Switching Your Au Pair to a Different Visa is Difficult and Costly

by cv harquail on February 24, 2013

Many a host parent has wished to keep a great au pair forever and ever– or at least longer than the legal year plus year extension.


And many an au pair (including a few of my own, and their friends) have gone to great lengths to find a legal or vaguely legal way to stay in the USA after their au pair adventure has officially ended.


The easy way to have an au pair stay legally is to marry him/her off to one of your friends who lives nearby.


And that’s only “easy” because the other legal way — getting him/her a new kind of visa — is extremely difficult.  US Immigration policy is messy, the bureaucracy is heavy, and the emphasis is on preventing fraud rather than on making sure that people with skills, jobs and social support are able to work here legally for an extended if not permanent basis.


A couple of you brought up this issue in a previous post’s comments, and I’ve peeled off those comments to create a post on this topic alone.  Among our AuPairMom community, very few contributors have actually succeeded in having their au pair stay on a different type of visa. Taking A Computer Lunch is one of these parents, and she describes what she and her husband went through to do this…. so be sure to read down!


And, if you have more data, more stories, and/or more experience to share, add to the comments!


The “Sponsoring your au pair ” conversation was triggered by Kelly’s musings about how she’d like both immigration reform and child care reform.


TexasHM writes:


We should be able to extend 3-4-5 years if both parties agree. I have seen a several smart, hardworking, amazing au pairs make desperate or illegal decisions to stay (get married, HF “sponsor” student visa, etc) when I am confident these girls could have held down a job(s), paid their way through school and contributed (all volunteered in free time) in a legal way had there been a channel in which to do so.


As it stands, the hurdle is having a sponsor ($25k) so the girls that have wealthier families or HFs willing to break the law get to stay. I am all about incentivizing the desired behavior and right now the messaging is if you don’t have resources you need to get married or get on a student visa illegally. I’m not saying you make it an easy path to citizenship but if internationals on work visas can apply for green cards after X years and requirements, why can’t au pairs? I find that the girls that are successful in the program are the “best and brightest”, why would we not want more of them in the country?!
… The $25k is what you have to show DHS you have in cash to “sponsor” a student visa. Not what it “costs”. So the girls either get someone with $25k in spare cash to vouch to support them or they get a family to sponsor them and work illegally. That was my point. Or get married of course! We won’t do it. Both girls have asked, our second I would do anything for – legally.
And why not try some of these ways to sponsor my au pair? TexasHM continues:

Why not? Several reasons.

1. We don’t want to do something illegal. Sponsoring a student and having her work for you is illegal.

2. There is no support/protection for au pair or family.

3. To be a sponsor for a student visa you have to show you have $25,000 in cash and sign an affidavit with the US government stating that you swear you will use this money to pay the student’s tuition/room/board etc if for ANY reason they can’t pay and you must pay for them to finish the term. So if a girl enrolls and gets sick or quits going you pay for everything until next semester break.

4. Because we need a caregiver for 45 hours per week and there is NO WAY an au pair could take a full time course load and au pair full time and be successful.

I just had AP#1 (married an American and now in school part time) come back and tell me I was right on this. She’s a part time nanny and part time student and really struggling. It would be selfish of us and taking advantage to set a girl up to fail like this. The families I know that have done this had older kids and only needed help 20ish hours per week. One of those APs told me its still hard and she has no social life.

5. What kind of example does that set for my kids? It’s ok to break laws you don’t want to follow? My oldest doesn’t miss anything, not a conversation I want to have.

6. I have to do what is best for my family and putting them at risk (legally, financially, emotionally) is not worth even the advantage of more time with an awesome au pair.

I would love nothing more than to keep our current au pair forever, but if we’d done that with our first our current wouldn’t be here now! We feel a moral obligation to follow the law and give another girl the opportunity. Ok, off my soapbox!

From Au pair with two awesome kids:

Thanks for the insight. I have had a couple of AP’s I would love to have helped stay here. I hadn’t realized how big a commitment it would be.

And here’s TACL with her experience:

I think it depends on the person, whether it seems like the right thing to sponsor her.

AP #1 successfully negotiated working full-time and attending college full-time because that was what she had been doing in her native country. In some ways she had it easier with us: 1) because she could study while the kids napped and 2) she wasn’t paying for housing, utilities, or transportation (so while she was making less money than she would have had at home, the money she earned was “hers” – I put that in quotation marks because I know she sent a fair amount home to support her family).

We attempted to sponsor our 1st AP (PICU nurse) because she wanted to stay and she was fantastic with our kids (who were both enrolled in early intervention at the time – child #2 having had bacterial meningitis as an infant and The Camel being the The Camel). We were fortunate because we had a lawyer who did the work pro bono because of our situation. While we were waiting for the Dept. of Labor to review her application (she was gone 3 1/2 years later before her application rose to the top of their pile), we put her on a student visa. This was in 2001, and I don’t recall having to prove that we had $25,000.

