Friends host two au pairs simultaneously so that their children can maintain fluency in three languages. As the children are getting older they’ve now had experience with more than 15 au pairs. Here is what we learned from them…
Immigration approval to work as an au pair is far from guaranteed. In some countries the visa rejection rate of an au pair, once selected by a host family here in the U.S., is as high as 80 percent. The American parents say “yes” but then the U.S. government says “no.” Au pairs can be hired only if the host family pays more than $10,000 to an official au pair agency, of which there are only a handful authorized by the U.S. government (if this system were operating in the Philippines or Indonesia we would call it “crony capitalism”). Do they screen candidates carefully? “Does a realtor carefully inspect the house she is selling or just try to get a commission?” responded the father. “They do the required criminal background check and nothing else.” The most common fraud is a stated ability to drive a car, sometimes augmented by a driver’s license that was obtained with a bribe. “We just take them immediately to driving school,” said the mother. Another fraud is the posting of pictures showing a very conservative way of dressing and living. “I go onto the Russian-language social networks and find the same people wearing fishnet and Spandex,” said the father.
The shared family Windows computer seems to be a source of good stories for host families. “My friend in Los Angeles was transferring files to a new machine and happened to look into the au pair’s user directory,” said the father. “There were all kinds of photos in there of the au pair having sex with multiple guys. It turned out that she had been a porn actress in Russia and just took the au pair job so that she could come to California and, except when she was with the children, act in the U.S. porn industry.”
“One of our au pairs wanted to get a green card and stay in the U.S., but her boyfriend was also a foreigner so it wouldn’t have worked to marry him,” said the father. “She convinced a young guy that she was in love with him and got him to marry her. Then she had the boyfriend punch her in the face. She showed the black eye to the police, got a restraining order against her husband, and had him kicked out of their house.” How did that help her get a green card? “I looked at her email and found her correspondence with divorce and immigration lawyers regarding the Violence Against Women Act. She’d spent months prior to the marriage researching a fast-track green card for abused women.” (Department of Homeland Security page) Did it work? “She got the green card.”
In states such as Massachusetts that offer unlimited child support a sound financial strategy for an au pair is to get pregnant with a man of at least moderately high income (e.g., the host father or one of the neighbors!), let the U.S. taxpayer-funded child support enforcement apparatus establish paternity and a court order, and then spend the money back in her home country (or wherever else in the world she can live comfortably on $40,000 to 100,000+ tax-free dollars per year). It turns out that this strategy is not conventional, however, and au pairs are generally ignorant of how lucrative a U.S. pregnancy can be.
Pregnancy does come into the picture for green cards, however. “One of our au pairs found a 42-year-old guy and, a few weeks after she went back to Eastern Europe, told him that she was pregnant,” said the father. “He was a nice guy and wanted to do the right thing so he agreed to marry her. I told [my wife] that I am betting on a miscarriage at roughly the 3 month mark. Sure enough, no baby appeared.” Did it work? “She got the green card.”
Are au pairs worth this kind of drama in the house? If at-home child care is required, why not hire an American-born nanny? “You can get a smarter, more interesting person to work for a couple of years as an au pair,” responded the couple. “So our children were more stimulated than they would have been by an American. Also they are completely fluent in three languages. Finally you have to look at the cost. It works out to $8.50 per hour, less than half of what you’d pay an American.”