“Au pair participants must complete at least six semester hours (or their equivalent) of academic credit in formal educational settings at accredited U.S. post-secondary institutions. As a condition of program participation, host family participants must agree to facilitate the enrollment and attendance of au pairs in accredited U.S. post secondary institutions and to pay the cost of such academic course work in an amount not to exceed $500 for six semester hours (or their equivalent).” -Department of State United States of America
Probably the most difficult aspect of satisfying the J-1 visa requirement for Au Pairs is the education component. In my opinion, this is largely due to the cost of American post-secondary education. Au Pairs must pay the international rate. University of Virginia’s current international rate is $1247.00 per credit. Piedmont Virginia Community College is $342.75 per credit. Another aspect of the education requirement that complicates things for Au Pairs is their limited availability due to work responsibilities. Au Pairs work up to 45 hours weekly. For example, my Au Pair was able to take UVA’s Multi-skills English class while I was on maternity leave from work, but otherwise, this would not have worked with our schedule as it meets twice a week mid-day. I needed childcare from 8am-5pm. Some families work non-traditional hours or have older children that attend school. Finding a class that is compatible with their work schedule and remotely affordable can be challenging in the US, but I’m here to help. Click here for a list of known education options for Au Pairs in Charlottesville.
Some Au Pairs will take a Weekend Class and tag on vacation. An Au Pair recently attended a weekend course in Las Vegas, NV this past spring. She arrived in Las Vegas Friday evening and attended class Saturday and Sunday completing 3 credit hours of education. She used some of her paid vacation time to experience Vegas with 2 other Au Pairs Monday through Wednesday before returning home Thursday afternoon. She had a great time. She planned this excursion ahead of time with two Au Pairs she met initially in orientation upon arrival in the US. Her Host Family paid $295 for the course, which included lodging and meals for the duration of the course. She paid for her flight and vacation expenses. She was required to complete a homework assignment prior to attending the course. The assignment was somewhat time consuming, but not difficult. When asked if she would recommend this to other Au Pairs, “YES!.”
The unofficial audit through University of Virginia is another affordable education option for Au Pairs. However, this requires more effort on the Au Pair’s behalf. To secure an unofficial (Free) audit agreement with a University of Virginia professor, an Au Pair must review available courses online and write the professor requesting an unofficial audit. The courses should be 100-200 level courses. It is entirely up to the professor to grant an unofficial audit. There is no exchange of payment. Although, I recommend giving a “gift” of appreciation to the professor at the completion of the course. When Au Pairs compose their request letter, they should explain who they are, their visa situation, why they are interested in the course, and what is needed in order to meet the education requirement. I encourage Au Pairs to compose their letter in advance to several professors to increase their chances of securing an unofficial audit. It is generally understood that an Au Pair is to attend and participate in class (sit near the front and purchase/borrow any text that is required for the course). Her work will not need to be graded as she will not receive a grade for this course. She will need a signed Uva letterhead documenting the hours she participated at the completion of the course. It’s a great way to experience the American University without paying thousands of dollars, but it can be disappointing when Au Pairs do not receive the reply they are hoping to receive from a professor.
A popular option among Charlottesville Au Pairs is UVA’s multi-skills English class. This is held in the fall and spring. This class focuses on the areas of vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation to reinforce listening, speaking, and reading for the intermediate to advanced student. It is a non-credit course of 40 hours of instruction and costs $200. Au Pairs must register online prior to attending a group screening meeting. The next group screening meeting will be held on August 26 from 9-12pm at UVA’s International Center. Classes are held Monday and Wednesday mornings at two different times based on English proficiency.
As the American university experience is becoming more and more online based, maybe the US Department of State might amend their education requirements to include online education from accredited American colleges and universities. I’ve sent them many a letter over the last three years. Maybe I should start a petition? I will tell you, Au Pair in America has been granted a pilot online program through UCLA. My last Au Pair completed this online program with ease. Assignments are completed weekly on the Au Pair’s time and thus flexible with any work schedule. Assignments are practical and interesting as they relate to American history and culture. Successful completion of the course provides the Au Pair with 6 credits. It cost only $500. The Au Pair never has to use her own funds for education. Why Au Pair in America? Well, they are technically the oldest Au Pair agency. They were founded in 1986. Cultural Care was founded in 1990. Naturally, Au Pair in America was chosen to pilot an online program accredited through an American university.
Dear Department of State,
I think the APIA UCLA pilot is a success. Let’s allow other agencies to do the same.