However, the first year we had her on a student visa nearly broke us. The community college considered her a foreign student for the first year (remember – now she wasn’t an AP), and it cost us over $23,000 in tuition alone. We continued paying her Extraordinnaire stipend (then $205 a week). We were broke. That first year was much more expensive than hosting a new AP. Was it worth it? Absolutely, The Camel was extremely medically fragile at the time – having a PICU nurse familiar with her care was extremely beneficial to us. When The Camel was hospitalized for 4 weeks, she was essential.

For the years following, the community college charged in-county tuition, which was considerably cheaper than hosting a new AP. She did leave us three weeks earlier than intended – our relationship broke down over monetary and trust issues (not her – her silly friends). We stayed on the books as her sponsor for a couple of years afterwards, but offered no monetary support. When she had amassed an amazing amount of community college credits (almost enough to graduate from a university), we severed the sponsorship.

Would I offer it to any other AP? Absolutely not. Now that my kids are school-aged, I don’t need the level of care that would offset the expense.

 (I think this is TexasHM next):

In a way, you reinforced my original point – I wish there was a way for families to legally sponsor a visa, whether its a work visa or student visa I don’t care. The fact that you tried (with an attorney) to sponsor her for 3.5 yrs and her application still didn’t reach the top is a shame and my point!

As far as if one can work and go to school full time – again, this was referring to our particular situation. In college I took 18 hours and worked 2 jobs my last semester. Guess what? I lived and worked right next to the college campus and my jobs were at an attorneys office in the afternoons (desk job) and waiting tables night/weekends. I had zero social life and worked doubles every weekend. Was it possible? Yes. Was it fun? Absolutely not. And I did it for 4 months to graduate early, not for a year or years, again with NO commute and while I worked hard, my jobs were not as physically draining as my APs.

As far as the $25k, I just researched all of this in the last 6 months for our previous au pair (so she could use the info to get another sponsor), all the docs are online and explicitly clear (money must be in liquid form aka – checking, cant be investment accounts or other assets, etc). Things change all the time, maybe it’s changed again since then. :)

I meant no judgment, in fact I know families that currently “sponsor” their au pairs. None of my business. But, like anything else, I get frustrated when MY APs are told it’s really simple and that their host parents must be jerks if they won’t sponsor them by AP friends that have NO CLUE what the process entails. (cv added this emphasis)

 I didn’t mean to start a rant tangent – apparently the issue still hits too close to home for me! :)

And here’s where I (cv) started to lose track of who was saying what….

I think it is different from state to state. Because we never had to show $25000. Only $15000. But as I already said, it has to work for both sides, and you both need to have benefits. For me, I get the education I always wanted, and my HF gets the Childcare giver they trust and love. It worked great so far the past years. Because it was worth for both of us. They got through the years while their kids are young with 1 au pair, and don’t have to get another one once I’m done, wich is a big advantage for them, since the older one has huge transition issues.

TexasHM replies:

This is why I was hesitant to tread into this topic in the first place. APs and HFs DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH! It doesn’t vary state to state, visas do not vary state to state, they are national!

I literally researched this and TALKED TO DHS personally 4 months ago and was told $25k is what they are looking for as the proof of funds requirement. For the rest of you host parents that are curious what an affidavit of support to the US government looks like which is only step one of several in the process to do this (next being proof of funds), below is the link!

Check it out yourselves. Again, I wish there was a legal way to keep the girls longer that want to stay. I don’t see why they can’t transition onto a work visa with me as the employer or just extend the J-1.


 RedBlu Au Pair wonders….

Texashm, you don’t have to fill that form out. The I-134. That is something different. What you would had to do is prove the college that you have the amount they want. Usually around $20000 for community colleges. Than they give you or better your au pair an I-20 you send this with your I-539 to the department. You have to show prove of the money the college wants, but that’s it. Believe me. I did it just like that and a lot of other au pairs I know, and we go our visa just fine. So I don’t know who told you that, but it is definitely not how it works.

  And in jumps  OpinionatedHM, with additional clarification…

Hi all, I had to chime in here because this confusion about sponsoring student visas caused a misunderstanding with our first AuPair who couldn’t understand why we wouldn’t sponsor her like another family was doing for her AuPair friend. We had alread extended with her and her time here was at a close.

When TexasHM says it’s illegal, that is because it is a violation of the student visa to work without approval by the INS.

If work is approved, it must be on campus or approval must be obtained to work off campus. the work can be no more than twenty hours per week. the work must be directly related to the degree being obtained. It’s possible that this criteria can be met (like in the case of TACL below) but unlikely in the case of many of these “converted J-1? visa situations where the sponsored student is expected to be a caregiver in exchange for sponsorship.

In fact, if you read about it, you will find that requiring work in exchange for sponsorship is expressly prohibited in the explanation of the visa requirements. I’ll try to find a link for you all.

