Lost Passport Delays Au Pair’s Arrival. Should we match or move on?

by cv harquail on January 17, 2015

Dear Au Pair Moms– We’ve got a crazy delay in our Au Pair’s arrival that messes up my carefully made plans.

Specifically, we are looking at a 3-5 week gap, maybe longer, to figure out childcare and wait for our au pair who lost her visa.

Can you advise me what to do?

6322835149_3f178f1127_mOur old au pair just left yesterday, after a full year with our family. We have a planned 2 week gap between our last au pair and our next au pair. We are also switching agencies, because we found this new au pair with a different agency and we liked her so much.
One of the things I like about her is that she has great work and overseas living experience (in Africa for 2 years). She is 25 years old, a special education kindergarten teacher, and seems like a nice, intelligent, grounded person. We expect her to be very responsible.
Yesterday she emailed me to tell me that she can’t find her passport. Which also has her visa in it. She has been looking for days and just can’t find it. She is supposed to get on a plane on Monday for her training in NY, and supposed to be in our home January 23rd, working on Jan 26th. She has reported her passport missing to the agency.

I’ve been in contact with the agency, and they are still a bit hazy on how long it will take to replace everything.

This is an unprecedented situation for them- they say they’ve never had an au pair lose her passport before leaving her home country. It’s a little shocking!
It seems that we will have at least a 3 week wait from when she was supposed to arrive until when she actually arrives. Maybe longer- it depends on how the State Department handles her visa, if she needs to go through the application process all over again, how long it takes to get an appointment, etc. It could possibly be 2 weeks if they don’t need her to apply again- but from what I understand of Homeland Security that seems rather unlikely.
I am not sure what to do. I really like this person, and I am willing to believe that this does not signal a huge character flaw.
It’s just a massive mistake. She has emailed me a few times since the first barn-burner, taking full responsibility and ownership for her mistake, understanding how I feel, and telling me that she understands if we don’t want her as our au pair anymore.
However, even though I still like her, I’m not sure I want to wait indefinitely and have my life upside down trying to figure out how to get everything done without an au pair.
I know that I could find a transition au pair to come here in the next week or two. The problem is that my agency … only has 5 transition au pairs right now, and they don’t give out the contact info for previous/current host families. I’ve heard of that before but never PLANNED to be in transition so I let it fly over my head.
[I actually gave a lecture to the transition manager I talked to about how useful and important it is to talk to the host families, and how I’ve been on both sides of that fence with my previous agency…  I told her that I absolutely will NOT take a transition or extension au pair without talking to the host family, so if they don’t give me the contact information the au pair will have to. I said you have your policy, and I have mine!]
Anyway I am off-topic here, rambling a bit. My Agency has said that they would give us a refund if requested, in this case. The beautiful thing is that we’ve only paid them a fraction of the full program fee so far, because they don’t require it to be paid upfront like our last agency.
So I can look at transition au pairs from any agency, and just sign up with that agency?  
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I suppose. It just sounds like a lot of work, and it’s making me tired… I really like this girl we originally matched with, maybe we should just wait for her?
Did I mention I have pneumonia?
Yes, I’m sick with pneumonia, typing this on my computer when I should be in bed right now. Back to bed I go, before my kids come home and see me up and want to play with me (my mother is here for our planned 2 week gap, sadly she can’t stay much longer). I really don’t have energy for this. I need to get better.
Any advice would be lovely at this point.  ~LostPassportLostCause?HM

 

{ 8 comments }

Quirky January 17, 2015 at 10:59 am

I am so sorry! What a mess. Especially when you are so sick. I would be inclined to wait for the new au pair even though it’s delaying your plans. I would be very wary of taking a transition AP just to save that three weeks — you might find a great AP out of the five available with your agency, but especially not being able to talk to the families, odds are not good. Although if the delay goes longer than three weeks (not counting your originally planned two week gap) then the calculus might shift. Thinking about the unpredictability, I might be inclined to start looking for new candidates–spend a week on an intensive search by which point you might have more data on how long the new passport and visa will take. Assuming five weeks best case from matching to arrival, it might make sense to hedge your bets by looking for a new candidate. I had to do an intensive search when our AP decided a month into our extension to bail on us, and the out of country pool was much better than the rematch or extension pool.

