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Work Abroad as an Au Pair or Nanny

A Guide to Employment Worldwide

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Au pairing (literally “living on equal terms”) provides single women and sometimes men over 18 and normally under 27 the chance to study a language and culture while living as part of a family abroad. The demand for live-in childcare is huge especially for young women. A good source of agency addresses is the website of the International Au Pair Association (IAPA), though a number of member agencies operate outgoing programs only (i.e., they send their nationals abroad, primarily to learn English).

Au pairs are meant to work for no more than a certain amount of agreed upon hours a week, plus potential evenings of babysitting. In exchange they are given a separate room, all meals and pocket money per week—the amount depending by country. Unlike nannies and mother’s helps, au pairs do not sign a contract since the arrangement is an informal one. Au pairs should be treated more like family members than employees. An au pair has much less responsibility for the welfare of the children than does a nanny, and is not normally expected to take sole charge of a young child.

Holiday au pairs usually work from July to September and accompany the family on their holidays. Since the children are out of school, there may be less free time than during the academic year and often no chance to attend language classes. Otherwise the same rules should apply as for ordinary au pairing.

A brief summary of job prospects and red tape is given for many of the countries of Europe below which continue to merge as part of the EU. Note that the supply of au pairs has greatly increased in Europe with the expansion of the European Union. Consequently, do check up on the latest requirements for employment and residency in each country via the au pair site and the IAPA.

Searching the Web

Cyberspace buzzes with an exchange of information about live-in childcare. A great many online agencies provide a database of families on the one hand and people looking for live-in jobs on the other so that they can match themselves up. Prospective au pairs register their details, including age, nationality, relevant experience and in many cases a photo, to be uploaded onto a website which then becomes accessible to registered families. Registration is usually free or reasonably priced for the job-seeker, whereas the hiring families usually pay an introduction fee to the web-based agency.

Before a prospective au pair decides to look for a family on the internet, it is worth considering the relative advantages and disadvantages of using the web as opposed to a conventional agency as described below. Making the arrangement directly with a family sight unseen and with no agency back-up carries potential risks. No doubt many of the matches result in successful outcomes. Typically a family contacts a promising looking candidate or a job-seeker contacts a promising sounding family; they make contact via email and then telephone and decide whether they are compatible. Assuming each party is upfront and keeps to their part of the bargain, all should be well.

Without the support of an agency, it is very difficult to carry out any effective screening of either party. If relying on the internet it is essential that you ascertain exactly the nature of the situation and the expectations of your new employer. Work out in your mind what you will do in the event the arrangement does not work out. If the agency is simply a database-provider, they will be able to offer little or no back-up.

If it happens that either side is not committed to the arrangement to which they have signed up, the other side can be badly let down and have no recourse. For example an employer might change his or her mind between inviting a young girl to come and the start date. It is not unknown for families to issue several invitations and choose the one they like the look of better after arrival. In this case, an au pair could be turned away on the doorstep, without fluent English or much money. Similarly, families that are expecting an au pair to arrive on a certain date can find themselves disappointed.

Austria

The tradition of au pairing is well established in Austria and prospective au pairs are served by several agencies (see below), 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. 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 permit 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.

 See More Websites for Au Pair Work in Austria

Belgium

Regulations governing the employment of au pairs from outside Europe in Belgium have been tightened so that it is now very difficult for non-Europeans to find a family placement. One disincentive for families to employ a non-European au pair is that they are required by law to pay very high wages, in addition to the work permit and other compulsory benefits.

Non-European citizens must obtain an authorization of provisional sojourn from the Belgian Embassy in their home country before arriving in Belgium. Their contract with their host family (minimum 12 months) must be approved by the administration communale to get a one-year “B” work permit from the regional Office National de l’Emploi. To qualify, the applicant must show proof of having registered in a language course in Belgium.

If you intend to look for a family after arrival, check the ads in The Bulletin, the English-language weekly magazine for the huge expatriate community in Belgium.

 See More Websites for Au Pair Work in Belgium

France

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 also provide a carte orange (urban travel pass) which is worth more than 50 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 www.ufaap.org. In Paris, the notice board at the American Church (65 Quai d’Orsay) is crammed with announcements of live-in positions.

 See More Websites for Au Pair Work in France

Germany

Dozens of independent agents have popped up all over Germany, many of them members of the Au Pair Society which which is on the board of the IAPA. The Society’s website carries contact details for its members with links to agency websites. Commercial au pair agencies do not charge a placement fee to incoming au pairs.

