How are you??
I know that you didn’t expect to read me again so early, but as the special events` post were mainly for Thanksgiving week even if it was late, here I am!
So, actually, this week’s post is a post that many of you have asked me.
Some of my followers on Snapchat, and close friends who read me, often ask me to talk about how I became an au pair in the United States.
In short, the most frequently asked questions concern the bureaucratic procedures of visas, etc.
When you decide to leave as an au pair in the United States, it is not known that bureaucratic procedures are not so easy, but believe me are not impossible.
First of all, it is really IMPORTANT to know that in the United States there are only 17 agencies authorized by the US government for the AuPair program:
10. AuPairCare Inc.
15. GreatAuPair, LLC
17. USAuPair, Inc.
This means that if you want to become a “legal” AuPair in the United States, you must go through one of these agencies.
My agency was the tenth in the list – AuPairCare Inc. – and I have to admit that I found them very good and professional, so I honestly recommend it to anyone who asks me.
But, let’s go one step at the time…
I warn you, it will definitely be a longer post than usual, but I hope really useful.
Let’s start mainly with the reasons that pushed me to do this experience. Many of you will remember that at the university I studied Chinese and that in my third year I went to Beijing for a study trip. (believe me, this is another post!)
In China, I realized how terrible my English was and how important this language is.
That said, the next steps were the following: once I came back home, I decided to look for the possible options I had to finally learn English without having to weigh too much on my mom and dad shoulders.
All the websites of these agencies are in English and I repeat that my English at the time was practically zero, therefore, I turned to an ‘Italian agency that was the link with one of those listed above, AuPairCare Inc.
The agency in question is CTS, but I must admit that I could not understand well from the current website if they still deal with au pairs.
So, one day of 2013 I go to the agency closest to home to ask for more information about the program and the costs.
After having verified the question of the 17 authorized agencies and having discovered that the CTS was my intermediary with AuPairCare, I find out that to become an AuPair you must have:
- Be 18-26 years old
- Have 200 hours of professional or practical childcare experience (if caring for a child under two years of age)
- Have complete secondary school education
- Be proficient in English
- Have no criminal record
- A valid passport.
The cost to join the au pair program varies by country, from what I remember I think I spent a total of around 450 euros.
These cover the admission application, the test and interviews in English, the psychological assessment and the preparation of the J-1 visa.
Not only that, the agency also guarantees:
- Earn a stipend during your year of about $10,000 USD
- Free flight to and from the United States, including all connecting flights to your host family
- Travel and accident insurance package for 12 months
- A private bedroom in your family’s home
- J-1 Visa Sponsorship
- 30 days to travel the country at the end of your program
- 1 1/2 free days per week, plus 10 days of paid vacation during your program year
- Up to $500 USD in tuition money to attend college classes (you must complete 6 credits or equivalent)
- 24-hour emergency line and continuous support from your local AuPairCare Area Director
- Opportunity to extend your program for another 6, 9 or 12 months
You will also need to plan on a few additional costs that are not included in the program, such as Visa charges ($160 USD at the time of writing), transportation to/from your personal interview and Embassy appointment, any fees incurred for acquiring a basic police check, medical records, international driving license or a passport.
For a total of…. More or less, I think my costs have been around 1200 euros.
Now, with the benefit of hindsight, there are some things you can surely avoid if you are Italian like me, for example:
international driving license. It is not really necessary to spend that money. Once you arrive in America, your host family is in charge of helping you get your driving license from the state you live in. The American driving license is not complicated, much less expensive than the Italian one and is very easy to take.
Once you start the online application with the agency, ie once you have handed the three letters of recommendation from your past experiences, the clean criminal record, the complete secondary school education paper, passed the English test and the psychological test, an employee from the agency will contact you and give you the green light to create your personal profile on the agency’s website, so that potential host families can contact you and read your features.
The online profile is very easy to develop, once you have obtained the admission credentials from the agency you will need to fill out various questionnaires:
- Personal description (name, surname, nationality, hobbies, etc.)
- Description of why you want to become an AuPair
- Compilation of the letter for the future host family.
- Personal Experiences
- What the ideal family would be for you
- How many children would you like to take care of…
In short, the list goes on for a long time, no jokes, the questionnaire is very long and these 6 points are only a small part of what you have to fill out.
AH! Do not forget that everything happens obviously in English!
An important thing is the presentation video, generally many girls make spoken videos in which for example tell their typical day, all of course in English! ???
Me that in front of a camera I have the fluency of a sloth, imagine if I had to stay there talking English! ??? ??? Just big laughs!
However, I found my trick: a beautiful video full of photos of my life and the place from which I came from with soundtrack Volare by Domenico Modugno. ?
Finally, I was online!
The families started contacting me and so my interviews started too!
Basic questions, usual things, from 6 down to 2 and from 2 to 1!
Once you have chosen the family, and once the family chooses you is called “match”!
From here the visa procedures begin.
For those who do not know, to live in America, work, study, visit, in short, to be able to set foot in the American territory you need a visa.
There are many visas, the easiest and online obtainable up to 72 hours before the trip is the one called ESTA, or tourist visa that allows you to stay up to 90 days.
After that, if your stay is longer than 90 days you need a special visa which is usually accompanied by a sponsor.
The sponsor is the school, the company or in this case as it was for me, the AuPair agency releases a document called DS-160 that testifies your travel time and guarantees to the American government the proof of what you will go to do during your stay in their territory.
Many do not know that one without the other is worth little, the J1 visa on the passport without the DS-160 is useless for your legal entry into the country, simply, you are not going to pass the customs!
So, once the original copy of my DS-160 shipped from America arrived home, the embassy “nightmare” began.
Once I made the appointment with it, I made sure I had all the required documents (the embassy site is clear enough, generally they give a list of the necessary documents depending on the visa you are going to request).
The interview is simple, a chat with the consul, the revision of all the documents, and if the visa is approved or not, you know it immediately.
In case of approval, the passport will be held and then once issued and printed on the passport, all will be sent back to you at your own expense.
With the visa in the passport, with the DS-160 in the bag, with a suitcase full of dreams and expectations, you are ready to take off and enjoy this extraordinary experience, that if after a visa extension that has blocked me in Italy for 1 month, a visa change that has re-blocked me for about 1 month and a half, and after almost 4 years I’m still here … well, I think it was worth it!
AH! I almost forgot after a trip like this even for 1 year believe me if I tell you that you’ll come home almost bilingual !!!
Of the extension procedure and maybe the procedure to get my current visa F1, the student one maybe we’ll talk in another post if you’re interested!
Meanwhile, I wish you a good week and do not hesitate to write me wherever you want for any questions about it.
Kiss from Kika
PS.Here some useful links: