Where to start after you decide to become an au pair?
Depending on what country you go to you might want to sign up with an au pair agency. For some countries it might not even be possible to get a visa if you don’t sign up with an agency. I also find it to be the safest option. The families who sign up with a host family invest a lot in finding the right au pair. After hearing stories from different au pairs (with and without agency) I learned that most problems occur with host families or au pairs who don’t sign up with an agency.
How to find an au pair agency
Sign up with one of the au pair agencies in your home country that offers an au pair program in the country you want to go to. There are too many agencies to name here, but a quick google search will probably provide you with your best options.
Agencies offer different program packages with different program fees, so do a lot of research. For example: does the agency buy you a plane ticket (higher program fees) or do you want to buy it yourself (usually cheaper).
What happens after you sign up with an au pair agency?
Lots of paperwork!
But don’t worry. It’s really not that boring. They will probably ask you to fill out some important forms and write a letter to potential host families. You can add some fun photos and sometimes even make a nice introduction video to go with your application.
Application Form: You usually start out by filling in an application form. On this form you write down some basic personal information like name, date of birth, address, etc. You also list your previous education and work experience.
Childcare Experience: One of the most important things when you apply for being an au pair is your childcare experience. Some agencies require au pairs have a minimum of 200 hours of childcare experience in the last two or three years. If you want to take care of children under the age of 2 then you sometimes have to have 200 hours of childcare experience with children in this age group alone. When applying with your agency you fill out all your childcare experience on a separate form and also provide one or more references (usually this can’t be a family member). Don’t have enough childcare experience? Try volunteering at a local childcare facility or at a children’s summer camp. You can also go babysitting on the weekends or during the evenings.
Character Reference: Besides a childcare reference you usually have to provide a character reference as well. This too can’t be a family member, but it might be a close friend, colleague or even an employer. Both your childcare and your character reference have to provide contact information so that your au pair agency can contact them to verify the information given on the forms.
Medical Forms: You and/or your doctor have to provide medical information such as vaccinations, surgeries, allergies and chronic illnesses. It’s also important to write down any medication you’re using.
Host Family Letter: Most au pairs have to write a letter for potential host families. You may introduce yourself in this letter and let host families know why you want to be an au pair and why you’re choosing to be an au pair in that specific country or area.
Photos: Take some nice, clear photos of yourself with your family, friends, and maybe some of the kids you’re babysitting. You can make a collage to send to potential host families.
Video Introduction: Some agencies prefer a video introduction over a host family letter or ask this in addition to the letter. Make a video of yourself talking about the same things as mentioned in the host family letter. If you’re good at making videos, you can also tape moments out of your daily life, such as you with your family, friends, and home and of you taking care of children.
As far as I know, an interview is required for all au pairs in all countries. It usually takes place in your home country after you send your paperwork back to the au pair agency. The interview can either take place over the phone or at the agency’s office. A good way to prepare for this interview is to write down why you want to work with children and why you have chosen a specific country. Try to think of any questions that might be asked regarding your paperwork. Most agencies might ask you to speak English during (part of) the interview to test your language skills. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! You should know some basic (high school level) English, but the most important thing is that you’re willing to try.
Some agencies combine the interview with a little workshop. In that case you will attend a meeting with other au pairs. You will have a chance to talk about the adventures that lie ahead of you. Use this chance to exchange contact information. It might be fun and helpful to keep in touch and hear or read about each other’s experiences.