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An au pair (plural: au pairs) is a foreign-national domestic assistant working for, and living as part of, a host family. Typically, au pairs take on a share of the family's responsibility for childcare as well as some housework, and receive a small monetary allowance for personal use.

The title comes from the French term au pair, meaning "on a par" or "equal to", indicating that the relationship is intended to be one of equals: the au pair is intended to become a member of the family, albeit a temporary one, rather than a domestic servant. In the best circumstances, both parties benefit from learning about the other's culture and will remain on good terms long after the au pair has left the family.


An au pair placement is an arrangement where a young woman or man lives for up to two years in a foreign country as a member of a local family, helping in the home for a set number of hours a day, often with at least two full days off per week. In return, they receive a reasonable allowance, experience in another culture, and a private room.

The Council of Europe recommends that every au pair be issued a standard contract with their family.


An au pair should be treated as an equal part of the family and not as a servant, and shall not be required to wear a uniform. There can be misunderstandings on both sides about what this means. The usual practice is that au pairs eat with the family most of the time, and join in some of the usual family activities such as outings and trips. However, host families normally expect to have some private time to themselves, particularly in the evenings. During this time, an au pair might retire to his or her room to watch television, study, or go out with friends.

As an employee, many countries have government limits as to how many hours an au pair is allowed to work. Tasks can include taking children to and from school, taking children to after school activities, cooking, cleaning, ironing, and babysitting. Each placement varies depending on the host family. The au pair is given a monthly allowance and all expenses are paid by the host family.

Specific countries


The tradition of au pairing is well established in Austria and prospective au pairs are served by several agencies who are accustomed to dealing with direct applications from foreigners. Requirements are not strenuous, and many inexperienced 18-year-olds are placed. The agencies can take a long time to reply and may need some follow-up emails and phone calls. The norm is for the agencies to charge their au pairs a fee equivalent to a week’s pocket money.Officially, au pairs from outside Europe must obtain both a work and residence permit (Beschäftigungsbewilligung). The employing family should apply at their local employment office at least two weeks before the start date. Before the permit can be approved and an Anzeigebestätigung issued, the authorities must see an agreement or contract (signed by the employer and the au pair) and proof that health and accident insurance cover has been obtained by the au pair. A template of the contract is available on the Austrian Employment Service website ( The agency should help with this process and tell the au pair where to take the documents to be stamped (for a fee).


Au Pair does not really exist in the same format as the rest of the world. The Canadian government has the Live-In Caregiver program, which has broader requirements than the Au Pair program. Standard qualifications are regulated federally, though conditions of employment are determined at a provincial level. Requirements include a minimum of 6 months of training or 1 year of compatible employment within the last 3 years - though various exceptions and additional stipulations do apply. Such regulations and complicating bureaucratic procedures are the driving force behind the creation of Live-In Caregiver (or Nanny) placement agencies, who act as a mediator between families, caregivers, and the government - providing support for documentation and advice on the program.


An au pair’s responsibilities also include light housework, totaling six hours a day, five days a week. The au pair has her/his own room, is provided with food and is paid a weekly allowance amounting to at least 252 per month (minimum set by Finnish law). Additionally, the host family will arrange a Finnish language course to help the au pair communicate better with the children and get more out of his or her stay in Finland. Au pairs can stay with their host family for up to one year or negotiate a shorter stay.


Au pairing has always been a favored way for young women to learn French and, increasingly, for young men too. The pocket money for au pairs in France is currently Euro 60 per week plus in most cases a 20-euro-a-week contribution to language classes; in Paris families may also provide a carte orange (urban travel pass) which is worth 52 euros.North Americans can fix up au pair placements directly with a French agency, but they should bear in mind that high placement fees may have to be paid in advance and that in some cases little advance information about the family will be made available. Enrolment in a French language course is compulsory for non-European au pairs.A number of established agencies belongs to UFAAP, the Union Francaise des Associations Au Pair, an umbrella group set up in 1999, based at present at Europair Services in Paris (listed below). Contact details for the member agencies are included on the UFAAP website. In Paris, the notice board at the American Church (65 Quai d’Orsay) is crammed with announcements of live-in positions.

