Au Pair Program Curtailed, Its Wages Raised by Three Conservative Entities

By David North on October 9, 2020

The au pair program, which usually provides rich families with college-educated, alien nannies at modest cost levels, could expect to be protected by conservative governmental entities, but three times in the last few months such entities have moved in the opposite direction.

Most recently the Trump State Department ruled that the size of the program will be frozen at current levels, according to an October 9 Law360 article, while the department reviews the program. There are just over 21,000 au pairs in the country.

On June 23, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear an appeal from an au pair middleman agency against a ruling by the attorney general of Massachusetts that the state's minimum wage of $12.75 an hour — well above that set by State for au pairs — applied to these workers. Traditionally, state minimum wages that are higher than federal ones prevail.

On the day before that, June 22, the president issued an executive order barring many types of foreign workers from entering the country because of Covid-19; au pairs could be admitted only if the secretary of State ruled that it was in the "national interest" to do so. The au pairs are young, usually women, and arrive as part of the J-1 cultural exchange program. The J-1 programs are operated by the Department of State, which, unlike the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor, lacks any Stateside field structure to monitor such programs.

While we could not put our hands on monthly au pair visa issuances, we were able to obtain some data on J-1 issuances, generally, in July 2019 and in July 2020. For the UK, France, and Switzerland, there were 1,231 J-1 visas issued in July 2019, and only 187 in July 2020, a reduction of about 85 percent. Presumably the reductions in au pair visas, in those months, were of the same order of magnitude.