For our May cluster meeting we did a tour inside of the Washington Monument. This was our first Washington Monument tour since before the pandemic! We were very happy to have a great turnout and gorgeous weather.
In the final months of your au pair year, it can be tempting to become relaxed in the way you complete your duties. You may be thinking about your travel month, returning home and the next chapter of your life. That can be exciting and sometimes a little overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to talk with your host family, community counselor and friends if you need support.
You have done a wonderful job and made it so far! Don’t forget you are still an important part of your host family and they are still counting on you in these final months of your program.
10 Things to Know Before You Go
- There is always some risk with traveling outside of the U.S., as re-entry is at the discretion of the port of entry agent. APIA recommends that au pairs and host families discuss the risks and decide whether they are comfortable.
- Please review the appropriate checklist(s) from APIA, as you make your travel plans.
- All Au Pairs must mail their original DS-2019 along with a Travel Validation Request Form to APIA, at least 3-4 weeks prior to international travel. Not sure how to mail this? Check out this blog post with step-by-step instructions. Note: The travel validation ensures that you are in good standing with the program, it is not formal permission to travel.
- Year 1 Au Pairs must have a valid visa to travel internationally and plan to return to the U.S. prior to the date their visa says it expires. This can be different from the actual program end date.
- Year 2 Au Pairs may visit Canada, Mexico, and the adjacent islands due to the Automatic Revalidation Policy. No other international travel is allowed in Year 2.
- Year 3 Au Pairs (special extension) are not permitted to travel internationally.
- All Au Pairs must independently research whether they will need an additional visitor’s visa for their destination. This will depend on their nationality and travel destination.
- Only fully vaccinated travelers will be admitted into the U.S. This means that all foreign visitors must be vaccinated against COVID-19 and must show proof of vaccination before boarding a U.S.-bound airline.
- All Au Pairs will need to get a COVID-19 viral test (regardless of vaccination status or citizenship) no more than 1 day before they travel by air into the United States. They must show the negative result to the airline before boarding the flight. This test is not for a medical reason, so it will not be covered by insurance and you will need to cover the cost yourself.
- When you return to the U.S. you should follow CDC and local guidelines regarding quarantine and testing.
We had a beautiful day for our April cluster meeting at the U.S. Botanic Garden.
Established by Congress in 1820, the U.S. Botanic Garden is the oldest continuously operating botanic garden in the United States. Admission is free and it is located in view of the U.S. Capitol. For more information visit their website here: https://www.usbg.gov.
Program rules dictate several situations when the host parents are required to cover an au pair’s transportation costs. Aside from those specific requirements there are some things to consider when deciding how to handle an au pair’s personal transportation.
Situations when host parents are responsible for the au pair’s transportation costs:
- To/from cluster meetings
- To/from classes (for the education requirement)
- When they are transporting the host children
What are some ways host parents can pay for those required transportation costs?
- By providing car use and paying for the cost of gas in those situations
- By giving an allowance for Metro or bus fare
- By giving an allowance toward Uber/Lyft
Who is responsible for an au pair’s transportation in her free time?
- If an au pair has car use, it would be reasonable for the host parents to ask her to pay for the gas used for personal car use.
- If no car use is provided and an au pair must rely solely on public transportation, many host parents will give a transportation allowance to help with those costs.
What factors should you consider when deciding how to handle personal transportation costs?
- Where do you live?
- If you live in the city, you may be within easy walking and/or bike-riding distance to shopping and activities.
- If you live in the farther out suburbs, there isn’t normally much an au pair can walk or bike to.
- Is car use provided?
- When host parents provide car use, that includes them covering the cost of car insurance and maintenance. So, it is fair to ask the au pair to pay for her own gas for personal use.
- If host parents are not providing car use, many will figure out how much they are saving by not paying for insurance and maintenance costs and offer that to their au pair as an allowance for public transportation (metro, bus, Uber/Lyft).
Other Things to Consider
- Au pairs are happiest when they are able to explore the area and make friends. This goes a long way to reduce homesickness and ensure a great cultural exchange experience. The more host parents can do to support this, the more successful their match will typically be.
- When car use is provided, be clear about any limitations. Is it okay to transport friends, take the car overnight, go on a road trip, drive to Baltimore or Ocean City? In what situations does she have automatic permission and when does she need to ask in advance?
- Every match is different. Transportation is only one aspect. Whatever works well for a host family and their au pair is what’s best (as long as the minimum program requirements are being met). Things like whether a host family is paying a higher stipend (over the regulation minimum), offering other benefits and driving the au pair to some places all may factor into how personal transportation costs are handled.
- Please discuss transportation plans for cluster meetings in advance. Participation in cluster meetings is important for an au pair’s overall cultural experience, making friends and getting to know her counselor. Transportation to meetings should not be an impediment to those experiences. Add cluster meetings to your calendar as a reminder to reimburse your au pair if she is attending the meeting.
If you have questions or concerns about how to handle transportation, reach out to your counselor to discuss.
Photo: Andrea Piacquadio
“Game plan” means a strategy for how you are going to accomplish something. In the case of keeping kids from getting bored and/or into trouble, the best way to prevent it is to keep them busy with safe, fun activities.
When there are days home from school, letting kids sit around watching TV or playing video games is not the best use of their time. Providing fun alternatives will make it much easier to pull them away from the screen.
You need to make a plan of what you will do with them each day and prepare for that. Planning is very important. You don’t want to tell them you are going someplace fun, only to arrive there and see they are not open that day or you needed to bring something and you don’t have it.
If your plan includes a craft or cooking project, make sure you have:
- All the ingredients/supplies
If your plan includes an outing to someplace fun, figure out:
- How will you get there?
