Background information before I get started: I just graduated from college so for the last year I have been asked, “So what’s next?” and never really had an answer until about 24 hours ago. So, to current students, don’t sweat it if you do not have immediate plans for post graduation.
Okay, now on to the “how to” part of the post. This will apply only to United States citizens who wish to be an au pair in Germany, because that is the only process I know.
My situation is slightly different from most, because I knew the family I will be working for before I decided to work for them. But, I still had to go through the formal process of getting the visa so this is what I learned:
Step 1: Learn the language. Take this seriously. Germany requires an A1 level of the language to get a work visa, and you need proof of this knowledge, in the form of either a college course OR a certificate from the Goethe Zentrum. I did not take any German courses, so I took the Goethe Zentrum test from the center in Atlanta. The test involves 4 parts: reading, listening, writing, and speaking. The process to get the certificate can take up to 3 months and is a little pricey, so be proactive on this.
Step 2: Fill out all the paperwork with the family you will be working for. All of the forms are provided by the German consulate online, and you will need two copies of each form when you apply for the visa. As soon as you finish the paperwork, I suggest scanning it into your computer, printing two new copies and keeping the originals for yourself.
Step 3: Have passport photos taken at your nearest certified location. You will need two for your application. I went to CVS. It costs way too much money, but that way you know they are acceptable by the Embassy.
Step 4: Set up an appointment online and drive to your nearest consulate and apply for the visa. I went to the consulate in Atlanta and they were very helpful. Bring the two copies of the application, your language certificate, resume, current passport and lots of cash. ($200 is good). It is an expensive process. From here on out, the work is left for the Embassy to send everything to Germany and they will issue the visa and send it back to you, so you can rest easy.
Step 5: Book a flight to Germany. During the visa process, they will ask for flight information to be e-mailed so the date on your ticket matches the date on your visa.
Step 6: Wait. For what seems like a very long time. For me, it was about 2 months. Eventually, I received everything in the mail and I was set! Almost.
Step 7: Once you are in Germany, you need to go to the local Aliens office and register for a Residence Permit. I have yet to do this step, but will be doing so in the next few weeks so I will update this if there are any issues.
That is all I know, and that is how it worked for me. The rules for applying change somewhat regularly, so keep that in mind as you go through the process. Best of luck!