BTW I explained all of this to our much loved AuPair and sent her the appropriate links to read for herself. We bid her a tearful goodbye a year ago. She is now in an international business program at home so she can get back here on her own terms as a business woman. (You go girl!)

This would be a great topic to have a full discussion on as there is obviously a lot of misinformation out there.

And more, in the comments below…


massaupairmom February 25, 2013 at 9:07 am

I must admit that I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about this issue, as all my au pairs have approached the program as a “gap year” adventure, and each had a concrete plan to return home and continue their studies/careers. I have absolutely no knowledge or experience with the immigration issues discussed in this thread. However, the thread did get me thinking. I’m not sure that making changes to immigration procedure that would make becoming an au pair an avenue to remaining in the US long term would have a positive impact on the program. It seems to me that already it is difficult enough to suss out the motivations of au pair applicants for participating in the program, without adding the prospect of remaining in the US legally as a possible motive for participation.

TexasHM February 25, 2013 at 10:29 am

In my experience, the girls who want to stay will, whether that means illegally or marry off quick. I wasn’t saying it gets advertised as a citizenship opportunity, just asking for an alternative legal means for a HF/AP win/win. Maybe the criteria is that the extensions stay in family (meaning whatever family you spend year 2 in is the only one you can option into additional years with).

I just learned of another AP nearby on student visa APing for her family still part time (again, around 20 hrs per week). I can absolutely see why families with older kids (all in school) are motivated to do this illegally. Maybe the answer isn’t extending forever but instead a J-F visa with guidelines. AP can work no more than 25 hrs per week, host family must provide transportation to school, etc. More like the Educare program. Better yet, give them the opportunity to transition to that after the standard AP program for one year with option of second year extension. So same programs, but give them the opportunity to stack them back to back for a potential total of 4 years. I don’t know of any families that have had a particular AP longer than this even sponsoring a student visa anyway.

There we go – take out the citizenship thread and go back to the additional mutual extension route, whether that’s extra standard AP years or the ability to transition to Educare.

Has anyone had an AP stay on a visa other than an F1 (student)? Is anyone else seeing desperation to stay triggering questionable decisionmaking or is it just me? (Marrying a short term boyfriend, marrying for green card with guys total knowledge/approval, blatantly violating the terms of a student visa, etc)

TexasHM February 25, 2013 at 10:42 am

Btw – I just learned of this additional “student AP” because my current AP asked me if I would call INS if I knew girls/HFs doing this. I asked her if the girl was in an abusive situation. “No, both sides are very happy.” Then it’s none of my business and I rattled off a list of girls/families I have known about the last year that I obviously haven’t called INS on.
My current AP was so relieved she literally jumped for joy. No joke. I asked her what was up and her response was that my previous AP told everyone that the reason we wouldn’t sponsor her on a student visa was not only because it is illegal but because I call INS on everyone so they better not ask me about it or come around our house! Apparently that’s much easier than standing up to your friends and saying we won’t do it for the reasons I listed above.
My current AP got introduced to this “student AP” and as soon as the girl figured out what family mine was with she STARTED CRYING and begging my AP not to tell me they’d ever met! No wonder in the last 3mos with that AP our normally social household became an AP ghost town! My new AP has had some trouble being included in activities because of all this nonsense. Sheesh!

Lina February 25, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Oh..poor girl… I hope she gets the chance to meet nice people to hang out with…

TexasHM February 25, 2013 at 4:26 pm

They have figured out via my current AP that my previous AP has been less than accurate on several fronts about us so everything’s great now. I honestly don’t think our previous AP was trying to be cruel to this girl (or us), I really think she was embarassed to tell her friends we wouldn’t sponsor her and thought embellishing the truth would make it easier. She ended up getting married to stay. As most of us know, things like this come back to haunt you, our previous AP doesn’t really have any friends here anymore and our current AP is loved by all.

Buffalogirl February 25, 2013 at 10:43 am

Our very first au pair converted to a student visa after two years. By this time she had really, really become a member of the family so it felt like she was a niece staying with us to go to school and then helping around the house (the kids were in school full time). We paid her tuition, room, and board and her parents sent her spending money, so it cost us about the same as the au pair fees + stipend. She did continue with au pair duties but she felt so much a part of our family at that point that she always said she didn’t even see it as a job.

Well, she went home after a year to visit and to renew her entry visa, which had expired. We had changed her visa status from au pair to student in the US but never renewed the re-entry visa. Guess what? She was denied re-entry. Even though she had legal status in the US, the embassy in her home country would not let her return. She had to forgo all the credits she earned and basically start over back home. It was devastating for her and for us. We literally felt we were in mourning. And it took her many, MANY months to recover and accept that she could not come back. So, no, we will not be doing that again. She is an amazing girl and one of a kind. She would have done great things in this country, so its the US’s loss. But being ignorant of the rules, we blew it.

