Leidi was motivated to join the J-1 Au Pair program to study English. She viewed coming to the U.S. as a good opportunity to learn the language especially since English was crucial to the Masters in Computer Science program that she was admitted to in Peru.
Though Leidi said that she “was very lucky to have” a kind and understanding host family that supported her emotionally, she felt that greater honesty on the part of the recruitment agency is necessary. During an information session at her college in Peru, Leidi’s recruiter gave her the impression that J-1 Au Pairs came to the U.S. as exchange students attached to a host family. The pitch marketed any work as tangential to the primary educational and cultural experience.
Instead, it’s clear now to Leidi that the J-1 au pair program is “a job,” and feels that the program should be structured “like every other job” with a 40-hour work week, overtime pay, and a fair salary. She believes that recruiters should be honest in informing potential employees that they are working as a live-in nanny with heavy childcare responsibilities for the host family. Indeed, Leidi was tasked to look after a two young children, one with developmental disabilities – a demanding task that she believes not all applicants may have the skills for.
Leidi also advocates for greater regulation of free time and breaks. Another au pair friend of hers had to comply with strict curfews, had to work on weekends, and was only given one day off during the week. Leidi argues that such strict regulations deny au pairs the respect they deserve as humans.
“It should be 40 hours. It’s a job. If you work more you should be paid overtime. It should be like every other job.”