• Advice
Posted December 10, 2018

Your Travel Document Checklist for the USA

Everything you’ll need to travel and stay in the USA.

By Cultural Care Au Pair

As a future au pair, no matter where you stand in your au pair application, whether you are just getting started or have found your dream host family already, time will eventually come for you to start packing for your adventure. Going through your wardrobe and deciding on your outfits for the best year of your life? Fun! Hunting down small gifts for your host kids and host family? Super exciting! Listing all the official documents that you will need to bring with you to the USA? Not so much.


Knowing which pieces of ID and other documents to bring when you are leaving for a whole year abroad can be a real hassle and an unnecessary source of stress closer to your departure, when you should be busy getting excited, saying your goodbyes to your family and friends, and getting a last few Skypes with your host family in.


We know the struggle all too well – and how things can get confusing when you find out that you’ll need to get some paperwork done after you arrive in America, too. But don’t despair! Hundreds of thousands of au pairs have tackled this challenge before you, and with a little help from your experts here at Cultural Care Au Pair, you too will make it smoothly from your home country to the USA without forgetting a thing. We have put together for you the ultimate travel checklist of all important documents that you will need to bring to the USA, as well as these that you will need to get done upon arrival: make it yours to get ready for your adventure stress-free and start your au pair experience off right!


What you will need to bring to the USA


Your passport/visa

It may seem obvious, but sometimes the obvious is what gets forgotten most easily – you must bring your passport, which will include your J-1 visa, when you travel to the USA. You should also make at least one copy of your passport and visa and carry these with you too, in your hand luggage, for instance.


Your DS-2019 form

The DS-2019 form, or “Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status”, will be delivered to you by Cultural Care Au Pair ahead of your appointment with your Embassy to get your visa. This form identifies you as an exchange visitor, mentions your designated sponsor, and provides a brief description of your au pair program and term. You will need to show this form together with your passport and visa at the airport or whenever visiting American public services, so make sure that you have it with you when leaving for your year!


Your national ID

It is always a good idea (pun maybe intended) not to rely on a sole piece of ID when abroad. Bringing your national ID card will allow you to avoid carrying your precious passport with you at all times and will be very helpful should you need to get your passport replaced while in the USA. We strongly recommend you to bring it as well, just in case – just don’t carry it together with your passport.


Your national driver’s license and international driver’s permit

Driving your host kids to school and activities will be a big part of your childcare duties, so you should make sure that you pack your national driver’s license and international driver’s permit. The international driver’s permit is very important as it serves as a translation of your national driver’s license, and many insurance companies won’t be able to insure you without it. You should also keep in mind that, depending on the State that you will live in, you may have to get a State driver’s license done, too.


Your driving history

If you have a driver’s record, it’s a good idea to bring it along to the USA, as it will help your host parents negotiate the best car insurance policy for you. Check with your home country car insurance or driving authorities if they can issue such a document for you!


 Your Erika card and brochure

As a Cultural Care au pair, you will benefit from a comprehensive insurance coverage through Erika Travel Insurance. You will have received an Erika card from your local Cultural Care team: you should make sure to print it out before you travel, bring it with you to the USA and fill it out with your personal number when you arrive. The Erika card will provide you with your emergency phone number, and the Erika brochure with all information on your coverage – don’t forget to pack both!

Your medical record and prescriptions

If you suffer from a specific condition or allergy, you may wish to bring your medical record to the USA, if you feel that it is necessary. If you are under medication, do also bring your doctor’s prescriptions with you if you can’t pack a year’s worth of supplies. Please note that birth control is an over-the-counter medicine in several American States – be sure to check ahead of traveling whether you are going to have to pack a prescription for that.


Your Travel Kit

Every Cultural Care au pair receives a Travel Kit before traveling to the USA. Designed to help you prepare for your journey, it is filled with tasks and tips on the au pair experience. Don’t forget to bring it to the USA, preferably in your hand luggage: you will review your completed tasks at the Cultural Care Au Pair Training School in New York and will be glad to have it for tips and advice throughout your stay.


The last letter that you received from Cultural Care

You should make sure to pack the last letter that Cultural Care Au Pair sent you ahead of your departure, as it includes important information about your arrival and stay at the Training School.


Your host family’s and Cultural Care’s contact information

You can actually note that down in your Travel Kit (another reason why you shouldn’t forget it!), but we strongly advise you to also save the contact details of your host family and Cultural Care Au Pair in your phone.


Your credit card from your home country and some cash

Don’t arrive penniless in the USA! We recommend that you carry around $150-200 in $10 and $20 bills when you travel, as well as your credit/debit card from your home country. Not only will you be ready should anything happen – but you’ll be able to make the most of your first trip to New York as well!


Are you wondering about your flight information or your au pair agreement? You can find both in your Cultural Care Au Pair account. You won’t need to print out any of these ahead of traveling though, as long as you know your travel details.


Pro tip: You should make two copies of each travel documents listed above. You should carry one copy of each with you (not together with the originals though) and have one safe at home in your home country. You should do the same with every official document that you will get in the USA and that are listed below – one copy with you, another at your new home. Alternatively, scan these and store them on a safe USB disk or hard-drive.


What you will need to get upon arrival in the USA


Your I-94 form

At your port of entry in the USA (i.e. the airport where you first land in the U.S.), when you first enter the country, you will be issued by the officer inspecting your documents an electronic record of admission – also known as I-94. As this form is electronic, we recommend you to retrieve it from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s website and print it out. You will need this document to get your U.S. social security card.


Your social security card

At least ten days after your first arrival in the USA (i.e. when you first landed in the country), you will have to request your U.S. social security number to your local social security office, in the city or county where you’ll live with your host family. You will find in your Cultural Care Au Pair account all instructions to get this very important document done – you will need your social security number to open a bank account, take an extra driving test if required by the State you live in, and file your taxes. Please note that you will have to keep your social security card even once your au pair year is through: you only get one U.S. social security number in your life, so this is the one you’ll have should you ever come back to live in the USA, even 30 years down the line!


Your State driver’s license

Some American States won’t let residents drive on a foreign or even international driver’s permit, so you may need to get a State driver’s license depending on the State that you live in. Make sure that you ask your host family before you depart to find out if you’ll have to get it done, and how!


Your American bank account and credit card

Once you have your American social security number, you will need to open an American bank account and get your own debit/credit card. We recommend that you speak with your host family who will be able to help you choose the best bank and account for you.

 credit card

Student ID card

As an au pair, you will also have to obtain 6 credits at a local university or college – and some might issue a student ID card for you. Don’t hesitate to get it if you can, as it can open up many benefits and discounts for you!


Now that you know which important documents to bring to the USA (and get there), let the fun part of packing begin – and the excitement of meeting your new country and family soon resume!


Don’t forget that your Cultural Care team is happy to answer any further questions that you may have.

Cultural Care Au Pair
Cultural Care Au Pair

Cultural Care Au Pair here! We believe that cultural exchange makes the world a better place – and so we’ve made it our life’s mission to help au pairs have enriching experiences in the USA. When we’re not helping au pairs travel, learn and grow in America, we’re probably eating candy from around the world and drinking copious amounts of coffee.

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