TexasHM February 25, 2013 at 11:13 am

Sad!! What would you have done differently? Could that have been renewed or can they basically not leave the country while on a student visa? I know there’s always risks but would it have made a difference? I’ve also heard of a girl that got deported and I believe can’t come back for at least 10 years. These are the kinds of things I was referring to under reason #6 we won’t do it. The emotional risk of her getting caught, deported, detained, us questioned and having to lie to the US govt, her fleeing in fear, etc etc.

Buffalogirl February 25, 2013 at 3:58 pm

It was a bit specific to her home country, which essentially decided too many former au pairs were not returning home. We weren’t aware that the risk of her not getting a reentry visa was that big, otherwise I don’t think we would have let her stay. We did not want to put her in a situation where she couldn’t leave the US. There are many former au pairs that do that, but what if a relative gets sick or for some other reason she wants to/needs to visit home?

In hindsight, I would have sent her home BEFORE her visa expired to see if she could renew it. Also, many au pairs extend without renewing that reentry visa for the second year, and just assume they won’t travel outside the US. We’ve learned now that that is risky. Just because they have legal status in the US does not mean they will automatically get a re-entry visa from their home country. I don’t have a problem sponsoring again if the au pair has the right intentions (i.e. actually wants to pursue a degree), but they need to be able to come and go freely.

TexasHM February 25, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Agreed! Wow – good to know!

APJOY May 18, 2013 at 10:11 am

Buffalogirl – would you mind telling us where she is from?

WestMom February 25, 2013 at 11:48 am

We always start our relationship with a new AP with the assumption that this is a 1-year assignment only. I specifically look for girls who have plans when they go back to their home country, and anyone with explicit intentions to stay longer or to subsequently find employment in the US would be a major red flag for us. I don’t want to give the impression that we would agree to be a gateway to live permanently in the USA.

Personally we would draw the line at sponsoring an F-1 visa. I have a bit of experience with this. I came here as a foreign student and was allowed to work for 20hrs at my school, nothing more. I am a citizen now, but when I was an alien, I would have never tried to play the system. I was too worried that getting caught would prevent me from immigrating permanently. I eventually got a H1 through work, then a green card, and eventually my citizenship. It’s hard, but it’s not impossible.

I want to mention that the financial guarantee does not have to come from someone in the USA. The AP can get her family abroad to provide a guarantee for her (just like most foreign students who come to the USA to study). It might be limiting for some, but I think HFs need to know that they are not the ‘one and only’ solution for the AP to stay in the country on an F-1 visa (and therefore are ‘meanies’ if they refuse to do it…).

TexasHM February 25, 2013 at 1:05 pm

To clarify – both of our APs did not come to the US with intent to stay. The first was engaged back home and had plans to go to law school, almost didn’t extend and then didn’t change her mind until halfway through year two. Second came to polish her English, had her eye on some great jobs back home but now is reconsidering and wondering if there are options for her to legally stay (can I get a job here on a work visa?). I am sure some girls come to stay. I’m also sure many come with penciled dreams/plans like we all had in that age range that change and morph while they are here and I just wish there was a way to legally support that a little longer. :)

Taking a Computer Lunch February 25, 2013 at 2:16 pm

The agencies are required to report any APs who don’t return home. That I know from AP #1 (whom, because we had begun the process to sponsor as employer was in the country legally).

Only 1 in 8 of our APs stayed (the one we tried to sponsor and moved on before it came through – I don’t know if she is in the country legally or not – she is still here). 3 others would have: one fell in love with someone who didn’t treat her well and I convinced her to go home – she came back for a visit and saw how he really was without my intervention; another had parents who could have supported her student visa until a family crisis made it impossible and she returned home; we chose not to extend with the third – she ended up going home in the end. One was European, the rest were not.

#3 had her visa to enter the US denied the first time because there were so many people from her country entering the U.S. illegally. Fortunately, she could afford to make a 2nd trip to the embassy. We armed her with a letter from us, and our agency sent someone to coach her on the interview. Fortunately it was smooth sailing the 2nd time.

I think that once you’re here, it’s probably easy to stay here. AP 1 & 3, who were both from South America, had tons of friends who had entered the country in a variety of ways and were no longer living here legally (not just former APs). However, I think many APs base their decision to stay, if not for real love, then on the upper middle class standard of living they enjoy with their HFs, not realizing that it’s hard to obtain (and maintain) when you’re living in the country illegally! I wonder how many who might have complained about their work hours as APs, found themselves working two jobs to survive?

aupairk February 25, 2013 at 3:01 pm

It depends from college to college. The school I am currently enrolled in requires that you have $21000 in you or your sponsors bank account, not cash. I will be transferring to a different school next year, the the fees change: they require that you have $35000. So it really depends on the state and/or school. Usually it’s tuition plus whatever the school gives as the amount for living expenses.

Also, I am a full time student doing 15 credits every semester and working 45 hours a week. Yes it is hard, but not impossible. I have a 4.0 GPA and get straight A’s. It’s up to every person whether they are committed enough. Lots of college students have full time jobs and go to school full time.

