“Au pair” is a French phrase meaning “at the par” or “at the peer” [level], and is used to describe someone who boards temporarily in someone else’s home. In the United States the term has come to have a narrow, technical meaning which describes a class of Exchange Visitors who come to the United States under the auspices of a program administered initially by the United States Information Agency (USIA), and more recently by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the Department of State. At any one time, there are approximately 12,000 au pairs in the United States. An au pair is always admitted into the United States on a J-1 visa, and is not allowed to remain in the United States longer than one year. An au pair must be between the ages of 18 and 26. They are usually students who participate in the program in the United States for the educational and cultural experiences it provides them.
Au pairs stay with host families chosen by sponsoring organizations, and are provided a private bedroom, meals, a full weekend off each month, two weeks paid vacation, up to $500 toward attending an institution of higher education, and a cash stipend tied to the U.S. minimum wage. They are not allowed to work more than 10 hours a day and not more than 45 hours per week. They are not expected to perform general housekeeping tasks, but are expected to perform child-care functions. Au pairs are required to enroll for not less than 6 semester hours of classes at a post-secondary educational institution; but may audit the classes for no credit if they wish.
In 1994, the U.S. Department of Labor determined that the au pair stipend constitutes “wages” because an employer-employee relationship exists between the au pair and their host family.
Au Pair wages are essentially in the nature of household employment. Refer to Publication 926, Household Employer’s Tax Guide.