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Au pair agency

Should you hire an agency to find an au pair, or is it better to search online? What are the advantages in hiring an agency? Find out more about the advantages and disadvantages of hiring an au pair agency.

 

Information at a glance

  • personal contact
  • help with the paperwork
  • help with the visa process
  • you invest a lot of time for little service
  • commission is between 100 and 1,000 Euros
  • there is no guarantee of good quality
  • bad customer service
  • little support once the au pair has arrived

 

Hiring an au pair agency

aupair agenturDo you want to become a host family but you are not sure if you should hire an au pair agency or not? Do you want to know what services an agency can offer you as a host family? Do you wonder how you can find the best agency to help you look for the right au pair? And finally, would you like to know if it is cheaper and faster to take matters in your own hands and look for an au pair online? Stop worrying! In the following, we have summed up the most important information about au pair agencies for you!

 

Behind most au pair agencies, there is a private corporation or owner. Sometimes, you can find associations, organizations and also religious groups that offer au pair programs.

 

Recently, the number of au pair agencies has grown dramatically. Just take a look at the yellow pages and you will find many entries for au pair agencies that you can hire to help you find an au pair. If you try to contact these agencies and ask for more information, you will realize that there are hardly any differences.

 

They will all send you fancy fliers where you can read a lot about the au pair program in particular and cultural exchange in general. However, very few agencies are serious about offering high quality service in bringing together au pairs and host families. You will note that the biggest difference between the agencies is the price. Commissions can vary from 100 to 1,000 Euros. Legally, the agencies are free to charge whatever they consider appropriate, as long as the au pair doesn't have to pay any fees. You probably won't find information on the fees in the brochures. Agencies are usually not very transparent as far as their fees are concerned.

 

Also, the big differences in price don't make a lot of sense if the agencies offer the same service, but ultimately it is the host family who has to decide whether to pay for it or not. However, it is problematic that there is no independent quality control that checks and compares the au pair programs of the different agencies. There are merely associations whose members agree to adhere to certain quality standards. Some associations  have developped special quality labels for agencies that make it easier for host families and au pairs to find good agencies.

 

Au pair agencies

Dealing with au pair agencies – the experience of a host mother

 

“I haven't had very good experiences dealing with au pair agencies. They didn't really care about what we were looking for in an au pair. When we asked why, an agent told us that with our high expectations we would never find an au pair. However, we didn't think that we had asked too much. We simply didn't want to leave our children for several hours a day with a random stranger. We got the impression that the agency only cared about their commission and they tried to spend as little time as possible searching for an au pair. At the same time, as a host family, we were asked to compromise. It felt like at first they only showed us the au pairs that they couldn't place. In the end I had spent much more time and energy contacting the agencies and organizing meetings with the agents than I would have spent looking for an au pair on my own through an internet plattform.

 

Now I look for my au pairs on my own. I found an online community  for au pairs from where I choose my au pairs every year and I am very happy with the service. It might require a little more work, but I have had very good experiences. Ultimately, I want to decide which au pair will stay with us and our children. Since we will be living together under the same roof for several months, it is important to pick the right person. There are certain criteria that both sides have to meet to make sure that we will all get along. If you have to compromise, in the end, this will create problems and somebody will end up upset. In my opinion, hiring an au pair agency might save you some time and work in the beginning, but in the long run, you will have to invest more time and energy than you do looking for an au pair yourself. And of course, you can save a lot of money if you search for an au pair online. I know that many families hire an au pair agency because they dread the paperwork, especially if the au pair has to apply for a visa. But with the right tips, it is really not such a big deal.”

 

How can you find a reliable agency?

If you are determined to hire an au pair agency, you have to know how to distinguish a good agency from a bad one. There are several factors that can help you identify a good agency. Keep in mind though that it will take longer than you probably think to find a good au pair agency.