It really isn’t that hard to stay on an F-1 visa. If you and your HF get along well and know what you are getting into beforehand, it can definitely work.

TexasHM February 25, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Understood. The $25k was what we were told for the school here, this is residual from that previous conversation. I realize tuition varies, my point was that the proof of funds requirement does not vary, this is something most host families don’t realize. The impression is that it’s simple and no big deal to sponsor an AP for a student visa and to that end, I disagree.
Again, I know people can go to school full time and work full time successfully, I DID IT! I am saying that in our specific scenario (distance and traffic time to/from school, hours needed, limited class offerings nights/weekends, having 3 small children that are high energy) it is not a recipe for success. In the G rated version of Chris Rock’s quote “You can drive a car with your feet, that doesn’t make it a good idea!”

Anna February 25, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Yes, it is hard. Not every family has $20,000-$30,000 on their bank account (I don’t!), and not every family wants to break the law by having the au pair continue working for them while studying. As it was mentioned previously, it is illegal for someone on a student visa to work other than a very narrow exception.

OpinionatedHM March 2, 2013 at 3:14 am

It can work for the host family and AuPair but it violates the terms of the Visa. If you are lucky and get through your schooling with your extracurricular activities undiscovered, great, but if you are caught, you will find it difficult to ever get back into the country legally. If the relationship becomes strained, there is no legal way to resolve the issue or change the situation. It is a very vulnerable place to be for an Au Pair and a poor risk for someone who wants to live legally in the US to take.

Momma Gadget February 26, 2013 at 2:14 pm

This has been very informative, and an eye-opener… there have been several APs in our area who have been sponsored. I really didn’t realize all that was involved,and will never be so cavalier about mentioning the possibility of sponsorship.
I wish there was a way I would be able to let my current AP stay longer. But, even if it were “legal” we are not in a position to pay for tuition, or pay him enough so that he can afford his own tuition…especially with my son coming up on college himself in a few years.(Wow that snuck up quickly!!!).

HRHM February 26, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Our previous AP had parents that were willing to put up the cash. We would have just continued to give her the regular stipend plus house her. We didn’t do it in the end because she wasn’t doing a great job as an AP (and we all know you shouldn’t extend with a mediocre AP!) She did her second year with another family and then got her student visa and stayed. I’m not sure if she’s still attending school (I suspect not based on her FB posts) but she’s still living in DC and working Models and Bottles! LOL

HRHM February 26, 2013 at 2:15 pm

We talked with current AP (who is fantastic) about staying on a student visa, but in the end it requires a pretty big commitment on both sides. In our case, it’s becoming apparent that it won’t happen – primarily because she just doesn’t seem motivated to get moving. She’ll need to study to take and pass the TOEFL, (which we offered to pay for) then apply to and get accepted into schools (big surprise to most European APs, but the application deadline for fall for our big University is in Feb!) and then wade through the ton of paperwork for visa approval. Since she still hasn’t picked up the test prep book yet, I’m moving on mentally. You can lead a horse to water…

TexasHM February 26, 2013 at 5:22 pm

I completely forgot to mention the TOEFL (english fluency test) and getting accepted by the school of choice, excellent points!

Taking a Computer Lunch February 27, 2013 at 10:41 pm

You don’t need to have high marks on the TOEFL to get accepted into Community Colleges – but students may have to take semesters of ESOL classes before matriculating into regular classes. AP #1 had a hard time finding classes to make up the 1-3 credits she needed to do full-time study (and there is no such thing as studying part-time on a student visa in the U.S.).

TexasHM March 2, 2013 at 11:12 pm

Another great point. To be on and keep a student visa you are required to take 15 credit hours/5 courses per semester aka a full time course load.

au pair March 2, 2013 at 11:30 pm

Actually you only have to take 12 credits

TexasHM March 4, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Correct. My apologies, I meant 12 hours, 4 courses.

Julia February 27, 2013 at 5:59 pm

I did it. I converted my J visa to a student visa. Would I do it again? No. Did I have a great time at the U.S yes I did.
I was ask by my hostfamily if I would like to stay and study and me being 20 years old and totally naive I said yes. People warned me and said don’t do it. I didn’t listen. The first year worked with my hostmum paying for tuition but then she started to say oh no I don’t have the money and so I asked my parents to chip in which they did. I still worked my 45 hours plus a week and just got 157 dollars a week and my parents paid for school. Did I get mad at my hostmom yes I did and it ruined the whole relationship. I worked form 5am till 4.30 two times a week and the other two I worked from 5am till 6 pm and afterwards I went off to school and took one online class every semester. My weekends were spent catching up on homework and studying.
After I received my associate degree I went back to Germany to find out most of my credits didnt transfer. People had told me before and till it actually happened I didn’t believe it.
After a little bit over 4 years I left my hostfamily and last time I saw and spoke to them was at the airport where they just dropped me off at the curb after raising her now 5 year old for such a long time. I’m sure it can work out it didn’t for me. A friend of mine did the same thing and left her hostfamily after her associate degree as well. She transferred to another family but it didnt work out. After 2 months of being back in Germany she went back to the U.S for a new family and started studying again. She sounds happy but I don’t really believe her and I know she is working her butt off to get it all together.
So after all don’t offer it to your au pair. Enjoy the great childcare you have right now and treasure the great relationship you have with your au pair. A regular student here in Germany is off for the summer so better offer her to stay with you and your family for the summer and maybe pay for the flight ticket.