- When you should leave?
- How much it will cost?
- What will you do for lunch?
Use some of these online resources to find activities and recipes:
Have a Wonderful Spring Break!
Being knowledgeable in basic first aid and CPR is important for au pairs (and anyone else caring for children). Au Pair in America’s commitment to infant/child safety begins before au pairs arrive in the U.S., with pre-arrival training and continue throughout the au pair year.
#1 Training At Orientation
Our orientation training includes a course by American Red Cross on infant/child CPR and safety. Additional child safety training covers a variety of aspects of child safety and cultural differences in common childcare practices.
#2 Enroll in a Red Cross Certification Class
After settling into their host community, all au pairs are encouraged to complete an Infant/Child CPR and First Aid certification program. Au Pair in America will pay for this training through the American Red Cross.
Classes are available through the Red Cross. Au Pair in America will pay for the cost of a class providing an au pair has at least six months left on her visa and is taking one of several approved childcare/child safety-related classes, such as Adult and Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED. Au pairs should check with their community counselor and host family before signing up. Au Pair in America will register the au pair directly.
#3 Stay Current on Safety Information
The official American Red Cross First Aid app puts expert advice for everyday emergencies in your hand. Available for iPhone and Android devices, this app gives you instant access to the information you need to know to handle the most common first aid emergencies. With videos, interactive quizzes, and simple step-by-step advice, it’s never been easier to know first aid. Download the app for free from the American Red Cross website or in your app store.
Photos: Robin Leon
Almost everyone experiences culture shock when they come to a completely new environment. Everything is different: the language, the food, and the people.
Here are my Top 5 Tips for Dealing with Homesickness
1. Make Friends – Don’t wait for other au pairs to reach out to you, reach out to them. There are lots of other new au pairs who are feeling the same way you are right now. Set a goal to reach out to one of them each day. Some will respond and some will not. Don’t let that discourage you. No one will ever be mad at you for sending them a message to say hello or ask if they want to do something together. Make friends from various countries and you will also get a chance to practice your English skills together.
2. Stay in touch with your home country, but not too much. Skyping or talking on the phone every day with your family and/or friends back home normally makes homesickness worse. Try emailing instead and reduce the Skype and phone calls to once a week, until you feel stronger. It’s much harder seeing the faces and hearing the voices of those you miss.
3. Get out of the house (or your room specifically) – Go to cluster meetings, have coffee or movies with other au pairs, join a gym, go to the library, go for a walk, visit the mall, get a manicure, visit a museum. If someone invites you out, say “yes.” Also, don’t be afraid to do the inviting. If your host family invites you to do things with them, say “yes.” This will help you get to know each other and contribute to your overall happiness. We are still living in a pandemic. Remember to be safe and follow your host family rules and any local rules for masking and other precautions.
4. Realize that it definitely gets better – All au pairs experience homesickness and nearly all of them stay and have a successful year (some stay for two years.) So, it must get better, right? Once you get past the initial homesickness, most au pairs report how quickly the year goes by.
5. Make Plans – Create your own Au Pair Bucket List (places you want to go, new foods to try, new things to experience during your year in the U.S.) and start doing them now. Post on our cluster Facebook group to find others who may want to join you on your adventures.
Photo by: Shimelle Laine (Flickr)
Au Pair in America staff, including its community counselors, are not qualified to provide any official tax information. We recommend that you use H & R Block Expat Tax Services or another professional if you have any specific questions regarding U.S. taxes or need help to file your taxes. Below are some resources and general information.
Where to Get Started
- Au Pair in America has a Tax Information for Au Pairs page and Tax Information document that explains the basics of how taxes work in the U.S.
- You can view an Instructional Tax Video in your au pair portal. Once you are logged into your au pair portal → go to “Resources” tab → “In the US” → click “Instructional Tax Video for Guidance”
- April 18, 2022, is the deadline to submit your 2021 tax forms and payment. Doing so after that deadline can lead to extra fees and interest charges.
- From the H&R Block Expat Tax Service: “U.S. law requires au pairs who earn more than the filing threshold in stipends during a calendar year to file a U.S. federal tax return. Under the new tax law, the filing threshold is currently $5. Depending on the state in which you earned the income, you may also be subject to state tax filing. If you don’t file, you risk incurring costly interest and penalties, and it may complicate obtaining a U.S. visa in the future.”
If You Want to Get Your Taxes Professionally Done
Au Pair in America has partnered with H & R Block Expat Tax Services which has set up an easy, affordable, and virtual option for au pairs to assist with tax filing. The promotional fee is $50 through February 28th, which includes Federal and State (if applicable) filing. Starting on March 1st the fee increases to $99.
If You Plan to Do Your Own Taxes
- Even if you are planning to prepare your own taxes, I recommend you check out the information on the H&R Block Expat Tax Service page. Scroll down the page and see the answers to lots of common questions au pairs have about taxes.
- If you are planning to prepare your taxes on your own (or with help from your host parents) you can get links to the tax forms HERE.
- If you plan to file your taxes by mail, here are some things you will need to know:
- Some other important details:
- Include your full name and Social Security Number on your tax forms and your payment (check or money order).
- Make copies of all of the papers you mail to the IRS (your forms and payment) and keep those for your records. (This is very important in case you receive letters from the IRS about your taxes in the future.)
Image: 401(K) 2012
Valentine’s Day (February 14) is a time of love, friendship, giving, and caring. Americans use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to tell friends and family how much they care. Children usually exchange cards at school.
Are you looking for Valentine’s day activity and craft ideas?
Look no further… Au Pair in America has a Pinterest pinboard devoted to Valentine’s Day:
Photo: Clever Cupcakes (Flickr)