Au Pair and Host Family Taxes

Au Pair and Host Family Taxes

Taxes suck! They are complicated, time-consuming, and financially draining. We know that you’d rather be off playing with your kids, so we pulled together some tax basics to help get you pointed to in the right direction – for your au pair’s taxes as well as your own.
This post was originally published March 8, 2019 and was updated on June 26, 2020.
DISCLAIMER: Please consult your tax advisor or the IRS for definitive answers about your personal tax situation and your au pair’s taxes. General tax information provided in this article does not constitute tax advice.


Keep in mind that host family taxes and au pair taxes are separate. The only thing that’s the same for both of you is the due date: July 15th, 2020. (Well, and that you both are dealing with the IRS.)

Everything else about the au pair’s taxes and the host family’s taxes are completely separate.

Separate forms. Submitted separately.

And no penalty to either person if the other person doesn’t file or files incorrectly.


Let’s start with taxes for your au pair. Hopefully your au pair has been saving $20 per week (or about 10% of their stipend). If not, they may have some catching up to do.

Keep in mind that the US tax system is unlike any other in the world and the directions are complicated (and not in your au pair’s primary language). We strongly suggest you help your au pair along the way. This is a great way to build rapport and maybe earn some brownie points in case you get stuck in traffic on your way home from work next week.

Au Pair Tax Checklist

Here’s what your au pair will need to do her or his taxes:

IRS Form 1040-NR-EZ for Non-Resident Aliens

This form is not available to my knowledge in tax software such as TurboTax, Quicken, etc. so you’ll have to go to the IRS website (links above and below) and fill it out, or find an online company that specializes in foreign exchange student and expatriate taxes.

If you want a company to help you with your taxes, here are two options: Sprintax and Abbie’s agency last year, Au Pair Care, suggested them in a notice to parents. If you know of any others, please let us know!

Here are some helpful resources right from the IRS about au pairs and the 1040NR form:

Sample Au Pair 1040-NR-EZ

Free download for one possible way to fill out an au pair’s 1040-NR-EZ.

DISCLAIMER: Please consult your tax advisor or the IRS for definitive answers about your personal tax situation and your au pair’s taxes. General tax information provided in this article does not constitute tax advice.

See our downloads page for a list of all the My Au Pair and Me documents.

Some Basic Au Pair Assumptions

Here are some of the assumptions we’re making for this article from reading the 1040NR-EZ instructions.

Your au pair:

  • Is single.
  • Is not claimed as a dependent, and has no dependents.
  • Has less than $100,000 in earnings.
    • $10,179 = the weekly stipend salary of $195.75 x 52 weeks (for au pairs who extended into their second year).
  • May have some interest from checking or savings account.
  • The only deductions are state and local income taxes.

Definitely consult a professional tax professional if your au pair was previously in the United States as a student, teacher, trainee, or researcher on an F, J, M, or Q visa. That might change their status and they might be subject to social security or Medicare taxes.


Calculating Taxes

Following our assumptions, let’s take the path that our example au pair, a woman, is considered a non-resident alien with pretty simple finances, and will fill out Form 1040NR-EZ.

She arrived in the United States for training on Monday, August 26th, 2019. She joined our family on Friday, August 30th and receives $200/per week stipend.

Using the date calculator, I can see she’s been here 128 days (remember to include the end date).  And if I scroll down on the website, it’s easy to count the weeks and calculate how much I paid her (14 weeks x $200/week = $2,800)

The tax table starts on the IRS 1040NR Instructions Page 22. By finding her pay, I can then see how much taxes she owes. If the payment is on the split between two rows, use the bottom row. See the red box in the screenshot below.

This au pair owes $281.

IRS 1040NR Instructions Page 22 Tax Table

IRS 1040NR Instructions Page 22 Tax Table

Paying Taxes

Once the tax forms are complete, your au pair will probably have to pay taxes. The IRS 1040NR Instructions Page 11 has information on all of the ways you can pay: online, phone, app, check, or money order.

Online Payment

If you pay online, either use the IRS2GO app or start at

  • Direct deposit is only available with a bank checking account. You must have filed taxes last year for them to confirm your identity.
  • Payment by debit card or credit card is available for a fee.

After you’ve paid online, you still need to mail your 1040NR-EZ. Put your signed 1040NR-EZ form in a stamped envelope and send it to this address:

Department of the Treasury
Internal Revenue Service
Austin, TX 73301-0215

Payment with Check

If you are sending a check or money order, put it and your 1040NR-EZ together in one envelope (remember to sign it!), and send it to this address instead:

Internal Revenue Service
P.O. Box 1303
Charlotte, NC 28201-1303


Did we already say the advice here is no substitute for the advice from a tax professional? We did? Good. 

Now let’s dive into the tax considerations for au pair host families. Remember that the advice here is no substitute for advice from a tax professional.

If you need specific support, please consult your tax advisor or the IRS for definitive answers about your personal tax situation.

Can host families deduct the cost of their au pair?

If the stars align just perfectly, the stipend you paid to your au pair, the costs of room and board, and the fees you paid to the au pair sponsor agency are all eligible expenses under federal tax programs.

There are two potential federal tax programs that you may be eligible for if an au pair is providing child care services in order for you to work or to look for work.

  1. The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit can be claimed when you file your taxes.
  2. Also, some employers offer dependent care reimbursement programs called a Dependent Care Flex-Spending Account (FSA) through pre-tax payroll deduction.

You will also need to meet the other qualifications to receive these tax deductions such as dependent qualifications and income limits.

These deductions are typically in tax software such as TurboTax, Quicken, etc. If you need help I still suggest that you consult your tax advisor or the IRS for definitive answers about your personal tax situation.

Some families (especially in Massachusetts) may also need to change their tax situations to include au pairs as household employees. Here’s the IRS link to Hiring Household Employees and Publication 926, Household Employer’s Tax Guide.

Au Pair Timecards Free PDF

Au Pair Time Sheet (Time Card) and Payment Receipts

Download the Free Au Pair Time Sheet PDF to keep track of your au pair’s hours worked. Also, document when and how much your au pair was paid.