TexasHM February 27, 2013 at 10:30 pm

Julia, so sorry to hear about your experience. I know some APs on here think I am being selfish by not sponsoring and standing up on this issue but your story is exactly what I meant when I listed the objection that the APs and HFs have no protection/agency support.
A friend today also reminded me that her biggest concern is the priority shift. What happens when the course schedules conflict with the family’s schedule? Especially with an AP working full time, night and weekend courses are much more limited.

tiredmom March 1, 2013 at 7:59 pm

We have hosted a former au pair on student visa and really won’t again. Like a lot of families, we had an au pair who is awesome and wanted to continue with the same person. Our kids are getting older which makes it easier for everybody. We’ve realized that we really can’t take the financial burden on again- We pay for tuition ahead of time, and then if for some reason its difficult to continue you are still stuck with that big tuition bill.
For us, we agreed to pay everything ahead on the premise that she would be around for the following summer to watch the kids. We also promised to support her no matter what for one year. She was pretty much unable to help out for a couple of months for reasons I won’t go into but still we have paid 200 to her every week and semester tuition, to go with our promise. Guess what? she’s advertising for a nannying postion ( and another family to sponsor her visa) starting in June 2013. I don’t even know what to say to her about it, I’m at a loss for words. I guess when its a choice between breaking a promise or leaving the united states she is choosing to break the promise.
After three years of au pairing she hasn’t saved enough to pay for one semester of community college- I’m curious about whether another host family will sponsor her knowing that they will have to pay her tuition ahead of time.

For us, I see us out of a lot of money this year, and we won’t sponsor a student visa again. I’m just trying to figure out how to end things on a good note and not a bad one- really hard when someone keeps telling you they are going to be around and yet they are advertising for another job.

Lina March 1, 2013 at 8:08 pm

I am so sorry…. That is very mean.. I am sorry..but you can be glad she is out, if she cant keep a promise… How much does she owe you? Cant you make her leave earlier than June?

Tiredmom March 1, 2013 at 8:30 pm

Honestly, I’m more concerned about how not to end this badly. We don’t need her so much during school year- it’s the summer when we need her. I could say to her tommorrow- we aren’t sponsoring you- and her only choice would be to go to her home country becuase shed be out if status with school. I don’t feel sorry for us- if we had expectations that don’t follow the law then we can’t expect an outcome that is fair, right?
I just don’t want to end badly because of the kids but I am afraid that she willl announce at the end of spring semester in may that she has to leave because she can only find another sponsor if she starts at the beginning of the summer.

Tiredmom March 1, 2013 at 8:34 pm

At that point we won’t be able to find an au pair for the summer- and the only way the program makes financial sense for us is if someone is with us in the summer. Ill keep you posted! Do you think any other family would host a student visa for someone who was never there au pair and pay a semester tuition (3000 or so) at the beginning of the relationship?

Lina March 2, 2013 at 12:48 am

Well I would not, but there might be someone.. Could it be that she just finds a nanny position where she can live and they pay her hourly? If she gets $10 an hour 5-6 days a week, i dont see a problem for her not to be able to pay her bills. Colleges offer very nice payment plans for students. Also for international students..could you maybe ask her when she wants to leave, so you can plan for childcare? Or give her a june deadline, and find an au pair for june?

TexasHM March 2, 2013 at 11:19 pm

Did she specifically post that she was looking for a sponsor? Is there any chance she is just trying to nanny illegally? Meaning forget about the visa and go off the grid working for cash?
I am totally stumped as to why she would look for another family. Does she know you won’t sponsor another year and that’s driving this?

SKNY March 3, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Yes, there are families who will sponsor but most will not pay college. After my first year as an au pair, my family’s relatives did sponsor me. They gave me $450 a week and were sponsor on paper. The $450 while leaving with them was enough to pay for my school and have some left over (although NOT 200 a week. that is really generous).
It worked out very well, I finally got my physical therapy license and left only when all my papers were ready.
The friendship is still up, the triplet girls were my flower girls at my wedding and my father never got a visa to come (so host dad gave me away). We now live 4.5hs away but we see each other once a year.

SKNY March 3, 2013 at 12:41 pm

If she is advertising, I’d just let her go and get a girl through the program.
There are thousands of girls who want to come in June. I am part of an au pair group and most of them would wait until June easily. Or come right now. So that is not something to worry about.

