How to become an au pair | Au pair rules Published: 09/10/2019 | by Star Trader

How to become an au pair | Au pair rules

Au pair work is rewarding. You’ll have the opportunity to explore new places and make memories that last forever. The money is an added bonus, too. Becoming an au pair is easier than you think. Yes, there might be a lot of paperwork involved, but you don’t need to have any qualifications and the work involved can be extremely fulfilling. If you want to become an au pair, here’s how.

What is an au pair?

An au pair is usually a young person, typically aged between 17 and 27-years-old, who travels to another country to live with a host family. The host family is responsible for providing the au pair with a place to sleep, which is usually a room in the family home. During their stay, the au pair will have the opportunity to experience new cultures and learn the local language, whilst earning pocket money for providing childcare and/ or domestic help, such as cooking and tidying. Au pairs aren’t considered as employees, so aren’t entitled to standard employee benefits and aren’t subject to normal tax and national insurance contributions.

The rules of being an au pair in the UK

Depending on the country, the rules of being an au pair will change. UK Government Guidelines state that au pairs in England, Scotland and Wales should be paid anything between £70 and £85 a week for around 30 hours of work. Au pairs in the UK are entitled to two full days off each week, one of which needs to fall on a Sunday at least once a month. There are no set rules when it comes to holiday allowance, so it can vary slightly. 

To become an au pair in the UK, you need to:

1. Be 18 to 30-years-old (or 17 for EU and EFTA citizens).

2. Be single and have no children.

3. Have a good knowledge of the English language and would like to improve your skills.

4. Be able to pay for travel costs.

For non-EU citizens, you must:

1. Answer yes to all of the above.

2. Be entitled to apply for a visa within the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme.

3. Have £208 to pay for the visa application.

4. Have at least £1890 in savings, plus sufficient funds to pay for your travel.

5. Be prepared to work for at least 24-months in the UK as an au pair.

Why should I become an au pair?

There are many benefits to being an au pair, whether you choose to work in the UK or another country. 

• You’ll be part of a local family, learning new cultures and exploring new places as you go.

• You’ll be able to live in another country, with your accommodation all paid for.

• Every day, you can improve your language skills.

• Being apart from your family will allow you to become more independent and self-sufficient.

• As you learn new things and gain skills, you’ll be able to add to your CV.

• You’ll make new friends.

• The best thing. You get paid!

Our top tips for au pairs 

As well as the many benefits, there are some downfalls to being an au pair, one of them being that you’ll be apart from your family for a long period of time. Unfortunately, homesickness comes as part of the package. It happens to everybody, though, and there are ways you can overcome it. Here are our top tips.

• Make your surroundings your own. Add little touches here and there, so you feel right at home.

• Find a comforting place to go when you’re feeling down. It could be a cafe, local park, or gym. A workout always helps to clear the mind.

• Keep in touch with your loved ones. Give them a quick call or text, so you still feel connected. Your mobile phone will be your best friend here, so make sure you have a sim at the ready. Our International Big Bundles allow you to make calls within the UK and abroad.

• Speak to fellow au pairs. They’ll be going through the same emotions as you, so use them as a shoulder to cry on and be there for them when they need you.

• Remember that everything is temporary. As the saying goes, nothing is forever. Don’t take your time as an au pair for granted. Use it as an opportunity to gain invaluable skills and explore other parts of the world.

How to become an au pair

Becoming an Au Pair


1. Pick a country?

The first big decision. Where do you want to work and live as an au pair? Which language would you like to learn most? Listening to your gut is key and it always helps to have an interest in the place you’re relocating to. After all, you’ll have the opportunity to learn a lot about the country once you’re there, as you’ll be living with a local family. 

2. Will you go through an agency?

The process of becoming an au pair can be arduous. An agency can help you by finding the perfect family, assisting with your visa application and making sure you have the right level of support from start to finish. The only problem with using an agency is that it can cost you. How much you’re charged depends on which agency you’re using, so we’d advise checking directly with them. You don’t need to use an agency. You can go it alone by finding your own family, understanding which visa you need to apply for and how you do so, although this might take some time.  