See our downloads page for a list of all the My Au Pair and Me documents.

Host Family Tax Checklist (not household employers)

Whether you’re using a tax professional or doing your own taxes (you go!), then here’s what you’ll need.

Must have to file:

  • Social Security number for your au pair.
  • Receipt for stipend payments to your au pair. (See our downloads page)
  • Receipt for payments to the agency. (See your agency portal page.)
  • Tax identification number for your agency (should be on your agency payment receipt).

Should have on hand in case you’re audited (but not required to file):

  • I-9 Form (Employment Eligibility Form): fillable PDF or paper version, and instructions.
    • For page 2 List A, it’s common to use Receipt Foreign Passport, work-authorized non-immigrant, then Form I-94, then Form DS-2019 as shown below in the partially-filled out form. If you look on List A in the instructions, it says, “For a nonimmigrant alien authorized to work for a specific employer because of his or her status, a foreign passport with Form I/94/I-94A that contains an endorsement of the alien’s nonimmigrant status.”
    • Use your own judgment and tax professional advice.


Options for Form I-9 Employment Eligibility List A

Do I Withhold My Au Pair’s Taxes?

Host families are NOT required to withhold the au pair’s taxes. However, they can on behalf of the au pair IF the au pair asks AND the host family agrees.


So, if you don’t have a tax professional and you still want some help, we always recommend speaking with your local area coordinator.

You can comment below, and we welcome questions and just general venting in the My Au Pair and Me Community Facebook group. (The standard “we are not tax professionals” disclaimer stands for the Facebook group, but sometimes it’s just nice to vent.)

You can always contact the source. The phone number for the IRS is 1-800-829-1040 within the US or 267-941-1000 outside of the US.

Regardless, we wish you the BEST OF LUCK!!!!


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Au Pair and Host Family Taxes
Au Pair and Host Family Taxes

Au Pair Taxes

Reward Your Au Pair Without Giving a Raise

Reward Your Au Pair Without Giving a Raise

Hi, Abbie here! My husband is a teacher (and teachers never get paid what they’re worth). After a lay off two years ago, I alternated between unemployment and contract jobs. Now I have an amazing job I love, but we have some debt we need to pay down. We can’t afford to give our au pair a raise like Maddie and her husband. However, there are things I can do to reward my au pair and show her how much I appreciate everything she does for us.

Note: This article is about raising your au pair’s compensation above and beyond the minimum requirements. It goes without saying that you need to follow the program rules about how many hours your au pair works. You also need to provide basics like room, living expenses, and anything required for caring for your children like phone and transportation.

The power of thank you

One of the easiest things to do that doesn’t cost anything is saying thank you. Say it often and with specific examples.

It’s fun to have the kids write our au pairs thank you notes and reminding them to tell her thank you. I also tell them how lucky they are because of something she did for them.

Sometimes I’ll randomly text my au pair a thank you. Maybe it will be for getting to the bottom of the kids laundry pile. Or for how nice the children’s room looks because I know my boys forgot to make their beds (again). Yes, it’s her job but I still appreciate her work.

Think like a startup employer

Our au pairs are part of our family, but there is still a bit of an employer-employee relationship. As such, some of the things I learned from my time as a contractor gave me ideas for how I can reward my au pair without a raise.

At one of my contract jobs, the pay was lower than I would have liked. On the up side they were all about the free snacks in the break room and quarterly team-building events. Another previous employer was very liberal with thank you notes including movie tickets.

Searching the internet gives some good ideas, too. Like this article about 121 creative ways to reward employees.

Reward your au pair with a bonus instead of a raise

The bad (good?) part of a raise is that it’s permanent. Once you increase wages, they’re there for the rest of the year (and possibly the extension year).

A bonus is a nice one-time way of giving monetary compensation when you are not sure you can commit to raise. Try timing your au pair’s bonus after you receive your bonus payout. Depending on how much you receive, you can carve off some as a bonus for your au pair.

If you give your au pair money as a gift for birthday or holidays instead of a bonus, then it’s not wages and she doesn’t have to include it in taxes.

The other nice thing about a bonus is that it feels more substantial when you give the entire amount at one time.

Reward your au pair with extra time off

Au Pair I in PeruAlthough teachers don’t get paid what they deserve, they do get summers and extra time off. Since my husband is home, our au pair’s life gets super-easy.

All our au pairs have had very liberal vacations to jaunt around the country. Our second au pair, from Europe, got to take an amazing trip to Peru and see Macchu Picchu.

All of our au pairs have taken advantage of three-day weekends to take short road trips in our area.

We’re also super-mindful to make sure our au pair has plenty of time to hang out with her friends (or boyfriend). It shows we care about them, and we recognize how much they care about us.

Reward your au pair by paying for something extra

The bad part for au pairs about both a bonus and a raise is that they will have to pay taxes on the extra income. If your au pair is not the planning-ahead type, that extra income might add stress come taxes April.

Instead of paying your au pair directly, consider paying for something instead. As an example, we don’t ask our au pair to pay for gas when she uses the car in her personal time unless it becomes excessive. (It helps we have a Prius and she’s pretty reasonable about not putting too many miles on the car.)

Is her favorite band coming to town? Consider picking up two tickets (and make sure she is off duty that night and the next morning).

Sometimes I see things that I know my au pair “needs” so I make sure she has them. For example, Costco had these things that slip on over your shoes to give you extra traction when walking on ice. Without making a big deal, I put them on the desk in her room and let her know they were hers if she wanted.

Our first au pair had a certain brand of tea she liked from back home in Japan. Even though the rest of us didn’t drink it, we always made sure to include it in the family grocery list. Keeping her supplied in tea made her happy, and wasn’t that much extra in the grand scheme of things.

Six credits usually cost more than the $500 we’re required to pay. Some families pay for all six credits without making the au pair pay the extra difference. I’ve also heard of families paying for the au pair’s extension fee, or at least part of it.

Reward your au pair without costing you money

Rewarding your au pair doesn’t even have to be money that comes out of pocket. My credit card earns airline miles that I can’t use yet. (Taking a family of six on an airplane is a lot of miles!) When my au pair decided to take a weekend course out of state, I used my airline miles. That’s money she saves and doesn’t “cost” me anything.

