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How to Become an Au Pair: A Guide for Americans

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Three steps you'll need to take to reach your departure gate. 

While requirements may vary for different nationalities, I wanted to shed some light on getting your au pair visa in France.

Contacting your embassy

In the United States, we cannot begin the visa process with the local embassy until our host country has submitted their approval for us to enter. So, if you are a U.S. citizen please contact your host family and inform them of this first and foremost; not doing so will cost time more than anything. This part of the process may only take 14 to 21 business days, especially if your host family is vigilant.

As an au pair there are two visas to choose from: short and long. Which is best depends on the family’s contract with you, but each visa has its own set of requirements. My contract is for nine months, so it was fitting to ask for a long visa.

Once you have set your appointment with the embassy and your documents are in order, two other things are going to be required: payment of the visa and the relinquishing of your passport. Do not be expecting to make any travel plans right after this. There is a waiting period.

Collecting documents

Before you set an appointment with the local embassy, it's best to collect the documents required for the visa, as they may take time to acquire. (Such in my case; I needed a special medical document and the earliest appointment to see the specialist was one month out, so that delayed my embassy appointment, which then delayed my first flight.) Take refuge that if there is any delay in the process then you are among the many, so no need for panic.

I would recommend arriving to all your appointments 10 to 15 minutes before the scheduled time. Much like an interview for a new job/career, it is wise to have a set of questions that allow you to better understand what you are being preparing for. Therefore, take that extra 10-15 min to contemplate what are things you have not thought of about your new home.

If you have any medical needs, like insulin, confirm the availability in your host country or how to retrieve it from your native country once abroad. Who can you talk to if things are not proceeding? When are you getting your passport back? How long do I need my passport active for to apply for a visa? These answers vary by person and country so make sure to reach out and ask for guidance.

Travel preparations

You'll want to book a flight at least six weeks in advance to avoid spending copious amounts of money. Therefore, to plan accordingly you map out what documents and appointments are needed and when to acquire them. Make sure not to forget that your passport will be held for about three to five weeks after your embassy appointment. (Truthfully, you need more than six weeks for it to be a smooth process. It took me about three months with my host family being very flexible, which is rare to find, so sometimes the best option is finding a different family.)

During all the chaos of setting appointments and making phone calls, don't forget you have to pack. Most people will say this was an easy task because they just gather the needed clothes the week before and are off. I am not one of those people. It took me weeks to pack and unpack my entire life for this move, and honestly it was very hard for me to leave things behind.

Typically, I am not a sentimental person, but I discovered items that had been travelling with me since I first moved out at 18. Luckily, this became the perfect opportunity to rid myself of items that had no purpose. Just remember you do not need everything so try to limit yourself to two bags period.

Once you are through this forest everything else is smooth sailing. The months leading up to your departure may be amongst the most stressful and truly test your "adulting" skills. But it leads you to one of the greatest adventures you can have. I wish you the best of luck my fellow globetrotters, and may your adventure inspire you for more.

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Cody Bartram

Cody Bartram is 27-years-young, born and raised in California. He spent 24 years moving all over Southern California, before heading to Virginia for three years, and finally to his current home in Eaubonne, France, where he works as an au pair.

Website: https://www.instagram.com/travel_aupair_life/

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