Hiring foreign live-in caregivers

Written by michelle larowe
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A family may hire a U.S. citizen, an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence or an alien who holds a valid work permit to work as a live-in foreign caregiver. If you wish to bring a foreign live-in caregiver to the United States from abroad, the only legitimate and legal way to do so is through the au pair program that is overseen by the United States Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Experienced caregivers from other countries may apply for permanent resident visas that would allow them to legally work in the United States, but these applications must be processed before the caregiver leaves her home country. If you wish to hire a foreign live-in caregiver, follow these steps.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    List your position with an au pair sponsoring agency. The government has designated specific agencies and organisations to screen and select candidates for the au pair program based on the criteria that they've developed. The au pair program is a cultural exchange program that allows foreigners to provide live-in childcare for up to one year in exchange for room and board, a small stipend, educational and cultural experience. Go Au Pair and Au Pair USA are two such sponsoring agencies.

  2. 2

    Interview all of your potential prospects. Whether you use the au pair program or hire a foreign caregiver that you've found on your own, it's important to interview your potential caregiver. You need to know about his background in working with children, his hands-on childcare experience, his lifestyle and the reasons why he wishes to work as a live-in caregiver in the United States. Interviews can be done over the phone or through a free website-based Internet phone service like Skype to save money on long distance calls.

  3. 3

    Ask a potential foreign caregiver for proof of employment eligibility. In the United States, employers are required to complete Form I-90, which is used to verify employment eligibility for citizens and non citizens. This form is obtained from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Participants in the au pair program will have a J-1 visa.

  4. 4

    Select your caregiver. You'll want to be sure that all the references come back positive and that your favourite candidates' background information has checked out favourably. Offer your caregiver a position or let your sponsoring agency know you've made your selection.

  5. 5

    Draft and sign a written work agreement. A written work agreement will help to outline the role, responsibilities and expectations you have for your caregiver. Since you'll be having a stranger in your home, it's important that you set clear boundaries for what is and what is not acceptable. Since child rearing philosophies can differ from country to country, you will really need to outline your expectations, safety precautions and rules for work.

Tips and warnings

  • Make your foreign caregiver feel at home. Ask her to help prepare foods from her home country, allow her access to a computer or phone to check in with home and encourage her to share her culture with your children.
  • The au pair program is not meant to be a full-time childcare program. The premise of the program is cultural exchange and parents should use caution if expecting professional childcare services from their foreign caregiver.

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