Another example would be to look through your kitchen drawer for unused gift cards. I still had some of those movie gift cards from my previous employer so I treated my au pair and her boyfriend.

Find a great buy one get one free deal? Gift the second item to your au pair if it is something she would appreciate.

What makes you feel appreciated?

Think about your own job. How do you like to be recognized at work? What are some things your company does to reward employees other than giving a raise? Leave a comment below with your experience, we’d love to hear them.

Or if you’re a host family, pop on over to our My Au Pair and Me Host Family Community on Facebook. It’s nice to talk to other host families and know you’re not alone!


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Reward Your Au Pair Without Giving a Raise
Reward Your Au Pair Without Giving a Raise
Reward Your Au Pair Without Giving a Raise
Tips For Scheduling Across Time Zones

Tips For Scheduling Across Time Zones

Hi Abby here! Scheduling meetings in different time zones is important when you are setting up interviews with potential au pairs. In my daily work, I schedule meetings with customers and co-workers all over the world. And even though I do this often, it still takes practice to schedule across time zones. These are the tips, tricks, and tools I use to make world scheduling easier.

Minimize confusion when you set up the meeting

The best way I’ve found to reduce scheduling confusion is to use the other person’s time zone and state the time zone. I then add my time and time zone in parentheses so they can see the time difference.

For example, “Do you have time to Skype at 4:00 pm Paris time?” or “Let’s meet at 5:00 p.m. your time in Berlin (8:00 a.m. my time in Seattle).” Most countries use the 24-hour clock so you might even write, “Can we chat at 1100 Tokyo time (2100 Atlanta time)?


There are numerous other apps and most smartphones have the ability to show clocks in multiple time zones at once.

My personal favorite is World Time Buddy because it shows me the whole day at once. This saves me from having to mentally calculate the time differences if the meeting time changes. I will also go over Time and Date Meeting Planner, Google Calendar, and Calendly as alternatives to World Time Buddy.

World Time Buddy and World Clock Meeting Planner

World Time Buddy and World Clock Meeting Planner help visualize the time differences between your location and two other locations at the same time. With a free account World Time Buddy will even remember your time zones so you don’t have to enter them every time.

Screen Shot of World Time Buddy showing timelines from three international cities

World Time Buddy


Screen shot from World Clock Meeting Planner showing times in two international cities

World Clock Meeting Planner

Google Calendar

Most calendars have the ability to show different time zones. In Google Calendar, go to the settings gear in the upper right corner. Then scroll down until you see “Time Zone”.

Screen shot of Google Calander settings for Time Zones and World Clock

It will only show two time zones along the left side of the daily calendar. However, you can add multiple time zones in the World Time Zone clock module below the monthly calendar.

Screen Shot of Google Calander With Time Zones and Word Clock Enabled


Another tool that may help you schedule across time zones is Calendly. What I like about Calendly, besides being free, is that you can set the times you’re available. Then, time zones are handled automatically.

To use Calendly you set up your availability, then you send out a link. This gives people the ability to sign up for the times that are convenient for them. There’s no email back and forth required.

Going to a web site and signing up for a time slot may feel a little impersonal. But the convenience can make up for it.

Screen shot of calendly showing what the user sees when they click on your link to schedule a meeting

DO YOU Have Tips for Scheduling ACROSS TIME ZONES?

Do you have any tips or tricks for setting up meetings across time zones? What are your favorite apps and tools? We would love to hear from you in the comments below. If you are an au pair host mom or dad join us in our Facebook group My Au Pair and Me Host Family Community. It’s nice to talk to other host families and know you’re not alone!


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Tips For Scheduling Across Time Zones Pinterest Pin
Tips For Scheduling Across Time Zones Pinterest Pin

Tips For Scheduling Across Time Zones Pinterest Pin

How to Get Your Au Pair’s Social Security Number

How to Get Your Au Pair’s Social Security Number

Abbie here. Our new au pair just arrived a few weeks ago, so I thought I’d share my experience helping her get her social security number. This is my third time doing this. While it’s definitely easier than doing it with our first au pair, I still forget all the details. This time I prepared a bunch of questions to ask the Social Security person so I could share all the answers with you.

Prioritize your trip to the Social Security office

The social security office isn’t something most of us have to deal with on a regular basis (thank goodness). Even more rarely do we interact with them as a citizen of a foreign country. So helping your au pair get her or his SSN might be a little intimidating.

Prioritize getting your au pair’s social security number as something to do in the first week. It’s very likely that you’ll need it for the bank or credit union, driver’s license, and college registration. And it makes it easier when it comes time to file taxes in April.

Why do some sources suggest waiting?

Some internet advice suggests waiting a few weeks to give the immigration database time to update. However, most au pair agencies have a week of training between when the au pair goes through customs and arrives at the host family’s house. That’s at least 4 to 5 days for all the paperwork to process.

When I asked the social security officer behind the window about the waiting time, she said that it doesn’t apply to J-type visas (which is what the au pairs use). It only applies to other types of applicants. She said it was fine to come into the office as soon as you want.

The other reason you may have to delay making the trip to the Social Security Office is that some agencies mail the DS-2019. Both of my agencies (Au Pair Care and Cultural Care) gave the au pairs their paperwork during training. Maddie’s agency (EurAuPair) mailed it. Check with your au pair and see what paperwork they have (or don’t have). And always feel free to ask your local coordinator or on the My Au Pair and Me Host Family Community on Facebook for help.

What paperwork do Au Pair’s need?

When you go to the Social Security office, your au pair will need:

  • The au pair’s passport with the visa inside.
    • The passport should also have an I-94 stamp (or a printed I-94), which establishes date of arrival.
  • DS-2019 form from your au pair agency.
  • Social Security application form SS-5.
  • Helpful: Social Security letter from your au pair agency.
  • (Honestly, I just have my au pair bring ALL the paperwork. But double check for the passport+visa and DS-2019.)

