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Very popular in the Anglo-Saxon world, the system of au pair girl or young man consists for parents to feed, house and give a little pocket money to a young foreigner who has come to learn English and rub shoulders with British culture, in exchange for a certain number of hours of care. Until the end of last year, young people who wanted to embark on this adventure did not need to complete any formalities. Now, with Brexit, they have to get a work visa.

The catch: these au pairs are considered qualified workers and must receive a minimum of 20,000 pounds per year (23,120 euros) to obtain their visa. A sum well above the 100 pounds usually given each week (about 5,000 pounds per year) by families.

“It’s far too expensive for families,” worries Clare James, a mother who has used this system for ten years to keep her two sons, Elliott and Jacob. This year, she received only one file for the next school year, instead of “ten to fifteen” usually.

90% fewer applicants in agencies

Opposite, the placement agencies confirm the scale of the disaster: “With the new rules, we lost at least 90% of applications,” laments Cynthia Cary, of the Rainbow Au Pair agency. “Since January, we have explained to everyone that we could not place any young European, because they simply cannot come to the United Kingdom legally,” she continues. “Brexit killed our business”.

Young people who do not go through an agency to find their host family are sometimes not aware of the need to have a visa now. They then risk a large fine for illegal work or being fired, once they arrive.

Currently, the only foreigners that the agencies can place are either Europeans who arrived on British territory before Brexit, or nationals of nine countries (Canada, Australia …) who can benefit from another type of visa, stamped “young” . A pool far from being large enough to meet the usual demand, in the order of 45,000 au pairs per year, according to the Association of British Au Pair Agencies (Bapaa).

“It’s a shame for hard-working families,” said Clare. According to her, many households are financially unable to pay an English “nanny”, which would cost around 2,000 pounds per month without offering “the flexibility” of a young person living there.

“Our au pair is due to leave this summer, and I don’t know how I’m going to do it,” worries Aurélie Nuret. According to her, the system is very widespread in her district of Fulham, in west London. “This will once again impact working mothers.”

Cultural exchange

Same story with Jessie Clapp, who will have “without doubt to stop working, when (her) charming French au pair leaves in July”, already regretting “the years of sharing” with “big sisters” who brought a lot to his children culturally. “I signed each petition, contacted all possible deputies, but (everyone) turned a deaf ear to our desperate appeals,” she laments.

For their part, agencies like Rainbow Au Pair claim to have been warning the government for years, without success. Their request: that Europeans be able to benefit from the same type of “young” visa as Australians or Canadians.

“But as long as that does not happen, we can not do anything, we are powerless”, laments Cynthia Cary. “An 18-year-old French boy does not come to earn money, but to improve his language skills,” she says, “They forgot that it was mostly a cultural exchange program, it shouldn’t not to be seen as work ”.

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