Basic Application Criteria

Potential au pairs must:
  • Be aged 17-27
  • Have basic skills in French
  • Be able to commit to a period of at least 10 months (most Host Families prefer Au Pairs who can stay for the school year from September to June).
  • Attend French language classes while in France (this is a requirement to obtain the Long-Stay Au Pair Visa)


Dozens of independent agents have popped up all over Germany, many of them members of the Au Pair Society which has three offices in Germany and more than 40 members. The Society’s web site carries contact details for its members with links to agency web sites. Commercial au pair agencies do not charge a placement fee to incoming au pairs.Non-EU citizens no older than 24 can become au pairs through a German agency. Americans and Canadians do not need to apply for a residence and work permit before leaving their home countries; however it is a general requirement that au pairs prove that they have studied German.The monthly pocket money for an au pair in Germany was raised to 260 euros ($300+) in 2006. The majority of families also give their au pairs a monthly travel pass and other benefits such as a contribution to course fees of up to 100 euros per semester and 150 euros for return travel at end of year. For this au pairs will be expected to work hard and probably to undertake more housework than au pairs normally do.

Basic Application Criteria

Potential au pairs must:
  • Be 18-26 years old
  • Have some child care experience.
  • Be a non-smoker and non-drug user. Some families will accept smokers.
  • Display basic conversational language ability of the target country
  • Be able to make 9 or 12 month commitment. Summer placements of three months, June 15th through September 15th, can also be arranged but only for native English speakers and citizens of the European Union.


It is possible to apply independently through an Italian agency, but first make sure that you won’t be liable to pay a hefty registration fee. There are many opportunities for au pairs during the summer holidays when most Italians who can afford au pairs migrate to the coast or the mountains and take their helpers with them. The weekly pocket money for au pairs is average or above for Europe, starting at 60-70 euros for working 30 hours a week, 80-100 euros for 40 hours, though many families in the big cities pay more than this.Non-European nationals are not eligible for a Permesso di Soggiorno (residence permit) unless they arrive with the appropriate visa from the Italian embassy in their country. The best route is to obtain a student visa which permits the holder to work up to 20 hours per week (live-in or live-out). To obtain a long-stay visa, non-EU au pairs will need to enroll in and pay for an Italian language course at an approved school or college. The school registrar will issue a certificate which must then be stamped by the local police (Questura). The visa will be valid only for the length of the course. You must also show sufficient insurance cover, a return air ticket, proof of accommodation stamped by the police and a contract specifying dates, pocket money and benefits stamped by the provincial labor office and/or the police.If you are already in Italy you can check classified adverts in English language journals, many of which are published online such as Wanted in Rome ( aimed at the expatriate community. Try notice boards in English language bookshops, English-speaking churches, student travel agencies and language school notice boards.


The chance of arranging an au pair placement in Spain is very good. The majority of jobs are in the cities and environs of Madrid and Barcelona, though jobs do crop up in glamorous resorts like Marbella and Tenerife from time to time. Several au pair agencies in Spain are associated with language schools such as Centros Europeos Galve in Madrid, Kingsbrook in Barcelona and Crossing Limits in Seville.The minimum pocket money for au pairs at present is 55-60 euros a week. There are also opportunities for young people to stay with Spanish families in exchange for speaking English with the children without having any domestic or childcare duties. Americans and Canadians who wish to work as au pairs should apply for a student visa before leaving home. Officially, the Embassy requires both an offer of employment from the family and a letter from the school where the au pair is enrolled (or will enroll) to study Spanish for at least 15 hours a week.

Basic Application Criteria

Potential au pairs must:
  • Be between 17 and 30 years old.
  • Have some child care experience.
  • Be a non-smoker and non-drug user. Some families will accept smokers.
  • Speak basic conversational Spanish (not mandatory).


Those interested in a domestic position with a Swiss family should know the rules laid down by each Swiss canton. You must be a female between the ages of 17 (18 in Geneva) and 29 from Western Europe, North America, Australia, or New Zealand, stay for a minimum of one year and a maximum of 18 months, and attend a minimum of three hours a week of language classes in Zürich, four in Geneva. Families in most places are required to pay half the language school fees of 500-1,000 Swiss francs for six months.Au pairs in Switzerland work for a maximum of 30 hours per week, plus babysitting once or twice a week. The monthly salary varies among cantons but the normal range is 590-740 Swiss francs after all compulsory deductions for tax and health insurance have been made.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdommarker government runs an Au Pair Scheme which provides au pair permits to nationals of the European Union or of one of the following countries: Andorramarker, Faroe Islandsmarker, Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker, Greenlandmarker, San Marinomarker, Republic of Macedoniamarker, Turkeymarker, Croatiamarker or Monacomarker. Nationals of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republic of Croatia, Macedonia, and Turkey need a visa from their British Embassy or Consulate.