There are a number of great au pair agencies that will help you find a family to work with in countries all over the world. Some include:

3. Find a family you want to work for?

Every family is different. Some may have lots of children who speak very little English, other families may be fluent with only one child. When it comes to choosing a family, trust your own instincts. You’re going to be living with these people, so it’s important that you get on with them and feel they respect you. 

Before saying yes or no, it’s a good idea to arrange a quick Skype call with your potential family. You can take this opportunity to ask them questions about themselves, and their children, and which tasks you’ll be expected to complete on a daily basis such as cleaning or looking after the children. If they’ve hired an au pair in the past, don’t be scared to ask them for their contact details, so you can speak to them directly about their experience. It’s actually more common to do this than you may think. 

4. Apply for a visa?

The type of visa you’ll need will depend on which country you’re going to be moving to. It’ll involve a lot of paperwork, but that’s one of the challenges you’ll face as an au pair.

If you’re becoming an au pair in England and you’re from a country outside of the EU or EFTA states, you’ll need to apply for a visa. In most cases, you’ll need to apply for either the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme or Tier 4 (General) Student Visa, however, this depends on your nationality. 

Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme

If you’re between 18 and 30-years-old, you can apply for this visa to work in the UK for a predefined period of time. The Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme visa is usually valid for 24 months. During this time, you’re free to leave and re-enter the United Kingdom as and when you please. With this visa, you’ll also receive a work permit, which is also valid for 24 months, so you can work on a part-time basis.

It applies to people from the following countries:

• Australia

• Canada

• Hong Kong

• Japan

• Monaco

• New Zealand

• Republic of Korea

• Taiwan

• British overseas territories

How to apply for this visa:

1. You must have a valid passport.

2. As well as the visa application itself, you’ll also need to give the original signed contract to the embassy.

3. To complete the application, you’ll need to submit several documents* to the British embassy or consulate. These documents include a valid passport, photograph that meets the scheme’s requirements, and a bank confirmation of the necessary savings.

4. As well as the above, you may also need to provide the results of your tuberculosis (TB) test. This is optional, however. 

*All documents must be provided in English. 

Tier 4 (General) Student Visa

To be able to apply for this tier 4 general student visa, you must meet the following requirements:

• 16-years-old or over (to become an au pair in the UK, you must be at least 17)

• Have received an offer to enroll in a course in the UK

• Have good English language skills

• Have enough savings to pay for the course you’re enrolled in

Before you apply for this visa, you must be enrolled in a course that’s one of the following:

• Full-time with a qualification of at least Level 6

• Full-time, with at least 15 hours a week of daytime study, with a qualification of at least Level 3

• An overseas course that’s equivalent to a UK higher education course

How to apply for this visa:

1. You must apply up to 3 months before you start your course.

2. You will need to pay to apply. The cost is around £328 plus healthcare surcharge. 

3. You should receive a response within 3 weeks.  

The details of how long this visa lasts depends on the kind of course you’re enrolled in. You may even have the option to extend the stay at some point too. The length of your course also has an impact on when you can arrive in the UK. 

• If your course lasts for 6 months or less, you can arrive one week before the start date.

• If your course lasts for more than 6 months, you can arrive one month before the start date.

Becoming an au pair is a good option if you want to explore another part of the world, but don’t necessarily have the funds to do so. You may need to pay for the travel costs, however, once you’re there, you’ll have free accommodation, food, and pocket money on a weekly basis. 

If you do need to add to your funds in preparation for becoming an au pair, then becoming a Star Trader is a great way to do so. All you need to do is sign up, order your sims, distribute them and you’ll earn £5 every time someone activates your sim. Find out how Star Trader works in more detail here.

If you’re up for taking the leap, take our tips on board and do your research. Who knows? This time next year, you could be living in another country with your very own host family, learning about new cultures, perfecting your languages, and more. Exciting!


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