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 majority of families offer monthly pocket money and also give their au pairs a monthly travel pass, including other benefits such as a contribution to course fees for language school and sometimes money for return travel at end of year. For these perks au pairs will be expected to hard work and probably to undertake more housework than most au pairs normally do.

 See More Websites for Au Pair Work in Germany

Greece

The agency Nine Muses accepts advance applications from young European and American women and also can place candidates after arrival in Athens. Most families ask their live-in staff to work longer hours then the normal 25-30 hours a week and reward them accordingly. For the limited number of summer positions available application should be made by April.

 See More Websites for Au Pair Work in Greece

Italy

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 coverage, a return air ticket, proof of accommodations 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.

 See More Websites for Au Pair Work in Italy

Netherlands

Au pairs in Holland usually enjoy favorable working conditions. Most families also cover all or most of the cost of a course (not necessarily Dutch language) and in some cases travel costs are paid for by the family when the au pair completes her agreement.

Americans and Canadians do not have to apply for any special permits before they arrive in the Netherlands. They simply register with the immigration police (Vreemdelingenpolitie) within eight days of arrival in the municipality where they will be au pairing.

 See More Websites for Au Pair Work in the Netherlands

Scandinavia

The au pair system is gaining popularity in the countries of Scandinavia, despite the fact that relatively few foreigners are keen to learn Swedish, Norwegian or Finnish. More of the agencies which send Scandinavian au pairs abroad are also placing young foreigners as au pairs in Scandinavian homes, incidentally providing one of the few ways to afford an extended stay in this expensive region.

Denmark is another country where the level of English in the general population is extremely high. Conditions for au pairs are congenial: on top of the monthly pocket money of at least 2,500 Danish kroners, you should be given health insurance and are entitled to join free language courses in Danish. The main au pair agencies in Denmark are Au Pairs International in Copenhagen and the Scandinavian Au Pair Center Denmark located in the north of the country but mainly working online with partners in Norway and Sweden. They do not charge a fee to incoming au pairs.

For Finland, a new private agency called Snow Au Pairs in Helsinki has started placing some au pairs with Finnish families. Otherwise, placements must be arranged independently through contacts or advertisements.

Interest in au pairing in Iceland is increasing, and Americans can find a family through the agency Stúdentaferdir (the main mediating agency for au pairs licensed by the Ministry of Social Affairs). Families often cover half the travel costs (if you stay six to nine months) and the full cost if you stay nine to 12 months.

The private employment agency Ninukot originally specialised in agricultural and horticultural jobs throughout Iceland but has branched out to offer other jobs including in babysitting.

 See More Websites for Au Pair Work in Denmark, Finland, Sweden

Spain

The chance of arranging an au pair placement in Spain is 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.

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.

 See More Websites for Au Pair Work in Spain

Switzerland

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.

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 varies when deductions for tax and health insurance have been made.

 See More Websites for Au Pair Work in Switzerland

Useful Au Pair Websites
Au Pair Agencies
North American Agencies

The following North American agencies have outgoing au pair programs in Europe:

Scotia Personnel Ltd., 6045 Cherry St., Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 2K4, Canada; 902-422-1455, fax 902-423-6840; scotiap@ns.sympatico.ca, www.scotia-personnel-ltd.com. Au pairs to U.S., England, France, Holland, Germany, Austria, Spain, Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, Ireland, Australia, etc

Interexchange Working Abroad (www.InterExchange.org, workabroad@interexchange.org). Non-profit organization places U.S. citizens as au pairs in Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, and Turkey. 

Austria

Au-Pair4You, Hasnerstrasse 31/22, 1160 Vienna; 011-43-1-990-1574; www.au-pair4y ou.at.

Au-Pair & Family, Blindengasse 52/1/3, 1080 Vienna; tel/fax 011-43-1-405 405 0; office@aupair-family.at, www.aupair-family.at. Second office at Ahornstrasse 8, 4481 Asten (011-43-676-41 40 150).

Au-Pair Austria, Mariahilferstrasse 99/2/37, 1060 Vienna. Tel/fax 011-43-1-920 38 42 or 43-1-595 5745; office@aupairaustria.com, www.aupairaustria.com. 100 euro fee for incoming au pairs.

Friends Au-Pair Vermittlungsagentur, Napoleongasse 7/18, 2301 Gross-Enzersdorf; 011-43-2-249-4650; office@aupairvermittlung.at, www.aupairvermittlung.at.

Belgium

Services de la Jeunesse Feminine, Rue de Dave 174, 5100 Jambes-Namur, Belgium; 011-32 81-30 99 80, fax 011-32 81-30 91 35.

Stufam, Vierwindenlaan 7, 1780 Wemmel; 011-32-2-460-33-95; aupair.stufam@scarlet.be, www.aupair-stufam.be.

