges have an international advisor that can help the au pair walk through the application process – you usually don’t need an immigration attorney. I have several former au pairs in my area that have done this – although one was just denied her student visa back in Germany over Christmas (by the way, they don’t have to go back to their home country to apply – they can do it from here). My former host families that have students as their au pairs know that they are breaking the rule (au pairs are not allowed to work off campus) and it doesn’t work for families that need more than about 25 hours of childcare a week because it is tough for the au pair to go to school full-time (a requirement o the student visa) and work. Good luck!

NoVA Host Mom January 11, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Depending on your child care needs, if your AP wants to test the college waters, she could always extend a year with you and simply attend more classes. If you have kids in school, she could always do a PT schedule during the day, with classes MWF and T/TH, maybe even tossing in a night class here or there.

You say that you don’t know exactly what she is interested in (certainly helpful if you are trying to help her), so maybe ask her what she is looking for. Have her rank options, instead of an “all or nothing” set up of FT or go home. Just an option.

anon January 11, 2010 at 4:07 pm

I didn’t read through all the comments thoroughly, so I apologize if this has been mentioned…

There is an EduPair program, where the “AP” goes to school more and works less, but is basically the AP program. You might check it out to see if it fits your needs.

Next, try talking to the International Student Coordinators/Advisors at your local colleges, especially if there is a community college or university that your AP took classes at for the AP program. They can help you and her figure out what she might need to go to school there full time, or at a different school, and how to begin the process.

Anonymous January 11, 2010 at 7:06 pm

It seems to me that extending with your agency is the easiest way to do this but maybe I am missing something ? Is it a cost savings to do it yourself ? Seems like a huge responsibility and what if something goes wrong ?

Calif Mom January 20, 2010 at 3:19 pm

You’re right, they can extend. but I think we’re talking about APs who have already extended, and are finished with their extension contract, which states they must return to their home country.

Jeana January 11, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Our aupair didn’t continue as an aupair when she chose to go to school in the US. Yes, she could have changed the visa from the US, but at that time, couldn’t have flown back and forth from Germany to the US, while she was in school. Perhaps that situation is different now, as the laws continue to change. In addition, we both felt it was important for her to complete her obligation to our agency. Having an aupair has been a wonderful experience for our family, and I can’t imagine that it looks good for a significant number of aupairs to change their visa, and not complete the program, as it is designed. We both wanted to honor our commitment, and I’m very glad that we handled it this way. Yes, she could have done it differently, but for us, we handled it the right way, with our situation. I didn’t offer our home as an attempt to extend our time with aupair care; I did it because I wanted to support our aupair, who had become part of our family, with her academic goals.

Momof4 January 11, 2010 at 11:39 pm

We are currently looking into an option for our au pair. She has already extended with us, so she can not use that option. We do not need FT child care anymore, and we were going to quit the au pair program and just look for PT baby sitters and change work hours slightly. Our au pair wants to go to school here and work the PT hours we need. She is a part of our family, and feels like a more vital part of our family then her own in Germany. Is a FT student visa the only option? The cost of the AP program is getting prohibitive for us. We can’t afford FT tuition for her either.

Anonymous January 12, 2010 at 9:10 am

In order for her to get a student visa, she needs to be in school full-time.

Here is the state dept page:

She can’t legally “work” part time for you either. There is no other option for low-level non-specialized workers to get work visas in this country. In order to get a visa that would allow her to work in the US, she’d need to be a nurse or have some other qualification of that type (see Sara Duke’s post above)

Michelle October 12, 2010 at 2:37 pm

We have friends whose au pair’s position will end in January. She is unable to extend her stay but would like to remain in the U.S. as a student. We’re willing to sponsor her but have told her that she would need to somehow cover her medical insurance, tuition, etc. — the big stuff essentially. Because she already has a B.A. in Education from her home country and would like to pursue additional coursework here, we were wondering if she could work in an internship type program. I copied and pasted the following from immigration: Students may apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) to gain work experience in their field of study while being a full time student. Has anyone done this before and can advise us? Thanks!

laurence January 17, 2011 at 8:23 pm

i know it’s been a long time this discussion is done but I was wondering what’s happened to your situations??
I am actually an au pair, my host family wants me to stay with them and they are agree to sponsor my studies.
thanks for helping!!!

Aysin March 28, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Hi Im an aupair but my program is going to end in june.(I already extend) Any I wanna go to college but i need someone to support me and my host families are ok with that.But They wonder what are their legal responsilities? Cause they are just gonna show that they support me but they wont actaully it just for school paperwork. Im gonna move out and support myself rest of my time in USA. So what happens if i wont get the pay my scool tuittion ? Does my sponsors have to pay or what is their issue in this sitatiun? Thanks for all help

Taking a Computer Lunch March 28, 2011 at 3:58 pm

When I sponsored an AP who was converting her visa status, I had to provide tax information to prove that I had the means to pay her tuition, fill out a statement of support, indicating her weekly stipend for me, and sign a legal agreement with the college. I did pay her tuition for the duration that she lived with me, and when she left my household she had work with another employer that gave her the means to continue funding her education.

As I recall, my husband went with the AP to apply for college (she had been taking classes as an AP, but entering the college as a full-time student was a different story).

I think we were legally responsible for the AP’s tuition and support while she attended the college and had the right to give notice of termination of support within 30 days of the end of the semester for the following semester (which we did after she had completed more than enough credits to fulfill her Associate’s Degree – mainly because the relationship had soured and I did not want us to remained tied to her forever).

If you cannot pay your school tuition and your sponsors can’t/won’t, then the school will withdraw your enrollment and you will lose your visa status. Attending college in the US is not cheap, especially when books alone can run $800 a semester, so best to have your ducks in a row.

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