The au pair program is one of 14 programs managed by the U.S. Department of State under the J-1 visa program to promote cultural exchange. Au pairs are internationally recruited caregivers, mostly women, between the ages of 18 and 26. Only last year, Maryland greeted over 1,200 au pairs to live with a host family to provide childcare while attending a postsecondary educational institution.
Far from a cultural exchange, the J-1 au pair program is like other temporary labor migration programs in which recruiters and employers hold unparalleled control over workers in part due to high recruitment fees. Internationally recruited workers across visa categories and industries take on debts in order to secure job opportunities in the U.S., leaving them to make the impossible decision between remaining in abusive conditions and returning to insurmountable debt.s.