Psychologists say that for children under the age of three, it is better to not attend a kindergarten or be left with a nanny on a daily basis. They are better off staying with a parent and enjoying their company. But there are many cases where parents cannot stay home to care for their children all day long.
Some parents are busy with their careers, while others are devoting their lives to raising multiple small children, which can be a lot for one person to handle, so they opt to hire a full-time nanny. There are many other scenarios where a family might need a nanny’s assistance.
Families who are willing to relocate to the US may choose to bring their nanny with them, because finding a new nanny for children can pose a challenge for parents. Having to adjust to a new nanny can be disruptive and emotionally distressing for children.
Oftentimes nannies who come to the United States to assist foreign families with children stay in the country on a tourist visa, meaning they do not have any legal foundation to work in the US. Moreover, in many cases, such nannies do not leave the country when their visas expire. By working illegally and overstaying a visa, not only can nannies encounter legal issues, but they may also endanger those who employ them.
The good news is that working legally as a nanny in the US is possible, but the process of choosing the right type of work visa and obtaining it requires a scrupulous approach. There are a couple of options, depending on the expected duration of a nanny’s stay and the status of the employer in the United States.
A Nanny Who Accompanies Foreign Employers Visiting the USA
When a family wants to travel to the United States with a nanny for a short period of time, a B-1 visa is the best option. It is a business visa that gives the holder the right to travel to the country for a limited period of time. The purpose of the visit is to provide assistance and childcare to the employer.
However, a B-1 visa is only available to a nanny whose employer is:
- A citizen of the United States who permanently lives in another country or stays there for the purpose of military or government service, and visits the US for personal reasons or while on duty;
- A citizen of another country who is a holder of a nonimmigrant visa and is on a visit to the USA.
If needed, the family can apply for a B-1 visa to bring other employees whose assistance they require in the USA. To do so, the employer must sign an employment contract with an employee to guarantee that the interests of the latter is protected, and they will not be exploited by the employer. The accuracy and adequacy of the contract terms can be checked by an immigration lawyer.
To apply for a visa, an employee must submit a visa application and undergo an interview with the consular officer at an Embassy or Consulate of the United States. Under B-1 status, the employee is allowed to stay in the country for a maximum of 6 months. However, the visa can be extended, but for no more than 6 months.
A Nanny Who Comes to Work for a Family Residing in the US
If a family residing in the United States wants to hire a foreign nanny, they have three options.
The EB-3 Visa is an immigration visa that gives skilled workers the right to live and work in the United States. The Department of Labor has designed a program (PERM) that makes the process of obtaining the visa a lot simpler for applicants, and for nannies in particular. To submit an application for PERM, nannies must have:
- A job offer from an employer who wishes to permanently employ the nanny on a full time basis
- Relevant qualifications for the position as certified by the Department of Labor:
To be eligible to get a certificate, the nanny must have at least two years of experience in childcare or relevant training. Moreover, the nanny may be required to provide evidence to the Department of Labour that they can:
- Administer CPR
- Recognize illness symptoms
- Assure a safe environment for a child
- Assure that a child gets nutritious meals
- Organize activities for a child appropriate for their age
- Administer appropriate discipline
- Communicate with a child
To employ a nanny from another country, the employer must provide evidence that there are no qualified candidates in the United States who can fill the position. This can be a proof demonstrating that the employer advertised or collaborated with state employment agencies to place job offers. Other evidence that proves that the employer made efforts to find a qualified worker within the territory of the US will also be taken into account.
An applicant who has relevant experience and training and whose employer is able to provide records that prove they failed to find a nanny with qualifications in the US stands a better chance of being granted a visa. An immigration lawyer can provide assistance with the preparation of necessary documentation.
Workers who are planning to visit the United States for a limited period of time and will not be involved in agricultural work within the territory of the US are eligible to apply for the H-2B visa. Before an employee applies for a visa, an employer must prove that no other US residents could fill the position. A holder of a H-2B Visa does not have the right to reside in the USA permanently.
Normally, an H-2B visa allows the holder to stay in the US for one year. The visa can be extended for a maximum of three years. The employer must pay the employee wages that are equal to or greater than the prevailing market rate for nannies.
Nannies who are willing to work in the United States under H-2B status should be aware of certain limitations regarding H-2B issuance:
- The number of H-2B visas that can be issued by the government per year is capped (66,000 visas per fiscal year);
- Residents of some countries are not allowed to apply for an H-2B Visa ( you can check the full list of eligible countries).
An H-2B Visa is the best option for employers who have already chosen a nanny they want to hire, but who are not willing to sponsor an employee as a permanent resident.
The most expensive option is to hire a nanny who holds a J-1 Visa. While more costly, this type of visa has its advantages – an employer does not have to provide evidence that there are no candidates in the local market to fill the position.
A J-1 Visa is available for who are willing to combine education and work in the United States. A host family – the employers – must sponsor a foreign nanny for one year in exchange for services. The nanny is allowed to extend their stay for another year.
To qualify for a J-1 Visa, an applicant must meet the following requirements:
- Have a good command of English;
- Hold a high school degree;
- Be aged between 18-26 years;
- Be physically capable of performing job duties;
- Undergo an interview in English with a program sponsor;
- Be ready and able to undergo a background investigation with psychometric testing.
A nanny under J-1 status:
- Can provide up to 45 hours of childcare per week;
- Must complete no less than 12 semester hours of post-secondary education (within the first year);
- Must complete additional coursework (in case the contract is extended for another year).
- Usually pays 500 USD toward the cost of the employee’s coursework per one year;
- Covers the full cost of the coursework if it is less than 500 USD;
- Pays weekly wages to the employee in the amount of 250-450 USD;
- Provides the employee with a private room and three meals per day;
- Pays between 7,500-12,500 USD to the program sponsor for their services.
Which Option to Choose
An employer who wants to hire a foreign nanny to legally work for them in the United States has four possible options. Which one to choose depends on the employer’s circumstances and goals, as well as the employee’s ability to apply for a particular visa type. In any case, to reduce the possibility of making a mistake or failing to properly complete the procedure, it is advised to schedule an appointment with an immigration lawyer.