I. General Information for Non-EU citizens
The legal basis for being issued a visa in order to work as an au-pair is section 18 paragraph 3 of the German Residence Act in conjunction with section 12 in the Employment Ordinance. Moreover, an au-pair must comply with the instructions in the Bundesagentur für Arbeit’s current information sheets. EU regulation 2016/801 (REST regulation) does not specify that the rules on entering and residing in the country must be implemented for working as an au-pair. For this reason, no adaptations to German national laws were made for this group of people.
A visa is issued under the condition that ‘employment is permitted in accordance with section 12 of the Employment Regulation’, or under other conditions imposed by the Aliens’ Registration Office (Ausländerbehörde) during the approval procedure.
When au-pairs are issued a visa to enter Germany, their D-Visa must not be issued for their entire stay in Germany, even if the au-pair is going to reside in Germany for the 12 month maximum stay permitted under German law. As a general rule, the D-visa may only be issued for three months, since it is the authorities intention to have the au-pair maintain contact with the Aliens Registration Office after entering the country. For this reason, au-pairs must contact the Aliens Registration Office after entering Germany, which will issue a residence permit for the remaining duration of their stay. It is important that the au-pair submits an application to extend his/her residence permit before the visa expires.
1. The aim of the applicant’s (au-pair’s) stay
The term ‘au-pair’ is a French word that means ‘reciprocity’ where both parties receive a benefit from the au-pair employment relationship. German au-pairs live with families in foreign countries and foreign au-pairs live with German host families. In 1969 the Council of Europe adopted the European Agreement on Au-pair Placement, which established precise rules for the au-pair relationship. Although this agreement was not ratified by Germany, and thus, is not legally binding, the main criteria in the agreement are also recognised in the Federal Republic of Germany. According to this agreement, the goal of the au-pair’s stay in a country is to give young people the opportunity to finish learning a language and expand their general knowledge by learning more about a host country.
Au-pairs take care of a host family’s children and help the family with everyday household chores. In return for these services, the family gives the au-pair room and board, pays him/her an allowance and subsidizes some of the costs for his/her German courses. The main purpose of the au-pair relationship is the socio-political objective of giving young people the opportunity to learn other languages and to learn about other cultures in order to promote international understanding. Since au-pairs in Germany are not obligated to make social insurance contributions, the host family must privately insure the au-pair for accidents, illness, pregnancy and childbirth.
The government authorities will only consider issuing a visa for the purpose of an au-pair’s stay in Germany if it is plausible that the primary objective of staying in German is to improve the au-pair’s German language skills and their general knowledge by learning about the host country and if the au-pair’s stay in Germany fits with the applicant’s concrete life goals, while also taking his or her social situation into consideration.
Au-pairs are only permitted to stay in Germany for a limited time: a maximum of twelve months. Their stay as an au-pair does not constitute a basis for permanent residence.
When applications are reviewed, special attention is paid to the applicant’s perspectives for returning to their country. The applicant should give a plausible statement in this respect in their motivation letter or should be asked about this issue in their interview. The applicant’s statements must be recorded in his/her file.
Since German law does not exclude the possibility of changing the reason why a person wants to stay in the country, it is possible and generally permissible for an au-pair to subsequently apply to stay in Germany for another purpose. However, this possibility does not have any influence on the general obligation to check an applicant’s willingness to return to their country at the point in time when the visa application is submitted.
This means that applications that do not conform on their own with these guidelines must be denied if a person’s willingness to return to his/her country of origin cannot be determined even before clarifying the facts and circumstances of their stay in Germany.
In addition to the general legal provisions relating to foreign nationals, the following issues must be checked:
2. German language skills
On 3 July 2003, the Bundestag passed a parliamentary resolution titled ‘Improving private-sector au-pair placement services for effectively preventing exploitation and abuse’. Among other things, the resolution called on the government to ensure that German diplomatic missions abroad pay special attention to an applicant’s existing language skills when reviewing their application and issuing them a visa. It is important for au-pairs to have basic German language skills so that they can seek assistance during their stay in Germany if they encounter problems with the host families.