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Curious March 14, 2013 at 11:17 pm

We are “sponsoring” our au pair when her time is up. She got accepted to college and has an I-20, but our plan was to let her leave to go back to her home country when her au pair time is up. She already scheduled an appointment with the Embassy in her home country to apply for a F-1 Visa (based on these comments I will be sure to tell her to renew her re-entry Visa too). As I read these posts it sounds like usually APs just stay over in the US and never return home. I’m nervous that when she goes home she won’t be allowed to come back. Is that a legit concern or does the fact that she has an I-20 pretty much guarantee they will allow her to return on an F-1? She’s from an ally European country so we hoped that would mean she’d be more welcome. Any thoughts?

lifestartsnow March 17, 2013 at 1:15 pm

@curious the I-20 does not guarantee her an F1 visa. it’s only a document sent by the school that the school thinks her funding source is OK hence, the school thinks the student is OK. it is up to the embassy to determine if the funding is OK and if the AP will truly not work (illegally) during her stay.
at my embassy interview, previous US visas were looked at carefully and i was asked where the funding for my studies is coming from. i guarantee you if i had said my former host family is sponsoring me (they are not. i saved and have a scholarship) there would have been more than one red flag going off for the officer. she needs to be prepared to proof that she will not work for you at all and how will she do that when she’s also living with you? i’m not saying it can’t be done but be aware that this is a slippery slope.

once she flies over here the immigration agent at the airport gets the last say. even with a valid f1 and all the papers she can be denied entry (unlikely but it has happened).

Curious March 17, 2013 at 8:24 pm

lifestartsnow – Thanks for the info. We are not providing her any money to pay for college. We are giving her room and board. She has over 15,000 Euros and her mom is offering to help so she can show proof of funds by herself. She did it for her I-20. But she is living with us. Hopefully that will help. She needs a place to stay while she studies so hopefully the Embassy will be ok with that. The school is a community college and doesn’t offer housing. I guess only time will tell.

TexasHM April 9, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Ok then your aren’t sponsoring her if she has the funds. I am assuming you are saying that she will continue to work for you as an AP after she converts to a student visa – correct?

lifestartsnow March 17, 2013 at 10:22 pm

@curious i wish her all the best! she shouldn’t be scared going into the embassy interview (i swear the people working there can smell fear!) but she shouldn’t be naive either. it’s close to her AP year, she’d be living with you… when asked about the $$ she should emphasize her family helping her etc and only mention you guys when asked.

Just Helping April 4, 2013 at 10:56 am

This is the type of issue that will most definitely vary between families and Au Pairs, and every situation is different. I believe that people make a bid deal about it when they don’t have to. Is it unlawful? Certainly, but my personal opinion on the subject is that immigration is not so severe when it comes to this matter because students on F1 visa pay twice or sometimes three times more the price of regular tuition, and they usually pay the full amount because federal/state financial aid is NOT available, and grants are extremely limited as well as jobs (depending on the major). Therefore, not only this benefits colleges/universities financially, but also helps give them prestige since international students bring diversity.

For host families:

1. If you have the means to afford an AP through agencies, you certainly have money to afford tuition – especially if it is a community college. Believe it or not, sometimes it can even save a little bit of money for the family. Yes, it worked for my mine. I pay for tuition, she pays for books (she scavenges for online bargains), gas etc… Not to mention that every time you match with a different girl, you have to pay for travel expenses, orientation etc… Changing visa status will not cost you since APs usually pay for the transition.
2. Most of the times, AP are not stupid. If you want to help and be sponsor, but then something happens and it’s no longer possible for you to pay for her education, just be honest and give her time to figure out what to do. After all, it’s not your fault that, for instance, you’ve been laid off or something else came to pass.
3. If you just don’t want to do it because you don’t think it’s correct, just be honest and say it FROM THE START. During the interview make sure to let the candidate know that you only want someone that has plans to go back, not stay with the family since you do not wish to be a sponsor. Sponsoring is not an obligation, so don’t be afraid of saying no.
4. Should the AP change behavior and no longer fulfill expectations, talk to her. If nothing changes, then give her a warning. If things go awry, tell her that you no longer want to be her sponsor and that she will have to find someone else. But then, give her time to make arrangements. The relationship will probably go sour, but at least you know you did all you could to change the situation.
5. You need to know that Au Pairs differ from Nannies. The real intent of Aps should be come to the US and focus their experience on study – which doesn’t hold true for many of them. However, those who come to the country exclusively to explore their possibilities as much as they can, will certainly do. Our AP has been here for 5 years, and her main goal is to finish her Bachelor’s degree since she could not afford education back home. Many other girls we know also have plans for career and staying here is not a matter of taking us for granted, it’s taking the advantage of something she probably wouldn’t have access to back home.

For Au Pairs:

1. If you are no longer J1, don’t go telling everybody. Keep your business to yourself. Spreading the work can put the host family and yourself at risk. Keeping a low profile at all times will help you stay out of trouble, but remember that you are at risk and be aware of the consequences. Do not blame the host family should you be caught and deported.