 

Make sure the agency has references. It is even better if another host family can recommend you an au pair agency. If you type the name of the agency into Google, you can find references from host families and au pairs that will give you a pretty good idea about which agencies you shouldn't hire. Good and experienced agencies offer several services for the host family and the au pair. A good au pair agency has outstanding customer service, and this is mainly what you pay for. Agencies that don't offer information on entry regulations, residence permits, work requirements or insurance issues and leave you alone to deal with it don't understand at all what an agency is about, and shouldn't be working as an agency in the first place.

 

Agencies should offer to mediate between host families and au pairs in case there is a problem or conflict. Also, they should be able to react quickly and find a new au pair  for the host family right away, if necessary.

 

A good au pair agency has international connections. That's the only way they can meet the potential au pair to test their language skills and make sure the au pair is a good fit for the host family. They usually have partner agencies that take care of this abroad.

 

 

Our criteria for a good au pair agency:

  • Personal contact in your area
  • the au pair agency has been around for a while
  • the au pair agency has international connections
  • the au pair agency places many au pairs successfully with host families every year
  • there is a long consulting interview with the agency
  • the agency respects you and your wishes
  • there is an elimination process before presenting you with several au pair choices
  • the suggested au pairs meet your requirements
  • the agency works fast
  • the agency takes care of all the paperwork
  • the service doesn't end after finding an au pair
  • there is support for the au pair during their first months in the new country (au pair meetings close by)
  • positive references from other host families
  • the au pair agency can show a seal of quality
  • the agency is part of an association that guarantees high standards and transparency
  • the Google search doesn't bring up negative references about the agency

 

Best time of year to look for an au pair

Most au pair agencies recommend the au pair to stay  with a host family at least 6 months, if not a whole year. Although there are au pairs looking for host families during the whole year round, the best time for finding an au pair for your family is during the summer. That's when many young people finish school and want to start a year abroad  working as an au pair and improving their language skills. There are also many advantages if the au pair arrives during the summer months. There is enough time for the au pair to settle in and as a host family, you also have t ime off so you can be there for the au pair during the first days.

 

How do au pair agencies work?

The placement process of an au pair into a host family is similar in most agencies. First, the host family has to meet certain  formal and personal requirements. You make an appointment with the agency for the first interview. You should bring the following documents to this interview: pictures of your family and a letter that explains how many members there are in your family, if you have pets, what jobs you have, where you live and what the life of the au pair would be like.

 

Together with the agent responsible for your family, you fill out an application. Once you have been approved as a host family, the au pair agency will send you their first suggestions for au pairs. You can then choose from among these and let the agency know which potential au pairs you would like to contact. After this, the job of the agency is done and what follows now (talking on the phone with the au pair, exchanging emails) is identical to the process of finding an au pair online.

 

How long does it take until the au pair arrives?

Once you pick an au pair, the au pair will receive your application as a host family (invitation letter to the au pair). The au pair takes this letter to the closest embassy or consulate to apply for a visa. It usually takes about 8 to 12 weeks for the au pair visa  to be approved. If you can't wait that long for an au pair, you should pick an au pair from a country  that won't need a visa, or look for an au pair in your area that wants to change host families. The au pair agency normally only charges the commission fee after the au pair has arrived.

 

After the au pair has arrived

After the au pair has arrived at your house, the au pair agency can prove that
they take their job seriously and offer quality service by:

  • getting in touch a few days after the arrival
  • supporting the au pair during the entire stay
  • being available 24-7
  • helping with problems
  • offering au pair meetings and trips with other au pairs
  • giving out a contact list of other au pairs in the region
  • offering an emergency hotline
  • helping the au pair to find the right language school
  • finding a new host family for the au pair, if necessary

 

For your information: The contract between you and the au pair agency is a “brokerage agreement”. This contract is the legal basis for the placement of an au pair in your family. The commission that you have to pay as a host family is performance-related, which means you only have to pay once the agency has performed its duty (that is: finding an au pair for you). This leaves little incentive for the au pair agency to help you after the au pair has arrived and you have paid them.

 

 

More information for host family:

Finding an Au Pair online How to find an Au Pair
Origin of the Au Pair Entry Regulations