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A live-in au pair is a caretaker of children who resides in the home of his or her employer; his or her duties might also include housekeeping and other assistance to the family. Often a foreign student, he or she might work year-round or on a temporary or seasonal basis, depending on the location and the needs of the family. Some factors such as a particular country's immigration laws and the needs of the host family will dictate the terms, such as the length of the au pair's stay. Many placements are arranged through either domestic or international au pair agencies.
Au pair is a French term that means "on par," and is fitting in that the employee is meant to be seen as an equal in the family, not as a servant. Unlike a live-in nanny, who generally works full time in his or her own country, an au pair is usually a foreign student working temporarily as a caretaker while also experiencing a new culture. A live-in au pair resides in a private space in the family's home, as opposed to living in a separate hotel or residence. Although he or she is theoretically accessible to the family any time, a schedule is usually arranged in which the au pair has certain hours off, typically evenings and a day or two during the week, to study or socialize with others.
The regular duties of a live-in au pair caring for young children usually include feeding, bathing, and dressing them, and providing them with entertaining activities. They might get older children ready for school, along with transporting them to school and other outings. The au pair often accompanies the family on vacations or other trips as well. In most countries, the pay for a live-in au pair usually consists of room and board as well as a small salary, due to the fact that he or she typically performs other household chores in addition to caring for the children.
Working as a live-in au pair also affords a foreign student the opportunity to further his or her education. To obtain a visa in many countries, the student must fulfill a minimum number of credit hours studying the host country's language or completing other academic courses. A live-in au pair position is usually temporary. In the U.S., for example, the au pair program administered by the State Department specifies a period of time that one may work as an au pair, after which the student can return to his or her home country or extend the stay by working for another family.