The interministerial steering group reached an agreement that in order to stay in the country as an au-pair under section 12 of the Employment Ordinance, the applicant’s level of German should be the equivalent to Level A1 according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
The European Framework of Reference for Languages consists of 6 categories for describing a person’s language ability: A1 and A2 (basic), B1 and B2 (independent) and C1 and C2 (proficient). The A1 level is defined as follows:
‘Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.’
Language skills are checked as part of the visa procedure during an interview where everyday topics are discussed with a delegate, or in exceptional cases, with a German citizen employed locally. After the interview, it must be recorded whether or not the applicant’s German language skills are at the level of A1 or higher.
If the applicant’s German language skills do not meet the A1 standards, the authorities have the authority to deny the applicant a visa. If this is the case, it is not necessary to involve other government offices in accordance with section 31 paragraph 1 number 2 letter c) of the Residence Ordinance (Aliens Registration Office) or section 39 of the Residence Act (German Federal Employment Office).
In cases where there is doubt about the applicant’s language skills, the visa application must be denied in the interest of protecting the au-pair and the children who would be in his/her care if it does not seem possible, even with the best of intentions on both sides, for the au-pair to be able to communicate with the host family about the tasks that need to be done; to express his/her wishes or needs; and especially to communicate about issues regarding the children in his/her care, including getting help in the event of an emergency.
The au-pair or the placement agency can request the diplomatic mission to retake the interview directly after the interview or at a later date, but not later than one month. They can make this request on the grounds that at the point in time when the application was made he or she had sufficient language skills, but was unable to use the language correctly due to the stressful situation during the interview. The au-pair does not need to submit a new visa application for a second interview. It will be scheduled with the delegate on short notice to reassess the au-pair’s language skills.
The German Foreign Office generally does not have any objections to diplomatic missions with a large numbers of au-pair applicants having the assessments of applicants’ German language skills be carried out elsewhere, as long as suitable external language examiners based locally are used (e.g. Goethe Institute). Outsourcing these assessments would significantly ease the workload of the missions.
3. Requirements for the host family
The host parents can be married couples, registered same-sex partners or unmarried couples who have at least one underage child living permanently in the same household. The host family can also be single parents with at least one underage child, who lives in the same household as the parent who employs the au-pair. The host family must prove its status by submitting documents such as the certificate of residence.
As a general rule, au-pairs may only be employed in guest families who speak German as their mother tongue. This can be assumed if a parent is a German citizen or a citizen of another EU country or Switzerland and comes from a German-speaking part of the country (e.g. a Belgian from a region near the German border). If there are concrete indications that the family does not speak German, an application can be denied by the authorities.
If German is not the native tongue of the host family, but is spoken by the family as the main language in the home, the au-pair is not allowed to come from the host parents’ country of origin. This rule is intended to ensure that the au-pair will speak with the family in German and not in the language of their country of origin.
Employment as an au-pair is not permitted if it is known that the host family and the au-pair are related to each other. The reason for this rule is to prevent people from trying to get around German laws on family reunification. Additionally, there are concerns that in these types of cases, the purpose of staying in Germany as an au-pair (i.e. improving German language skills and learning more about the host country) is not the primary reason the applicant wants to come to the country, but instead the aim is to nurture relationships with relatives.
Employment of two au-pairs at the same time can be approved for a family if the host family has four or more children living in the same household.
The authorities will consider the requirement that an au-pair’s livelihood is secured as being met when an effective au-pair contract is submitted, which is based on the sample contract published by the Bundesagentur für Arbeit, and when there are no apparent reasons that would lead the authorities to believe the family has a poor financial standing or there are other doubts about the host family. The contract contains, among other things, information about the host family, the au-pair’s accommodations and compensation.
The host family can be subject to additional checks by the Aliens Registration Office (Ausländerbehörde) after the au-pair enters the country as part of the review process for the au-pair’s application to be issued a residence permit if the Aliens Registration Office responsible for the application considers it necessary in order to issue a residence permit.
Only in cases where there are obvious reasons for doubting that the au-pair’s livelihood is secured (e.g. due to the information disclosed in the au-pair contract), will the host parents have to submit a declaration of sponsorship or have to clarify their facts and circumstances with the local Aliens Registration Office handling their au-pair’s case.