Finland

Snow Au Pairs, Kavaljeerintie 6A4, 01520 Vantaa, Finland; 011-358-440-434-441 GSM; anne.wright@snowaupairs.com; www.snowaupairs.com. Brings young people from all over the world to participate in Au Pair Program in Finland. 50 euro application fee plus returnable deposit of 200 euros.

France

Au-Pair Azur, 155 avenue de Cireuil, 06210 Villeneuve Loubet; 011-33-6-61 98 81 81; aupairazur@aol.com, www.aupairazur.com. Placement mainly with families on the French Riviera.

Europair Services, 13 rue Vavin, 75006 Paris; 011-33-1-43-29-80-01; contact@auropairservices.com, www.europairservices.com.

Fée Rêvée, 6 rue de Bellevue, 92150 Suresnes, France; tel/fax 011-33-1-41 44 01 85; contact@fee-revee.com, www.fee-revee.com.

Inter-Séjours, 179 rue de Courcelles, 75017 Paris. 011-33-1-47 63 06 81; aideinfo.intersejours@wanadoo.fr; asso.intersejours.free.fr.

Solution Au Pair, 16 rue de l’Abbé Lemire, F-59700 Marcq-en-Baroeul. 011-33-3-20 831 950; contact@solutionaupair.com; www.solutionaupair.com. Placements mainly in northern France around Lille.

Germany
Au Pair Interconnection, www.aupair-interconnection.de.

INWOX (International Work Experience), info@inwox.com, www.inwox.com.

Munichaupair, www.munichaupair.com.

Verein für Internationale Jugendarbeit, www.au-pair-vij.org.
Greece

Nine Muses Au Pair Activities, www.ninemuses.gr. Placement service for au pairs. Also offers positions in the tourist industry.

Iceland

Stúdentaferdir, Bankastraeti 10, 101 Reykjavik; 011-354-562 2362; info@exit.is, www.exit.is . Leading exchange and au pair agency in Iceland. Places foreign young people for 6-12 months in Icelandic households.

Ninukot Employment Agency, Skeggjastadir 861, Hvolsvöllur; 011 354 487 8576; ninukot@islandia.is; www.ninukot.is).

Italy

ARCE, Via Settembre 20/124, 16121 Genova 011-39-010-583020, info@arceaupair.it.

Roma Au Pair, Via L. Bellotti Bon 15, 00197 Rome, Italy; 011-39-06-807 81 46; info@romaaupair.com. Also has office in Bologna: Via di Frino No. 1, 40136 Bologna, Italy (fax 011-39-051-636 0956).

The Netherlands

Au Pairs Worldwide, www.aupairsworldwide.com, an IAPA member offers plenty of listings.

Au Pair Visa Service, www.aupairservices.nl, will help you navigate the red tape.

Spain

BEST Programs, Au Pair English Teaching / Madrid, Spain; www.bestprograms.org. "Experience living abroad with no prior foreign language skills. Live with and be a part of a Spanish family. An opportunity to enhance your language skills. You always receive room and board and a euro stipend for spending money in exchange for 25 hours of child care. Your schedule will be between 10 and 25 hours a week depending on the family's needs. BEST personally screens and interviews all potential au pair host families at their homes."

Crossing Limits, Av. República Argentina nº 22, Bis 8F (Los Remedios), 41011 Seville. Tel/fax: 011-34-95-40 83 931; info@crossinglimits.com; www.crossinglimits.com.

GIC Educational Consultants, www.gic-spain.com.

Kingsbrook Languages & Services, Travessera de Gracia 60, 08006 Barcelona, Spain; 011-34-93-209-3763; aupair@kingsbrookbcn.com ; www.kingsbrookbcn.com . Au Pair and internship placements in Barcelona and environs.

Planet Au Pair, C/ Los Centelles 45-6-11, 46006 Valencia; 011-34-96-320 6491; info@planetaupair.com; www.planetaupair.com. Program fee 232 euros for stays of less than 3 months, 319 euros for longer stays.
Sweden

Au-Pair World Agency Sweden, Box 299, 461 26 Trollhättan; 011-46-520-30953; info@aupairsweden.com; www.aupairsweden.com.

Scandinavian Au Pair Service Center, Ultunagatan 62, 256 67 Helsingborg; 011-46-42 20 44 02; fax 011-46-42-32 82 39; scandinavian@aupair.se; www.aupair.se.

SUSAN GRIFFITH is author of Work Your Way Around the World. See her bio to order a copy. She is also co-editor of Work Abroad and contributing editor for Work Abroad for Transitions Abroad.

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