If you read the SS-5, it says the requirements are to establish age, identity, and citizenship or immigration status. The passport and visa satisfy the first two requirements, and the DS-2019 establishes immigration status. The agency may provide a social security letter as well, which covers the “letter authorizing employment from your sponsor”, which can be used in addition to the DS-2019 to establish immigration status.

Filling out the SS-5

When my au pair and I went to the Social Security office, I forgot about the SS-5. Luckily they had a pile of paper forms, so we filled it out while we waited. You can also download and fill out the PDF from

The SS-5 is pretty self-explanatory, but here are a few things that might help:

  • When filling out dates, many other countries put the day first then the month. Make sure the au pair puts the month first. (October 5th, 2019 is 10/05/2019 on the form but in Europe they would write 05/10/2019 or 5 Oct 2019.)
  • In section 5, check the box “Legal alien allowed to work” (the J-1 visa allows work in the U.S.)
  • You may have to help explain the mother’s maiden name in box 9, and help with the au pair’s phone number and address in boxes 15 and 16.

Here’s what the SS-5 has to say about evidence of immigration status:

You must provide a current unexpired document issued to you by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) showing your immigration status, such as Form I-551, I-94, or I-766. If you are an international student or exchange visitor, you may need to provide additional documents, such as Form I-20, DS-2019, or a letter authorizing employment from your school and employer (F-1) or sponsor (J-1).


SS-5 Form

Visit to fill out the SS-5 form.

Other Au Pair Social Security tips

You can use the Social Security Office Locator, but I used Google Maps. Both methods will also give you the hours that the office is open. Unfortunately, the office is probably only open Monday through Friday. It’s nice if one of the host family parents can go with the au pair, but if necessary the au pair can go alone.

If possible, arrive 15-30 minutes before the office opens to get at the beginning of the line. If not, because life doesn’t always work out like that, bring something to do and expect to wait for 1-2 hours.

One other tip the social security officer gave me was to tape the au pair’s name on the inside of your mailbox. She said she had people returning to the social security office, wondering why their card hadn’t yet been delivered. It turns out the mail carrier hadn’t delivered the envelope to try and keep the social security card safe. Because the mail carrier knew the names on the mail and the au pair’s name was new, it looked like an accidental delivery.

The new card will be delivered in 1-2 weeks. You might need the physical card for the bank or credit union or driver’s license application. But if you just need the number then you can come back to the office in a day or two and they can tell you the number.

Anything else?

Within the first two weeks, you should have a face-to-face sit down with your local coordinator. That’s a good time to ask questions and start building your relationship. It’s always helpful if you and your local coordinator get along.

And always feel free to ask questions in the My Au Pair and Me Host Family Community on Facebook. It’s nice to talk to other host families and know you’re not alone!

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Two Fun Language Games for Kids

Two Fun Language Games for Kids

Hi, Abbie here. One of the reasons I am excited about having an au pair, besides the savings and the extra help around the house, is the chance for my kids to be exposed to another language. Yeah, they enjoy Duolingo, and I have bi-lingual books for them to look at, but studies show that having a person to interact with makes a difference.

The last thing my super-active boys need is to sit and learn after a full day of school and occasional homework. I also hated to ask my au pair to try and make my kids sit at a table in the evening or during her off-duty days on the weekend. We had to get creative.

*This post contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, we may earn a small commission if you purchase through these links. For full details, see our Disclaimer Page.

Find the Word

This is something my au pair came up with. She cut out a few letters from a magazine and taped them in the journals. The boys then had to look for the words in French, and then translate them into English. (The third journal isn’t filled out yet because one boy wasn’t home at the time…)

Three bi-lingual books to choose from, and the journals prepared for word-finding.

Le Petit Prince and one boy’s journal

One boy chose Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince), and found the words in his journal. This particular book is French only, but I found one in both French and English on Amazon. The only suggestion I might make in the future is to have him write the English translation as well but it’s not bad for first grade.

On a side note, La Petit Souris Qui a Perdu une Dent is translated as “The little mouse who lost a tooth.” Our au pair was really excited to bring this book with her from France. It’s only in French, so she reads it to them and explains what it means. It’s their version of the Tooth Fairy. When a child loses a tooth, they place it under their pillow and a little mouse comes in the night and takes it and leaves a coin in its place.

The Cat in the Hat in English and French is a recent find from a bookstore I visited while on a business trip. (Really, what trip isn’t complete without a visit to a bookstore?) Anyway, I really like it because they have both sets of words on the page. They’re not next to each other, as the different grammar makes word-for-word translation weird to read, but it is helpful when kids are just starting out.

Childhood Nursery Songs

Nursery rhymes and kids songs are universal, and aren’t just for kids. Ever get songs from Thomas or Octonauts or Dora stuck in your head? Yeah, me too. At least if I get a song stuck in my head, it can be in a different language so I can use it as an opportunity to learn.

For Christmas last year, my parents got the boys this book, Comptines a chanter (or Songs for singing), for Christmas. It didn’t come with the CD, but I found all the songs on Spotify and made a French Childrens’ Songs playlist (also embedded at the end of this post). You can also find the songs on YouTube, if you want video, but I haven’t had the time to make a playlist yet.

Comptines a Chanter by Milan, a collection of French children’s songs

The hardest part is that my au pair opens the book, and wants to sing ALL the songs because she’s so excited and happy. My boys got a little overwhelmed. So, we narrowed it down to her favorite three and then the boys chose one to start with.

We chose Au Feu Le Pompiers, which is basically about calling for firefighters for a house burning down. The woman cook blames it on the man cook, and he blames her. It’s kind-of silly, but now we have some vocabulary (fire, firefighter, burning/burned, house, cook) and a good intro for discussing feminine and masculine nouns.

Learning another language and early childhood education are both really fun things for me to share with the boys and our au pair.

Your Turn!

How about you? Have you or your au pair done any foreign language activities with your kid(s)?

What language? What activity did you do? How did it go? We’d love to hear either in the comments below or over on our My Au Pair and Me Community on Facebook.

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How much does an au pair cost?

How much does an au pair cost?

Abbie here. When I first found out about au pairs, I thought that it would be really expensive. After all, the whole reason I had put my three pre-school boys in daycare in the first place was because I had a friend who was a nanny, and I knew how much she charged. But how much do au pairs really cost?