2. Always keep in mind that there is a chance of working out, but there is also a chance of not working out. Be always prepared to change plans or consider going back home.

3. It’s definitely possible to work and study full time, but of course it will not be easy. If you think the load is too much, do not push it. The family business comes first, that is, you have to be reliable the same way you have been. Remember that it’s not the family’s obligation to sponsor you; they are doing you a favor, maybe the most significant favor in your life.

4. Be attentive when it comes to classes. Make the family schedule your priority. The family allowed you to stay because they need you in the first place. If you see that there will be schedule conflict, then you will have to consider finding another family.

5. Very important: Consider doing assignments, projects and reading beforehand, because if an emergency happens and you need to help parents out during class time, you will have to miss class time. Again, you’re staying with the family because they consider you a reliable person.

6. If the family is just the sponsor, but you don’t work for them anymore, make damn sure you keep your status all right and stay out of debt. You OWE them that much. Honor your commitment.

7. If you live with the family, remember that it’s your temporary home, that is, be willing to help. On a day off or a day during breaks do some house voluntary cleaning. That is the least you can do since they are allowing you to extend your stay. Keep a good behavior and respect their house as you always have. Don’t think that because you’re there for a longer time it means you can do whatever. Being respectful is always a MUST.

8. If you want to earn extra money by working more (only god knows how) TALK to the family first; if you plan on moving to another place TALK to the family first. They have the right to know what your plans are since it involves them. There is no such excuse as “privacy” since they are doing a favor and since they depend on you with their kids. DO NOT EVER let them find out by other means or other people. That is very unfair, immature and irresponsible.

9. It works out better if you travel to your home country at least once a year, especially after the second year as an AP. Do not travel with the J1 visa expired for the longest time because it will be harder for you to get the F1 in your country. Make sure somehow they know you still have ties with your country.

Curious April 9, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Just Helping – Your AP who has been in the US for 5 years, did she go home on schedule when her J-1 expired and then get an F-1? Can you tell me about her path to F-1 status?

MommyMia April 9, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Just Helping – I have to disagree with your statement “The real intent of Aps should be come to the US and focus their experience on study…” The stated purpose and intent of the J1 visa/au pair program is cultural exchange and childcare, with the educational component added. The F1/student visa is for those who want to come primarily to study, so they should apply for that. Granted, not many will be granted to study at community colleges, but our tax dollars and local and state budgets are providing comm.colleges for students who may not be able to attend 4-year universities. And in my state–California–your statement: “If you have the means to afford an AP through agencies, you certainly have money to afford tuition – especially if it is a community college” is not true. Plus, with the cutbacks in class schedules, it might take six years for someone NOT working 45 hours per week to finish a degree; it’s not within my budget to sponsor and host an au pair who wants to stay to complete a college degree, plus pay her stipend, room & board. And remember the intangibles that the agency fees include, such as medical insurance, will be extra should any accidents/illnesses befall the student. Too many risks for me. Hopefully your points will make au pairs consider some of the reasons why more families are not eager to sponsor them as students.

Taking a Computer Lunch April 9, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Agreed. Most people don’t realize that foreign students pay a much higher tuition rate than American students at community colleges. Back in 2002, when DH and I put a beloved AP on a student visa while we waited for her employment application to be reviewed (so she could go home and come back – which isn’t possible during the review process) we paid $21,000 in tuition, plus a weekly stipend, and maintained a car dedicated to her to travel to and from college. It broke us, but we felt it was worth it – the AP had been a PICU nurse in her country and The Camel was extremely medically fragile during her toddler years. Our AP was essential to her surviving two life-threatening crises. Our AP spent over 18 months taking ESOL classes before she advanced to classes to obtain a degree. After 1 year on the foreign student tuition plan, we were able to pay in-county tuition.

TexasHM April 9, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Just helping – some great insight/points. I also don’t necessarily agree that we could afford to cover tuition, but it doesn’t matter because we won’t do it anyway. :). I see why APs do it and why some host families do it but at the end of the day it’s illegal and too much risk for us. I have a friend considering sponsoring her AP right now and after researching she said the AP program is challenging enough, she doesn’t need the added complexity of competing priorities and the illegality of it. I love our current AP more than words, which is why I wouldn’t put her in a situation where she’d have to lie and worry about the risks and repurcussions of deportation.

au pair April 9, 2013 at 7:50 pm

I think what just helping was saying is pretty much true and the case. Thats how we did it. My hf sponsered me. At the end of my au pair yaer, we calculated everything, insurance, program fees, what they pay me every week, ect. we got to around $18000. my hp said, they are willing to pay that amount, and i have to cover the rest if i need more. my tuition costs around $8000 with books and insurance, the rest of the money got split up for me. I get a little each week, and the other half gets put on a account for me that i can use later when i go to university where it is a little more expensive. We commited for 4 years. after that we will see, but they dont have to sponsor me anymore. just my 2 cents:) i work 45h a week by the way:) my kids are 2 and 5

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