Avoiding the 60 Day Au Pair Trap!

Here at ScottVassell Law Firm, our lawyers have had the pleasure of working with Au Pairs in the United States for the past two decades. We advocate and protect the status of these bright intelligent youth with great dreams and aspirations from around the world.

The Au Pair program is a cultural exchange program run by the Department of State (‘DOS’) that permits youth between the ages of  18 and 26 years old to provide childcare to U.S. parents who are typically professionals, executives and business owners. The program is for 12 months, but DOS may approve a one-time extension of 6, 9, or 12 months if the Au Pair complies with certain educational requirements and files at least 30 days prior to expiration. 22 CFR §§62.31(k), (o). An Au Pair may also return to the program for a new 12-month period after remaining outside the U.S. for 2 years. 22 CFR §62.31(p); 73 FR 34861 (June 19, 2008); 74 FR 15844 (Apr. 8, 2009).

Au Pairs of America is the primary placement agency for Au Pairs.  The agency uses its own U.S. immigration legal counsel to prepare the J-1 visas for Au Pairs accepted into the program. However, in contrast, the agency unfortunately does not provide legal representation for the Au Pair towards the end of his or her stay where the Au Pair is unable or unwilling to apply for an extension of Au Pair duties. We have seen this lead to the Au Pairs accruing unlawful presence in the United States, and lose their ability to receive any future U.S. Immigration benefits.

The Following Tips Are Essential For Au Pairs To Not Forfeit Their U.S. Immigration Options Or Aspirations In Planning For ‘Life After Being An Au Pair’:

First, do not accept legal advice from an Au Pair of America staff manager or member. Only a separate private immigration attorney can accurately advise, as  Au Pairs of America and the Au Pair have a  ‘conflict of interest’ where the program date is coming to an end.

The Au Pair agency needs to bridge the gap between the exiting Au Pair and the new Au Pair needed for the host family.  This is paramount, of course, for the Au Pair agency’s business. In contrast, the exiting Au Pair cannot and should NOT work even one day after expiration of status on the DS 2019.

Due to misinformation by the Au Pair staff agency, we have seen many Au Pairs fall out of status because they were told that ‘there is a ’60 day’ grace period to remain in the U.S. despite an expired stay. The Au Pair then falsely believes she may continue to work for the host family until the new Au Pair nanny arrives. At no time should an Au Pair feel obligated to work for her host family without valid work authorization from the agency in the form of a new DS-2019 extension. 

Secondly, talk to your host family about your J-1 visa well in advance of expiration. Host families in the United States are many times very understanding and helpful.  We frequently receive calls from the host family wanting to know how they might help their Au Pair stay in valid status. The 60 day grace period is not status while remaining in the United states, and a private Immigration lawyer can help the host family and Au Pair with concerns about child care during ‘the gap’ which occurs when an Au Pair’s DS-2019 expires.

Finally, the Au Pair should ideally consult with her own private immigration attorney at least 45 days before expiration of the J-1 visa especially if there is any consideration to remain in the U.S. at completion of one’s program. If, however, an Au Pair ends up remaining in the United States unauthorized due to misinformation about the 60-day grace period, an attorney can still help as long as legal counsel is enlisted asap BEFORE departing the United States. An experienced Immigration lawyer knows how to remedy and correct any unlawful status that might result. This legal step is ‘insurance’ so that an Au Pair will be able to change her visa status in the United States, reapply for a new visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad; and be eligible for travel (called advance parole) if being sponsored for permanent resident status based on employment or marriage.

Our immigration lawyers are members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), and we provide initial free 20-minute video consultations. You may contact us today with any questions. ScottVassell Law Firm has 22 years of experience with Business Immigration law matters. You may contact us at one of our offices conveniently listed at www.vasselllaw.com or email info@vasselllaw.com to request an initial 20 min free video or in person attorney consultation.