In this article, we’ll start with the general overall cost per year and month (the exact amount will depend on your agency, where you live, etc.), and then go into detail of all these sub-costs:

  • Agency fees
  • Au pair wages (stipend)
  • Additional fees such as education
  • Cost of doing business (insurance, phone plan, etc.)

This article contains affiliate links. If you use choose Cultural Care (Abbie) or Eur Au Pair (Maddie) as your agency and use the referral links, they will receive an agency credit at no cost to you. Please read our disclaimer page for details.


The short answer is “it depends.” The cost of an au pair can vary widely. This variance is based on factors such as the agency and program you choose and the cost of goods and services in your area. It also varies depending on how generous you choose to be.

On Average...

…an au pair will cost about $19,000 per year, which breaks down to about $1,580 per month, or $360 per week (yearly cost divided by 52 weeks).

I budget about $1700-$1900 per month (including a car payment for a third car) and other random expenses.


The break down of our sample agency costs are later in this post.

Depending on which part of the country you live in, how many children you have, and what ages they are, this may or may not make financial sense for your family. We are a firm believer in doing what makes sense for you.

Abbie says: When my boys were in daycare, the cost for all three boys AFTER the family discount was over $2,800 per month. That was more than our house mortgage payment! And that wasn’t even infant rates.

Now that my boys are older, before and after school care would run about $1,500 per month. BUT I wouldn’t have someone at home who helps me get the kids up, dressed, fed, to school, into bath, and into bed. Not to mention the added help with their laundry and bedroom, and another driver to take them to activities. The extra $200 or so per month is so worth it for my general sanity (well, what’s left of it anyway).


There are 15 au pair agencies licensed by the department of state. We have a free PDF download listing all the contact information and a small summary of each of them.

bbAu Pair agency fees run the range from just under $7,000 to about $9,000.

Most agencies require an application or registration fee (though that often gets discounted or waved) and possibly your initial interview with your local area coordinator before you can begin looking for au pairs. Generally, the fees are spread out. For example, you might have to pay an initial deposit once you match with an au pair, then another deposit, and then the final balance once she arrives.

Are Their Special Fees Should I Look For?

Absolutely! The US Department of State requires au pair sponsors agencies to be transparent about fees and other potential costs. However, they do not limit the types or amounts.

In addition to the agency fee, you are responsible for $500 towards the completion of the educational component of the au pair program (more about that later).

You should also look for additional transportation fees, visa or “SEVIS” (US Homeland Security student database system) fees, background check fees, application or registration fees, etc.

Agency Discounts

The application fee can be often waived. You can look for online codes, ask for a referral from a current family, get a code from an area director, or belong to a discount category.

The good news is that most agencies also have lots of other discounts they offer families:

  • New family
  • Military family
  • Military veteran family
  • Repeat family
  • Early match discount (for repeat families)
  • Switching family
  • Multiples (twins, triplets, or more)

We’ve put in the time and research to create a spreadsheet comparing all the costs and fees of all the agencies. You can download our spreadsheet for free! Once you choose an agency, visit their website to see if they’re running any seasonal specials or discounts.

Agency Affiliate Credit

Many agencies offer a credit anywhere from $250 to $500 or even $1,000 if you recommend them to other host families.

For example, if you were to sign up for Cultural Care through Abbie’s affiliate link (read Abbie’s story) or sign up for Eur Au Pair using Maddie Clark as your referral (read Maddie’s story), then Abbie or Maddie would receive a credit on their agency fees at no cost to you.

What Do Agency Fees Pay For?

The agency fees may seem spendy, but they cover a lot of things:

  • Coordinate the J-type visa for the au pair between multiple governments.
  • Interview the au pair, run a background check, and verify her experience.
  • Interview and background check you as the host family to make sure you’ll provide a safe place for the au pair to live. (After all, au pairs are someone else’s grown child.)
  • Provide training such as first aid, CPR, etc. for the au pair before she arrives at your home. For most agencies, this is one week of training at a center but can be online.
  • Pay a local and regional area coordinators, who are your first line of help if you or your au pair have any questions or issues, and coordinates monthly check-ins.
  • Visa assistance
  • “SEVIS” (US Homeland Security student database system) fees. This is variable between agencies
  • Medical, travel, accidental death, and personal liability insurance for your au pair
  • Airfare from the au pairs home airport to training and return airfare from your home airport to your au pairs home airport
  • Provide transportation from the training center to your house. This is variable between agencies
  • All the other infrastructure that goes into helping you and the au pair make a match, facilitating paperwork, building and maintaining the database of au pairs, etc.

Friendly RematchVery few parts of the fees are refundable once you’ve made a match, so make sure you match carefully. Check out our blog Let’s Talk About Rematch for the financial details of Maddie’s rematch.

Infant Specialization

If you have a child 3 months to 2 years old, your au pair must be infant specialized. To have an infant specialization, au pairs need to have 200 hours watching infants and some agencies require them to spend one more day in training than the other au pairs. The good news is that even though you have a higher agency fee, the infant specialization does not affect the weekly stipend.

Payment Plans

Since it’s pretty hard for most people to just come up with all the fees up front, most of the agencies offer payment plans over 4-6 months. Even though the payment plan will add another $200-$400 onto your total agency fee, it does make the payments more easy to manage.

Abbie’s Payments with Au Pair Care

I have three children, a singleton and twins, that were in preschool and are now in elementary school. Here is a sample payment for agency fees for a new au pair coming in from out of country:

$50               Application fee (lots of ways to waive this)
-$50              Application fee waived as a twin mom
$1,000          Deposit fee
-$200            Multiples Discount (in subsequent years, I got a -$500 repeat family and -$250 early match fee but not the multiples discount)
$2,870          Down payment
$35               SEVIS Fee
$475             Airfare from Academy in NY to Seattle (This depends on where you live)
$1,170          1st Installment
$1,170          2nd Installment
$1,170          3rd Installment
$1,170          4th Installment
$8,860          Total

Here are my payments extending our au pair for a second year…so much less expensive!.

