Going “Off the Board” to find an Au Pair

by cv harquail on May 12, 2009

I’ve only ever used an agency to find an au pair. I’m a little harried, and I need someone else to do all the administration. Plus, I’ve always counted on the security of an agency and LCC behind me if something went wrong.

I hear, though, that many host families find their au pairs without using agencies. Instead, they use sites like “BestAuPair.com” and even Craigslist!

How do you do that? Do you recommend it?

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Have you tried finding an au pair using something other than an agency? Tell us about your experience…

{ 10 comments }

anon in Bay Area May 12, 2009 at 5:47 pm

I have cousins in Vietnam who only make $50/month, who are dependable and would be happy to visit us and work for less than an au pair.

But a visitor visa requires, “Evidence of compelling social and economic ties abroad.” I just noticed that an au pair visa has a similar requirement, “Evidence of compelling social and economic ties abroad; and other binding ties which will insure their return abroad at the end of the visit.”

I wonder how au pairs meet this requirement, and whether there are any clever ways to leverage these willing family members. My au pair agency only provides a nominal discount for pre-matches.

Franzi May 12, 2009 at 6:33 pm

there are certain legal requirements that prospective APs need to meet, such as age and binding ties. depending on the country you are considering, APs can have a hard time to obtain an AP visa.

a lot of girls consider going illegally, many do. there are plenty of websites that enable families to find someone.
however, in my opinion, if you go illegal, you are not looking for an AP, you are looking for cheap childcare and that’s it. the motives of the girls taking on these assignments are different from those of legal APs.

i can’t judge the benefits of going with an agency for the family, but for the AP it is clearly the fact that first off, it’s the only legal way, and families are screened. that doesn’t prevent terrible mismatches, but it reduces the chance of being exploited.

a friend of mine wanted to work illegally as nanny after her year was up. she ended up having a 10yr entry ban – not something you want for your future professional life.

Marguerite May 12, 2009 at 8:32 pm

A major disadvantage for aupairs who work is illegally is the lack of insurance coverage.

Corinna May 13, 2009 at 1:14 pm

Well when I was looking for a hostfamily I also looked on greataupair.com but I made sure all the time that the hostfamilys are willing to go throuh an agency because for me it was never an option to do this illegal and without an agency… And I actually found my hostfamily on greataupair and there wasn’t a minute I had to regret my decision… I had a great family and I love and miss them alot. As long as they go throuh an agency I don’t think there is anything wrong with looking on those websites.

Should be working January 18, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Another reason not to go ‘off the board’: I want an au pair who follows the rules and does things the way I set up for her. An au pair who seeks a family ‘off the board’ shows a lot of initiative, but the downside is that s/he is likely not someone who accepts given rules and structures–and I want her to accept mine even when she thinks another way would be better.

Anon in DC Area January 18, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Anon in Bay Area –

We looked into prematching with a friend of my husband’s family from his home country. Above board – we would have gone through an agency and just done a prematch.

Two things we learned –

1 – you can’t “prematch” with a family member and bring them over as an au pair. We might have been OK because she was a family friend and not a relative, but the problem is that *everyone* in that particular area is a “cousin” in some way (whether by blood or affinity) so I don’t know if the Embassy would have believed that she wasn’t a relative. I don’t remember if the “no family” rule was with our agency or the State Dept, but I tend to think it was a State Dept rule.

2 – Although her country of origin was listed on APIA’s website as a potential “source” country for au pairs and they have a website “aimed” at girls from that country, NO ONE has ever been granted a visa to come to the US as an au pair from that country. Apparently the US Embassy doesn’t believe that they would go home at the end of their year.

We wound up with a wonderful au pair from Sweden (not the country we were looking at, since tons of au pairs come from Sweden).

So at least one other family has thought of the idea, but hasn’t been able to get it to work.

anon January 18, 2012 at 10:42 pm

Are you willing to share which country this was? I’m very curious, as I have found a few countries on APIA that are listed as potential “source countries” but there are never….ever…never over years…au pairs from there….I never considered that it was because the APs could not get a visa — rather I thought it was “padding the list” of countries that APIA ostensibly recruits from/has au pairs from in order to look more global…

anon in DC January 19, 2012 at 8:35 am

The Philippines.

Anon in DC Area January 19, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Sorry, Anon in DC is also me.

Besides the inherent legal issues in trying to prematch with a friend/family member – I was hesitant to do so because what if it doesn’t work out? It wouldn’t just be that a random American family “sent her home” when au pairing didn’t work out – it was her own friend/family.

The only reason we even considered the idea was that my husband wanted to look into the possibility to keep the peace in his family – he would have caught flack from many sources if he had brought a girl from another country in to take care of our kids without at least considering his “cousins”. This way we could make the “rules” the bad guy, not us.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 19, 2012 at 1:22 pm

We had family friends in a similar situation, except for the “au pair” was a U.S. citizen and a family friend living in another part of the country. My friend was just saying goodbye to a beloved AP and one of her best friends (living in another part of the US) suggested a daughter, extremely shy, 18 and unsure of what to do next. My friend almost agreed. I suggested that she think about it, that she might very well end up with another “child” in her house, and given the relationship it might be expected all ways – my friend, her friend, and her daughter. I also suggested that if it didn’t work out, and the child was just too homesick, she wouldn’t hesitate to return home at a moment’s notice. She would have also lacked the support network of other APs in the area. My friend ended up remaining with her AP agency.

There are plenty of alternatives to APs, many of them much cheaper, some of them much more expensive. It is possible to get a “nanny” from your preferred country – sometimes an middle aged or older woman who has lived in the US for a while. You may have to share her services with other families to make her caregiving affordable. It is also possible to hire someone illegally (now don’t all you lawyers jump down my throat), but if anything happens — a knock on the door, injury, illness — you’re done, right there and then.

It is possible to sponsor caregivers as an employer. I will say possible. We attempted to do this with an AP who was a licensed nurse and who wanted to stay in the US. In the 2 1/2 years that she remained with us, her application never rose to the top of the pile for the U.S. Dept. of Labor review. (And we had an immigration lawyer working pro bono for us to guide us through the process.) In fact, it didn’t rise to the top until she had left our family by several months. If you have a friend waiting outside the U.S. to gain entry – it could take years – your children could potentially be teenagers by the time someone outside the U.S. could be permitted entry.

As for visa rejections, just because you go through an AP agency, it doesn’t mean your match will automatically be granted a Visa. We had one Brazilian AP who had the means to apply twice, because she was rejected the first time. On her second trip, she came armed with a letter from us and the AP agency. While we gulped and crossed our fingers, we knew if it hadn’t worked out, we would have had the tools of the agency behind us to find another match.

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