4. Duration of the au-pair’s stay
According to section 12 of the Employment Ordinance, the duration of the au-pair’s employment may continue for a maximum of one year. The minimum duration of the au-pair’s stay is six months in order to take into account the objectives of the au-pair’s stay, which is to give young people the opportunity to stay in the host country in order to learn more about the host country’s culture and way of life as well as to improve their language skills. The scheme known as a ‘summer au-pair’ does not live up to the objectives of working as an au-pair and it is reasonable to presume that provisions governing the right of residence are being circumvented in order to employ household help or seasonal workers.
As a general rule, a person can only work as an au-pair one time in Germany. The au-pair cannot work a second time as an au-pair if he or she has not fully made use of the maximum length of time of one year. Exceptions to this rule will only be made, if an au-pair’s stay with a host family was terminated because of problems with the host family (and he/she was unable to be placed with another family in Germany), or if the au-pair had to return to his/her country of origin temporarily due to compelling (family-related) reasons. As a general rule, it is possible for the au-pair to work as an au-pair in another country (also directly afterwards) and their employment as an au-pair would be subject to that country’s national laws governing the right of residence.
5. Age of the au-pair
Au-pairs must be at least 18 years old and not older than 27 years old. To meet the minimum age requirement, the au-pair must be 18 at the time when the employment would begin. To meet the maximum age requirement under section 12 of the Residence Ordinance, the au-pair cannot be older than 26 at the time when the application is submitted. To avoid people from ‘stockpiling’ applications, the au-pair’s employment may not start later than six months after the visa application is made.
6. The Au-pair’s responsibilities
Au-pairs take care of the children in the host family and help out with everyday chores in the household. The au-pair’s tasks must be differentiated from caring for family members who are in need of nursing care. For this reason, employment as an au-pair does not include taking care of the host parents’ family members who live in the household and are need special care (parents, children, etc.).
7. Contents of the au-pair contract
The documents that must be submitted with the application include a mandatory (written) au-pair contract. A (non-binding) sample contract that can be used as a template is available on the Bundesagentur für Arbeit’s website.
The contract should contain at the very least the following information:
- An exact description of the parties to the contract
- The start date and contractual period
- General obligations of the host parents and the au-pair
- The agreement on the monthly allowance of 260.00 euros
- The host parents’ obligation to contribute 50 euros per month to the au-pair’s German language courses
The host parents’ obligation to pay for the au-pair’s insurance for sickness, pregnancy, child-birth and accidents
- The agreement about the work hours (maximum of 6 hours per day and 30 hours per week with at least 2 work days off per month as vacation days).
When au-pair placements are made by a RAL-certified au-pair agency, the original documents substantiating the au-pair relationship do not have to be submitted. Submitting a faxed or scanned copy generally will be considered sufficient. A list of RAL-certified agencies is available on the internet website of the Gütegemeinschaft (www.guetegemeinschaft-aupair.de).
Neither the au-pair nor the prospective host family has an obligation to use a placement service. However, it is recommended to alert potential au-pairs or host families about the benefits of using an au-pair placement agency since they can generally help both the au-pair as well as the host family in the event of problems.
- Age: max. 26 years old at the time of submitting an application.
- Language skills: A1 level is required.
- Host family: Basic requirement: German native speakers. If the parents are not native speakers, but the family speaks German as the main language in the home, the Bundesagentur für Arbeit can only authorise a visa if the au-pair does not come from the same country of origin as the host parents. If the guest parents and the au-pair are related to each other, the Bundesagentur für Arbeit will not authorise the visa.
- Purpose of trip: to improve German language skills and to improve general knowledge by learning more about the host country. The au-pair’s stay must fit with the au-pair’s concrete life goals and the social situation of the au-pair must be taken into account.
- Duration: a minimum of 6 months and a maximum of 12 months
- Willingness to return: The maximum length of stay is limited to 12 months. When the application is submitted, the au-pair must have plausible perspectives of returning to his/her country, even if a change of purpose is not excluded and it is in general possible for the au-pair to stay in Germany afterwards with a different visa?
- Special remarks: Documents/au-pair contract can be submitted by fax or scan when placement agencies with RAL quality mark are used.