$367             DOS extension fee
$2,290          Down payment
$1,050          1st Extension installment
$1,050          2nd Extension installment
$1,050          3rd Extension installment
$1,050          4th Extension installment
$6,857        Total

Maddie’s Payments with Eur Au Pair

I have two children. The second one was born during the time of my third au pair. Here are a sample set of my payments for an au pair from out of country.

$350       Application fee
-$350      Application fee discount
$7,845    Program fee
$500       Domestic flight fee
-$600     Repeat host family discount
$7,720  Total

Our au pair extended for 6 months and then we had a new au pair from out of country.

$367        SEVIS fee
-$367      SEVIS fee discount
$3,475    Extension fee – 6 months
$8,325   Program fee
-$600     Repeat family discount
$500       Flight fee
$60          Payment handling fee (for paying in five installments instead of a lump sum)
$11,760          Total (18 months, which works out to $7,840 for the first 12 months)


What makes au pairs so reasonable in out-of-pocket costs is that most of their compensation is in room and board, and the money you pay them is considered a stipend.

They shouldn’t have to pay for any regular meals or utilities, though of course they’ll buy their own snacks, go out with friends, and buy some clothes in the first few months they arrive. (No one that I know can fit a full year’s closet into a suitcase or two.)

The Standard Au Pair Stipend

The standard au pair minimum stipend is determined by the US Department of State in accordance to the Fair Labor Standards Act as interpreted and implemented by the U.S. Department of Labor. As of January 1, 2019 the au pair weekly stipend is a minimum of $195.75 per week. You can choose to pay them more, but since they are not allowed to work overtime, and you’re not allowed to pay them less even if they don’t work a full 45 hours, it can’t be tied to hourly work.  We both pay our au pairs $200 per week because it makes the math easier (especially the first few weeks paying cash before their bank accounts are set up).

It’s important to pay your au pair weekly as stipulated by contract, not bi-monthly or monthly.

$200 per week x 51 weeks = $10,200 yearly*

*Note: You only pay an au pair for 51 weeks because the first week they are in training.

One of the things you’ll do when your au pair first arrives is sit down and work out a mechanism and good day of the week to transfer pay.

Abbie says: I pay my au pair $200 per week in cash until I can just transfer money electronically to her bank account, and my au pairs have usually chosen Friday as their day of choice to be paid.

Maddie says: I pay my au pair $200 per week on a rotating schedule. On week one, my au pair gets paid the Friday after the work is complete. On week two, my au pair gets paid early on the Friday before the work is completed. This allows for direct deposit right into my au pair’s bank account.

Pro Au Pair Stipend

While all agencies have standard au pairs, some agencies have various names for pro au pairs: premier au pair, au pair par experience, au pair extraordinaire, au pair pro, au pair plus, etc. These au pairs often have daycare or teaching experience, or some other extra training that sets them apart. The minimum stipend for a pro au pair ranges from $215 to $250

per week depending on the agency.

Educare Stipend

Massachusetts Legal Decision Pin 3

For families with older children, you can have an au pair that only works a maximum of 30 hours per week. Educare au pairs are also required to take 12 credits (as oppose

d to the regular 6 credits) to complete the education component of the program and host families pay $1,000 towards their education (as opposed to the regular $500). The Educare minimum stipend is $146.81 per week.

The Massachusetts Au Pair Stipened

If you live in the state of Massachusetts than your au pair is considered a domestic worker. This means that you have to follow the federal au pair laws and the local laws. See our blog about the Massachusetts Legal Decision for more details.


The education costs are a little weird as it’s not really an agency fee.  It is required by the federal government through the agency, and usually paid on behalf of the au pair.

The $500 goes towards tuition and books for your au pair’s required 6 credits of education.

Some au pair agencies have programs where the au pair can earn all 6 credits in one long four-day weekend retreat. Our au pair did two 3-credit community classes, one in fall quarter and one in spring quarter.

We paid the full tuition and books for the first class, which was about $290, then the remainder of the $500 for the second class ($210). Our au pair paid the rest of all the costs for the second class.

Another required fee is the SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) fee. This expense is separate from the visa fee, and goes towards the program office and automated system that keeps track of people on a number of different types of visas.


If you require the au pair to have something to watch your children, you need to provide it!

Here is the summary of Abbie’s increased expenses:

$2,880 per year       Car payment for new-to-us car ($240/mo)

$1,200 per year       Car insurance increase (for the added car and driver)

$200 once                Cell phone

$240 per year          Cell phone plan ($20/mo to add her to our plan)

$4,520                      Total


Abbie here: Because we live in the suburbs without the best public transportation, we needed a third vehicle. My husband has his truck, I had my van, so we got a used Prius. I use the Prius to commute to work while the au pair drives the van so she can take the kids to school, pick them up, and take them to activities. Then on the evenings and weekends, the au pair and I switch: she drives the small car and I drive the kid-carrier.

And then because she drives my kids to and from school and activities, I also put her on our auto insurance as our “nanny.” The insurance company said that was pretty common.

You also need to consider the cost of gas for your au pair when she is working. Because of the fuel savings we gained by purchasing the Prius this was not a consideration in our budget. Another note here is that our au pair covers the cost of the gas she uses when she is on her own time.

Cell Phone

Because your au pair needs to call you or 911 in case of an emergency, you need to provide her a cell phone and added her to your plan. Do you require your au pair to drive? If so, you will also need to pay for some amount of data for GPS navigation if it is not available in the au pair’s vehicle. You may also want your au pair to be able to take pictures and send them to you at work.

Control Au Pair Cell Phone Expenses

Cell phones can be expensive. The cost of the phone, the accessories, and the usage plan really add up. But there are a few ways to keep these costs in check. Our blog, 3 Tips for Controlling Au Pair Cell Phone Expenses, covers the details on cell phone costs for your au pair. Above everything, good communication is key! You need to talk to your au pair about cell phones before they arrive.

When my first au pair arrived, I took the opportunity to get myself a new phone and reset my old phone to factory settings for the au pair. You can also get a decent phone on,, or other sites for $150 to $200. If she breaks or loses it, she should replace it. When our first au pair left, she gave back the phone for the second au pair. We have unlimited data, so I just paid the extra $20/month for an extra line.