Should be working January 17, 2015 at 11:21 am

The passport could have been stolen, which could happen to anyone.

How old are the kids? They sound school aged. My suggestion would be in that case to find stopgap childcare–call a babysitting agency. Care.com or whatever. You can have a professional nanny or babysitter, it will cost more than an AP but you have pneumonia and need someone NOW. School-aged kids who are in school and have their structure will do fine with a stopgap for a few expensive weeks.

I love your line about “You have your policies, I have mine!” Good job. One reason I stick with CCAP is that they do give out contact info for transition APs (and they have zillions of them at any one time). Of course you need to speak to the previous HPs. They might be nuts or evil, but you have to hear them out. You could probably grab a transition AP for a few weeks who needs some time to find a new HF–one of the boy APs, for instance? They might be on extra-good behavior with you because they don’t want to end their grace period.

Let us know what happens!!

exaupair January 17, 2015 at 11:26 am

So your new AP should arrive in about 2 weeks?
To start with it’s impossible to apply for a new passport and get it within this time. There is a way to get an ’emergency’ passport in an embassy but I think it only works if you happen to be on a trip abroad, you have lost your passport and you need one to get back home. As for visas I think unless you’re a diplomat you will just have to wait like everyone else.
I don’t know how AP agencies react to situation like this one, but I’m not sure if they can speed the process up.

The thing is you clearly like this AP a lot. Are you able to find equally good fit for your family within the next 2 weeks? – absolutely! There are a lot of rematch APs who only have only a couple of weeks to find new HF before they are sent home.

As harsh as it sounds, a 25 year old woman should be responsible enough to keep something as important as her passport and visa in a safe place, especially knowing that she will have to use it in 2 weeks time! The lost visa incident would be a rather big red flag for me.

Julia January 17, 2015 at 4:11 pm

It depends which country she is from and how much she is willing to spent. I had to apply for a new passport and paid the fee for 2 days processing and then went to the embassy and had my passport back the next day. But this was in Germany other Western European countries do similar things. Just a hint

NouvelleHM January 18, 2015 at 10:02 am

If she is from a Western European country, Canada, Australia, or the like then there is usually a “rush” passport replacement system, but you have to pay a lot of money for it.

As someone who also has extensive overseas travel and work experience (much of it in Africa), I’m kind of shocked that she’s in this position in the first place. I am *super* paranoid about my passport and am very careful with it. This type of mistake could have had very serious consequences where I was working. Granted she’s in her home country now, but she should have everything organized if she’s leaving in two weeks.

au pair delayed January 19, 2015 at 12:27 am

I have lived in Africa and traveled there for work too, so I understand what you are saying. I think the problem might be that she was in her home country and didn’t feel the need to be as careful as she would have been in Africa. Of course I am projecting, that is how I could see it happening to me. She has also been under a lot of stress lately, she just recently finished her teaching term. She’s from Japan, and it sounds like she is rushing the passport process.

Anna January 18, 2015 at 10:51 am

Ok, this may sound silly, but if you believe in it, pray for her to find her passport and ask her to pray too. Prayer has helped me and especially my kids to miraculously find lost things.

au pair delayed January 18, 2015 at 5:27 pm

I am the OP. Thanks for the advice. It has been a few days since I wrote this letter, and we now have more information and made a decision. Before I knew how long it would take for our AP to get here, I looked around for transition au pairs. It was daunting, and I kept comparing them to the one we matched with and they all came up short. Also I was sad to let go of the one we chose. Then I found out that there’s a good chance the delay will be only 2 weeks, and not likely more than 3 weeks. Now it seems best to wait.

Plus our incoming AP has been very honest about this, she understands how serious it is and clearly she feels terrible. She is taking full responsibility for the lost passport.

My kids are almost 4 and 6, and I found someone on Care.com to take care of them 3 days a week, while our old au pair from a year ago, who we love, is doing the other 2 days. She came back to get married a few months ago. I am also going to work from home as much as possible and do school drop off on the mornings they both have school. All told, this isn’t actually that expensive, we are just making do with a lot less childcare for these few weeks.

I really hope this lost passport doesn’t turn out to be a huge red flag that I am ignoring, but I am willing to take a chance. I can identify with everything the au pair has done, I can imagine it happening to me. I think she is going to be good, and I hope I am not proven wrong.

Thanks again, and I will follow up after she gets here!

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