Skip Global Navigation to Main Content
  •  
Skip Breadcrumb Navigation
Au Pairs and Domestic Personal Employees (J1/B1 Visas)
 

There are four principal ways in which a Swedish citizen may legally work in the United States as an au pair:

  • through an organization authorized to place au pairs with U.S. families;
  • as the domestic employee of a diplomat assigned to the United States;
  • as the domestic employee of a person entering or already in the United States with a B, E, F, H, I, J, L, M, O, or P Nonimmigrant visa; or
  • as the domestic employee of a U.S. citizen subject to frequent international transfers (e.g., executive for an international company) and only temporarily assigned to the United States.

Note that it is illegal to work in the United States as an au pair under the Visa Waiver Program or with a B2 visa.

Au Pair Organizations

The most common way in which to work in the United States as an au pair is through an au pair organization. There are several organizations in Sweden which are authorized to have au pair programs:

  • ASSE Aspect Språkresor
  • Au Pair in America
  • Cultural Care Au Pair
  • goAUPAIR
  • Scandinavian Institute, SIIS
  • STS Au Pair

The applicant should contact one of the above organizations if he or she is 18-26 years old and interested in being placed with a U.S. family as an au pair.

Since au pairs placed with U.S. families through an authorized au pair agency receive J-1 exchange visitors visas the visa applicant should submit the same documentation with his or her application as any other applicant for a J-1 exchange visitors visa (see How to Apply for a J-1 Exchange Visitor's Visa).

Penalties for Illegal Au Pair Work

Penalties Suffered by the Illegal Au Pair

Persons traveling to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (e.g., Swedish citizens traveling without a visa as tourists or on short-term business for their non-U.S. employer) are permitted to stay in the U.S. no more than 90 days. Persons traveling to the United States with a visa are generally allowed to remain in the U.S. for a longer period, though the exact amount of time is left to the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officer interviewing the alien upon his or her arrival in the United States. In neither case, though, unless the prospective au pair has been appropriately issued a J-1 or B-1 visa, may an alien be employed as an au pair during the period of his or her stay.

  • Should an alien traveling to the U.S. - under either the Visa Waiver program or with a visa - stay longer than amount of time allowed the alien by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), he or she will be considered by the DHS to be unlawfully present in the United States. The DHS is authorized to deport any alien who has overstayed his or her allowed period of stay in the United States. Moreover, should the alien overstay his or her allowed period in the U.S., voluntarily leave the country, then seek to re-enter the U.S. at a later date, the DHS may not readmit the alien into the U.S.; the alien may be sent back - at his or her own expense - to the country from which the alien traveled to the U.S.
  • Should an alien traveling to the U.S. - either under the Visa Waiver Program or with a visa - work as an au pair in the U.S. at any time before or after the expiration of the allowed period of stay, he or she will have violated U.S. work authorization laws. As with the case of an overstay, the DHS is authorized to deport any alien who is working in the United States without proper authorization. Moreover, should the alien work without authorization during his or her allowed period in the U.S., voluntarily leave the country, then seek to re-enter the U.S. at a later date, the DHS may not readmit the alien into the U.S.; the alien may be sent back - at his or her own expense - to the country from which the alien traveled to the U.S.

 

Penalties Suffered by Those Employing an Illegal Au Pair

It is unlawful for a person or other entity to knowingly hire for employment in the United States an alien au pair that has not received work authorization. Any person found by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to have knowingly hired an illegal au pair may face civil penalties of up to $2000 for a first offense, with escalating fines up to $10,000 for subsequent offenses. Any person convicted of engaging in a pattern or practice of hiring unauthorized au pairs shall also face criminal penalties including fines of up to $3,000 for each illegal au pair that the person employed and imprisonment for up to six months.

Domestic or Personal Employees

Domestic Employee of a Diplomat Assigned to the United States

Effective February 9, 2000, there is a new requirement for the personal employees of foreign government officials assigned to an international organization or bilateral mission in the United States. A signed employment contract will be required before a visa can be issued to the personal employees of these officials. An employment contract is required to help assure that conditions for personal employees will be fair and in accordance with labor standards for all who work in the United States. This requirement is already in effect for all U.S. citizens who bring foreign national personal employees temporarily to the United States. Contracts do not have to follow any particular format, but at a minimum must include the following four provisions or elements:

  • A guarantee that the employee will be compensated at the state or federal minimum or prevailing wage, whichever is greater. Any deductions for food or lodging must be reasonable and agreed to by the personal employee;
  • The employee will not accept any other employment while working for the employer;
  • The employer agrees not to withhold the passport of the employee; and
  • The employee cannot be required to remain on the premises after working hours without compensation.

Visas cannot be issued to personal employees of officials assigned to the United States if the contract does not sufficiently address all of the previously mentioned criteria. It is the responsibility of the employer to complete the contract and to ensure that the employee both understands and willingly accepts its provisions. Information on prevailing wages in the United States is available through the Internet at www.erieri.com.

Domestic Employee of a Person Entering the United States with a B, E, F, H, I, J, L, M, O, or P Nonimmigrant Visa

Under U.S. law "personal or domestic servants" may accompany or follow to join employers who seek admission into or are already in the United States in B, E, F, H, I, J, L, M, O, or P Nonimmigrant status, provided:

  1. The employee has a residence abroad which he or she has no intention of abandoning (notwithstanding the fact that the employer may be in a Nonimmigrant status which does not require such a showing);
  2. The employee can demonstrate at least one year's experience as a personal or domestic servant;
  3. a) The employee has been employed abroad by the employer as a personal or domestic servant, for at least one year prior to the date of the employer's admission to the United States; or (b) If the employee-employer relationship existed immediately prior to the time of visa application, the employer can demonstrate that he or she has regularly employed (either year-round or seasonally) personal or domestic servants over a period of several years preceding the domestic servant's visa application for a Nonimmigrant B-1 visa; and
  4. The employer and the employee have signed an employment contract containing the following elements:
  • the term of employment;
  • a detailed description of the employee's duties;
  • a guarantee by the employer that the employee will receive the minimum or prevailing wage, whichever is greater;
  • he employer will provide free room and board; and
  • the employer will be the only provider of employment to the domestic employee.

The visa applicant should supply documentation supporting all the above-listed elements with his or her application.

Domestic Employee of a U.S. Citizen Temporarily Assigned to the United States

Under U.S. law "personal or domestic servants" may accompany or follow to join U.S. citizen employers temporarily assigned to the United States, provided:

  1. The U.S. citizen employer is subject to frequent international transfers lasting two years or more as a condition of his or her job, and is returning to the United States for a stay of no more than four years; this must be confirmed by a letter from the employer's personnel office;
  2. The employee has a residence abroad which he or she has no intention of abandoning;
  3. The employee can demonstrate at least one year's experience as a personal or domestic servant;
  4. (a) The employee has been employed abroad by the employer as a personal or domestic servant, for at least six months prior to the date of the employer's admission to the United States; or The employer can demonstrate that, while abroad, he or she has regularly employed (either year-round or seasonally) personal or domestic servants in the same capacity as that intended for the applicant; and
  5. The employer and the employee have signed an employment contract containing the following elements:
  • the term of employment;
  • a detailed description of the employee's duties;
  • a guarantee by the employer that the employee will receive the minimum or prevailing wage, whichever is greater;
  • the employee will be given at least two week's notice of the employer's intent to terminate the employment;
  • the employee will give at least two weeks notice of intent to leave the employment;
  • the employer will provide free room and board and round-trip airfare; and
  • the employer will be the only provider of employment to the domestic employee.

The visa applicant should supply documentation supporting all the above-listed elements with his or her application.