Food and Utilities

We both agree, the increase to our electricity, water, gas, food, etc. has been minimal. In fact, our food budget has decreased because we’re eating out less and taking lunches to work instead of buying.


There are two different types of vacations you need to consider: the au pair’s 2 weeks of paid vacation time (her time away from you) and a family vacation where the au pair may or may not be on the clock.

Au pairs are entitled to a minimum of two weeks of paid vacation during their program year. Typically the family chooses the timing of one week and the au pair chooses the timing of the other week so long as it works for the host family. Also, this vacation time does not have to be taken a week at a time, your au pair can choose to break the time up if desired.

For family vacations, if you choose to bring your au pair along and she will be on duty at some point on the trip (dinner out while she watches the kids in the hotel pool!) you will need to provide room, board, and transportation.


Combining all the fees together, this is how we get our estimate at the beginning of the article of $1,580 per month of just au pair expenses, and our budget of $1,700 – $1,900 per month.

$6,800 – $8,800          Initial agency fees

$500             Education fees

$10,200        Au pair salary

$800 – $4,520 Extras and incidentals (phone, auto insurance, car payment)

$18,300 – $24,020 Total

$1,578 per month averaged out on a second year au pair without counting a car payment

$1,984 per month averaged out, INCLUDING a car payment.

How does this compare to the cost of your current child care situation? If you have one child, it may or may not be worth it. (Remember, if you have an infant you’ll have to add to the budget.)

If you have two children, the cost may be similar but it might be worth it to have an extra driver and more flexible schedule.

If you have three children (multiples make that happen real fast!), then this is probably a great cost savings and sanity saver.

What works best for you? If you have any further questions or comments, please feel free to leave a comment below or jump on over to our My Au Pair and Me Facebook Community. We’d love to chat.

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What is an au pair?

What is an au pair?

Abbie here. What is an au pair? Au pairs are like the best-kept childcare secret! I heard about au pairs from my friend Maddie. Maddie heard about au pairs from a friend of her Mother in Law’s at a party.

And even when Maddie got her au pair two years before me, I kept wondering how she could afford it. It seemed like something super fancy and out of my league. Then I looked into it and I found out it was so much less expensive than daycare for our three boys. It took me a while to get used to the idea (and to finally clean out the spare room in our house). Now my husband and I wish we had used au pairs as our childcare sooner.

Who is an Au Pair?

Au pairs are responsible young adults between the ages of 18 and 26 years old. Most are women, so we’ll generally use “she” to refer to au pairs, but some are men. I’ve heard the guys referred to as “bro-pairs” and are often hired for extra sports coaching or special needs.

Most au pairs speak English as a second language pretty well (they have to pass a test at their agency). Some au pairs come from English-speaking countries like Australia or Great Britain. However, I love the foreign exchange concept and ask the au pairs to help my kids learn at least some basic words in their language like counting and colors.

How Does Au Pair Childcare Work?

When I’m out and about, the quick answer I give is that an au pair is kind-of like a foreign exchange student nanny. But it’s much more than that. Their role is as a family member, a cross between a big sister (or brother) and a teacher.

Quick Definition of Au Pair

“Au pair” is a French word pronounced “oh pair” and literally translated means “on par” or “equal to.” Au pairs are considered family members, not servants.

Au Pair Family Life

The au pair comes and lives with you to provided childcare. In exchange, you provide room, board, and a weekly stipend (and a few other expenses). Au pairs eat meals with the family (yes, you have to feed them). They also might buy their own snacks and treats for themselves. Your Au pair must have their own private bedroom, but can share a bathroom. They aren’t allowed to live out, or to have second jobs.

She is a member of the family, so she can help with doing dishes after dinner if you cook. If she cooks dinner for the children, it’s generally not that big of a deal for her to cook enough for everyone. Mostly she needs not to be treated like a household servant.

The au pair cares for, plays with, and provides educational activities for your child or children. She can also help with general household tasks associated with their care. For example, she can do the children’s laundry and help keep their bedroom and playroom picked up. She is not responsible for your laundry or making your bed. She’s also not responsible for vacuuming the whole house, weeding the garden, walking the dog, cleaning the kitty litter box, etc. That doesn’t mean she might not choose to walk the dog when she goes out with the kids, but it’s not her responsibility.

The best thing is to have good communication up front and during your year together to set clear expectations and boundaries.

Au Pair Work Hours

Au pairs work up to 10 hours per day and 45 hours per week. This can even include weekends as long as they have one and a half consecutive days off per week. They must have one full weekend off per month (Friday evening through Sunday evening). Au pairs also get two weeks of paid vacation per year.

It is important to note that your au pairs hours do not have to be continuous. For example, you can schedule your au pair to work 2 hours in the morning to help your kids get ready for school. Then later that day she can work 8 hours when your children return home from school.

Another consideration is the educational requirement of the program. During the year they’ll need to earn 6 credits of classes. This is usually through a local community college or through a weekend away program. A 3-credit class at my local college is two days a week and she arranges to take them during her non-work hours.

Au Pairs and Infant Care

Au pairs can be responsible for caring for infants 3 months or older. Keep in mind that au pairs can help with infants younger than 3 months, they just can’t be fully responsible for them. In homes with children under two years of age au pairs are required to have at least 200 hours of documented infant care experience.


The main difference between nannies and au pairs are

  • Location
  • Employment
  • Price

Nanny vs Au Pair Location

Nannies are usually local (no visa required). You can meet them in person to interview them, watch how they interact with the children, etc. Although some nannies are live-in, most have their own homes and their own lives. For A nanny, you might get personal recommendations from someone you know or can contact. Au pair profiles have references of families and schools they’ve worked for in the past, but you won’t be able to contact them.

Nanny vs Au Pair Employment

Another difference is how long the nanny stays with you. With a nanny, you can have a trial period (which can be nice) or a nanny can stay with you for years (which is also nice). A nanny can also leave you at any time (which can leave you in a lurch). The au pair contract is for 12 months, and you can extend another 6, 9, or 12 months. And even when the au pair leaves, many families still keep in touch and visit each other after the contract has ended.

