Update June 22, 2020: President Trump has issued an Executive Order barring approval of certain visa types, including J-1 visas. This order is effective until December 31, 2020. Au pairs currently in the U.S. are permitted to remain, and extend. New au pairs who have had visas approved will still be allowed to arrive in accordance with restrictions from the travel ban. Au pairs with active visas may travel outside of the U.S., though it is not recommended due to the travel bans and restrictions. Please work with your local coordinator and your agency. All of this is so new, the Department of State is still figuring out how to apply it. We’re certain there will be many updates ahead. Best of luck to everyone!
Hi, Abbie and Maddie here! There’s a lot of confusion about au pair extensions and visa renewals, so we’ve done some research for you.
After a year with Abbie’s family, Au Pair Y decided to extend with us. We were so excited to host her for a second year. Everything went smoothly with her extension paperwork…until she wanted to renew her visa. Then it became so confusing! Now it’s au pair C’s turn to renew her visa. Even though COVID-19 is making travel plans…murky…I still feel in a better place to help give her advice.
None of Maddie’s four extension au pairs had any plans to travel internationally during their extension year. Her au pairs only renewed their DS-2019s and none of them renewed their J-1 visas.
The DS-2019 and the J-1 Visa
The first thing to clarify is the DS-2019 and the J-1 visa.
The DS-2019 must be renewed for the second year (or any part of it).
The Department of State also reissues the DS-2019, which authorizes the au pair to both stay and extend their stay in the United States. (See j1vsa.state.gov link, as well as 22 CFR § 62.43 – Extension of Program and 22 CFR § 62.12 – Control of Forms DS-2019). The agency is considered the Sponsor and the host family is considered the Host/Employer.
Once the DS-2019 authorizes the extension, the J-1 visa permits re-entry into the United States. If your au pair doesn’t leave the US after their visa expires, it doesn’t matter. The DS-2019 has already authorized extended stay. The J-1 visa is only needed to authorize re-entry to the US.
Does an Au Pair Have to Renew Their J-1 Visa?
No. Not all au pairs choose to renew their visas. It is not required as long as they do not want to exit and reenter the USA in their extension year.
However, it might still be a good idea in case there’s an emergency or sudden need for the au pair to return home.
But if the visa doesn’t get renewed, your au pair can still travel between states within the US. Technically, your au pair can even travel to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean islands (minus Cuba) and still be able to return into the US if they:
- Were gone less than 30 days.
- Have their expired J-1 visa, a valid DS-2019, and an unexpired I-94 form.
- Are allowed to travel to these countries without a tourist visa (based on their home country)
However, not all border guards know about au pair rules. Your re-entry at the border or airport is ultimately up to the airline agent or immigration officer.
If you want to chance it, make sure your au pair has their passport, current and past valid DS-2019 forms (not copies), a recent printout of the I-94 form, and a copy of the Automatic Visa Revalidation provision.
Be prepared with extra patience, and especially try not to travel within 30 days of the end of the extension year. (Yes, this may make the au pair’s travel month more difficult if they want to take an international hop and then come back home for their stuff. Plan ahead with our host family and au pair departure checklist.)
Au pair J-1 Visa Renewal Process
It turns out that au pairs can’t renew their visas on U.S. soil. They must visit a U.S. embassy in another country (preferably their home country and a few months before their first year ends).
Make sure to plan ahead! U.S. Embassy wait times can be weeks away.
Au pairs are encouraged to renew their visa in their home country before their current visa expires. This is because there’s a possibility the embassy officer won’t renew the visa.
If the au pair renews their visa in another country after the original visa has already expired, their only option is to go home. That’s going to be an expensive, unplanned plane ticket.
1. Family and Au Pair Confirm Extension with the Agency
Both you and your au pair will confirm the extension. Your agency will have some sort of form for each of you to complete to make it official.
You’ll pay the agency fees to extend a second year, and the au pair will have to provide proof of the six educational credits and proof of the monthly contact with the LCC.
Part of the au pair’s extension fee is the $367 nonrefundable fee to the U.S. Department of State for the DS-2019 extension. Depending on the agency, the au pair may be asked to pay this fee. Some agencies charge this fee to the host family. Some agencies allow the family to pay the fee as a gift to the au pair. This is an excellent opportunity if you want to reward your au pair but can’t afford to give your au pair a raise.
2. The Au Pair Agency Sends the DS-2019
Au Pair Agency confirms all the requirements have been met, communicates with the US Department of State, and sends the new DS-2019 to the au pair.
The DS-2019 Form, also called a Certificate of Eligibility, is the document that allows the au pair to apply for the J-1 visa as part of the au pair program.
3. The Au Pair Schedules an Embassy Appointment
Next, the au pair schedules a U.S. Embassy appointment. Any U.S. Embassy will do, although their home country is preferred. The appointment will be at least a few weeks out, probably longer with COVID-19 (if at all). Check your chosen U.S. Embassy wait times.
In our case, au pair Y was from Japan but renewed her visa at the U.S. Embassy in Vancouver, Canada because we live close to Seattle. It was just like a long sightseeing trip for her and her friend.
Your au pair will start the process by filling out the DS-160, non-immigrant visa application form. At this point in the process, they’ll also schedule the appointment for their visa interview at their chosen embassy, and pay the visa application fee.
Once your au pair has their visa interview date, they can make travel plans. They’ll also need to plan their visit for a few days after the appointment to give time for the Embassy to process the paperwork. It’s not just walk in, walk out, and done.
They’ll also need to get another set of passport-quality photos (Costco is really cheap).
4. The Au Pair Attends the Embassy Appointment
When the au pair goes to their embassy appointment, they’ll need all the paperwork:
- Passport with current J-1 visa.
- New passport photos.
Then they wait for processing. In some locations they will be able to pick up the completed paperwork at the Embassy. In other locations they will need to figure out how to receive mail. Typically they can talk to the hotel/hostel staff to arrange for mail delivery.
Further Reading About Au Pair DS-2019 and J1 Visas
If you or your au pair knows you’ll need to travel outside of the United States during the au pair extension year, here are a few more articles to help:
- Interexchange article on traveling during your au pair extension year.
- Au Pair Care visa renewal information (PDF).
If you’re not renewing the J-1 visa, become familiar with Automatic Visa Revalidation if traveling to Canada, Mexico, or Caribbean for less than 30 days.
If your au pair is renewing their J-1 visa, these links will help:
- Travel.State.gov page on COVID Visa Services and Restrictions.
- List of US Embassies.
- Visa appointment wait times.
As always, check with your local coordinator and your agency. Here are links for some agency COVID-19 announcements and updates:
- Cultural Care Au Pair Coronavirus Updates and FAQs.
- Au Pair International Coronavirus and the Au Pair Program.
- Au Pair USA/Interexchange Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak Updates.
- Go Au Pair What is Go Au Pair doing about the Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Did Your Extension Au Pair Renew Their Visa?
How did it go? Have any tips or tricks or stories to share? We’d love to hear them in the comments below.
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!