Au pair permits are limited to candidates who are unmarried, have no dependents, do not plan to stay in the UK for more than two years as an au pair, and can support and accommodate themselves without help from public funds. They are also required to leave the UK after completing their au pair period. Au pairs may move to another family as long as the new arrangements continue to meet immigration requirements.

Although other European Economic Area nationals are not included in the Au Pair Scheme, they are free to take au pair placements in the UK as regular employees.

In the UK au pair management is a business sector therefore is not governmentally run. Au pair agencies are all privately owned. To ensure high standards are being met many companies choose to be an associate member of the British Au Pair Agencies Association (BAPAA). BAPAA associates can become a full members if they have been trading for at least 12 months. Members of BAPAA must meet firm business and ethical standards and in turn, agree to abide by BAPAA's code of conduct, which signifies competence, fair dealing and high integrity.

Au pairs are commonly split into two categories, 'Au Pair' and 'Au Pair Plus'. Au pairs are not employed in the sense of having to pay into the National Insurance scheme or Tax in the UK. They are given pocket money, the amount given is dependent upon which category level of Au Pair the person wants to be. Guidelines for the host family for the recommended hours of work and on the amount of pocket money they should be expected to pay can be found on reputable private company’s websites and the BAPAA website.

United States

The United Statesmarker au pair program offers qualified young people the opportunity to live and study in the U.S. for one or two years in exchange for providing up to 45 hours of childcare per week. The au pair program was recently granted permission from the U.S.marker Department of Statemarker to offer a second year extension au pair program (6, 9 or 12 months), as well as a summer au pair program.

At the same time, the au pairs are required to complete an educational component of six semester hours of academic credit or its equivalent. At the end of one year, au pairs generally return to their home country, unless they and their host families choose to extend their stay for a further 6, 9 or 12 months. Alternatively, the au pair can choose to extend her period in the US with a different family. Most au pairs choose a family in a different part of the country, allowing them to have a different experience.

The rules of the Au Pair Program in the US are: au pairs are provided a private bedroom, meals, remuneration tied to the minimum wage ($176.85 per week, rising to $195.75 on 24 July 2009), 1½ days off weekly plus a full weekend off each month, two weeks' paid vacation and the first $500 toward the costs of required course work to be completed at an accredited institution of higher education in order to satisfy the requirements of the educational component of the program. Au pairs are not to work more than 10 hours per day or 45 hours per week, and are not to serve as general housekeepers or assume responsibility for household management.

The US EduCare Au Pair Program is also available for families with school-age children. In this program, the au pair works a lower number of hours (not more than 10 hours a day and not more than 30 hours a week) for a weekly minimum wage of $132.64 (raising to $146.81 on 24 July 2009 in accordance with the federal minimum wage increases). The family pays $1000 in educational expenses, and the au pair is required to complete 12 hours of academic credit.

Au pairs placed with families who have children under two years old must have at least 200 hours of child care experience with infants under two. Au pairs may only be placed in a family with an infant under three months old if a parent or other adult caregiver is also home and fully responsible for the infant.

The Au Pair Program is administered by the US Department of State. Participating families and au pairs must work with one of the currently 12 approved agencies. Au pairs enter the United States on a J-1 visa.

Basic Application Criteria

Potential au pairs must:
  • be aged 18-26
  • have professional or practical childcare experience for at least 200 hours if looking after a child under 2
  • agree to commit to a full year’s stay in the USA and be prepared to provide up to 45 hours of childcare a week
  • have completed their secondary school education.
  • be proficient in spoken English
  • have no criminal record

There are twelve sponsoring au pair agencies designated by the State Department. Host families typically pay these agencies an application fee and a program fee which varies from $5,500 to $7,200, depending on the agency used. The program fees cover expenses related to the arrival of the au pair and compliance with regulations governing the program. These include, but are not limited to, airfare, medical insurance, mandatory 32-hour education session on child development and safety and other expenses. Au pairs pay fees which vary depending on the US agency and the home country agency they use (if they do not apply directly to the US agency).

Au pairs

See also


  1. Au Pair and EduCare. U.S. Department of State website. Retrieved 25 April 2009.
  2. Change in US au pair stipends for minimum wage increase (US Department of State)[1]
  3. Change in US au pair stipends for minimum wage increase (US Department of State)[2]
  4. List of Au Pair Sponsoring Agencies US State Department website. Retrieved July 31 2008.

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