Nannies, being local, have their own lives and houses, and might be harder to find if you require evening or weekend hours. Au pairs also make friends with other au pairs and have activities outside of the family. But since they live with you it’s often easier to have a flexible schedule.

If something goes wrong with an au pair you can go into rematch, but that’s less likely to happen than a nanny flaking out on you. Rematches also happen less often because you and your au pair each have a monthly check-in with your local area coordinator. This coordinator helps to identify and solve problems when they’re small. There’s also a financial consideration to stick it out for a few more months until the contract is done.

Nanny vs Au Pair Price

The salary for au pairs is fixed regardless of if you have one child or four children. Some nannies have a flat price, but some nannies also have different rates for different numbers and ages of children. (Though nowhere near the per-child increase you’d see in daycare.)

According to an International Nanny Association (INA) salary survey in 2017, the average national hourly rate is $19.16/hour, which is more than $760 per week for 40 hours. Because a nanny is your employee, you also must pay taxes.

Au pairs live with the family and their room and board makes up a portion of their “pay”. The minimum au pair stipend is just under $200 per week for up to 45 hours of child care. If you add in all the agency and education fees, the cost is about $360 per week. If you add in extra costs such as phone bill and auto insurance, the cost come out to about $425 per week. The au pair is responsible for her own taxes, and the agency provides the au pair her own medical insurance.

We have all of the costs broken down in our post, How much does an au pair cost?


In the United States, there are 15 agencies licensed by the Department of State to coordinate the au pair exchange. They arrive on a J-type visa, which is different than either a work visa or a student visa, even though they do a bit of both. You must go through one of the licensed agencies in order to coordinate the visa.

Once you’ve picked some agencies, check to find out if you live within one hour’s drive of a local area coordinator or LAC. (LACs are sometimes called local counselor or LC, local childcare coordinator or LCC, etc.). If you live close to a city, you might be able to choose from a number of agencies. If you live in a more rural area, you might have only one agency to choose from.

Once you’ve chosen your agency and been interviewed by the local coordinator, then you can look through the list of au pairs on your agency’s website and start interviewing au pairs. Plan on approximately two months between signing up and your au pair arriving. Things can move slower or faster depending on your situation.

Sometimes families find their own au pair through word of mouth, au pair Facebook groups, etc. Some agencies will offer a discount for pre-matched au pairs. Most families just choose from the agency’s pre-approved list of au pairs.

Au pairs and host families sign a contract for 12 months, but they can extend for an additional 6, 9, or 12 months for a total of up to two years. You can also bring the same au pair back if she’s been out of the United States for two years and is still under 26 years old.

The Agency’s Responsibility

There are only 15 agencies licensed by the United States Department of State to grant au pairs J-1 type visas lasting 12 to 24 months.

You pay the agency a yearly fee of about $7,000 to $8,000. This fee goes towards research and background checks for au pairs, research and backgrounds check for you as the host family. The agency takes care of the paperwork between governments and provide training and orientation for new au pairs. They also pay the local coordinators to check in on and coordinate events for au pairs in a geographic area.

You also pay for the au pair to travel from the orientation week (usually in New York) to your house. (New York to Seattle is about $500). Eventually during the year you’ll pay up to $500 for her education. Au pairs are required to take a total of 6 credit hours over the year. (See How Much Does an Au Pair Cost?)


To be a host family, you have to meet a few qualifications:

  • The host parents or legal guardians (couples or single parents) have children at home from 3 months to 15 years old.
  • Either host parents/guardians or children must be U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.
  • Parents/guardians must be fluent in English (and most au pairs want to live in English-speaking homes to improve their language skills).
  • Live within a one-hour drive of your agency’s local care coordinator.
  • Accept the au pair as a full member of the family and an exchange program participant. She should be included in family meals, outings, and activities.


How Much Does an Au Pair Cost?

You pay your au pair about $200 per week (just over $10,000 yearly) for childcare. She can work up to 10 hours per day, up to 45 hours per week. Her shift can including evenings and weekends, though she must have at least one weekend off per month. She’s allowed 10 days (two work weeks) of paid vacation. During the year, she needs to take 6 credits of classes and you pay the first $500 towards her tuition. (See How Much Does an Au Pair Cost?)

As the host family, you provide her (or him) with a private bedroom (not shared), food, and anything required to help her watch your children.

Au pairs usually come with an international driver’s license. However, she will likely be required by your car insurance company to get a state driver’s license. If you want her to drive children to and from events you’ll need to provide her with a car and add her to your car insurance policy. You’ll also need to provide a basic phone and phone plan so she or he can contact you or 911 in case of emergency. (See How Much Does an Au Pair Cost?)


Au pairs can be a very cost-effective child care option, especially for families with more than one child.

Au pairs:

  • Are young women and men age 18-26 that provide live-in childcare for children ages 3 months to 17 years. The au pair must be infant-certified for children 3 months to 2 years old.
  • Can work up to 10 hours per day, with a maximum of 45 hours per week.
  • Can work evenings and weekends, but must have at least one full weekend off per month (Friday night to Sunday night) and one and a half consecutive days off per week.
  • Get a total of 2 weeks of paid vacation per year at times mutually agreed upon by the au pair and host family.
  • Provide childcare and can do light housework that pertains to the children.
  • Stay with the host family for 12 months, and can extend for an additional 6, 9, or 12 months.
  • Must earn 6 education credits throughout the year (either community education classes, or a weekend program).

Host families:

  • Provide the au pair with a private bedroom, meals, and a weekly stipend (usually around $200/week).
  • Include the au pair whenever possible in family meals, holidays, outings, vacations, and other family events.
  • Match with au pairs through one of 15 agencies licensed by the United States Department of State, who arrive on a J-1 visa.
  • Provide the au pair with $500 towards the education requirement.
  • Provide the au pair with tools necessary for watching their child(ren) (phone, transportation, etc.)
  • Must be U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents fluent in spoken English.

If you’re thinking about getting an au pair, please join our friendly My Au Pair and Me Community on Facebook. We’re a group of parents supporting each other, whether we have au pairs, or are looking to host an au pair.

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