If you’re considering hosting an exchange student, you probably have a lot of questions. To help you decide if becoming a host family is the right decision for you, we’ve compiled a list of the most frequent questions we receive from potential host families. We understand that every situation is unique, so please feel free to call us to get some more personalized information about hosting.
What is the difference between the J-1 hosting program and the F-1 homestay program?
We think both of our programs are great, but there are some differences that you should consider before deciding to apply for either one.
The J-1 program is our biggest program, and we are recruiting host families all over the country for that. Students who apply for this program will be enrolled at the public school closest to your house. If that school does not have room, they will be placed at a different high school somewhere in your school district. The J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program was designed by the Department of State to encourage an exchange of cultures. They believe that offering a stipend to host families would compromise the cultural exchange, so host families are not allowed to be reimbursed. Students will bring funds to cover their own entertainment and non-essential purchases, and they come with their own medical insurance that will cover any emergencies or illnesses. Host families are expected to provide 3 meals a day (except on school days, when students may opt to purchase lunch at school) and cover basic living expenses.
The F-1 program is intended for students who want to attend private school. Currently, we are recruiting host families in the Austin, Houston, and Dallas areas for this program. Because the students attend school on an F-1 visa, we are able to offer a stipend of $750 each month to host families. Host families are expected to cover meals and basic living expenses. In addition, they are responsible for transporting the student to and from school.
We already have a family vacation planned. Could we take an exchange student?
As long as the vacation is within the United States, you can definitely take your student with you! Just send our office the information so we know where you are. If the trip involves extra fees that you expect the student to cover, make sure the student has received permission from his or her parents. If you have an international vacation planned, there are extra steps to take. You’ll need to make sure the student has permission from their parents. Then, you’ll want to research what it takes for your student to get a travel visa. Keep in mind that if they meet all the requirements to leave the country with you, you’ll need to send us their visa paperwork to sign and approve travel.
We’re a very busy family. Will we have time to host an exchange student?
Americans are generally busy people! Between work, school, and recreational activities, it may seem like your family has no extra time to spare. However, keep in mind that your exchange student will probably be just as busy as you. We don’t expect families to drop everything to accommodate a student – just include them in your daily life! As long as at least one parent is home on evenings and weekends, hosting should not be a huge burden. Families should be aware that the week leading up to the beginning of school is bound to be exciting and stressful at times, but with the right preparation it will not be a problem. Plus, you’ll have a Local Coordinator and the Student Ambassador Exchange team behind you the whole time!
How much support will we receive once the student arrives?
Once you have applied to be a host family, you will be assigned a Local Coordinator who will help guide you through the entire process. They will conduct a home visit and facilitate a host family orientation to prepare you for the arrival of your student. They will even be at the airport with you to greet your student for the first time! Your Local Coordinator will check in with you and the student at least once a month to see how things are going and troubleshoot any potential problems. In addition, a Student Ambassador Exchange staff member will be available 24/7 to help out with any emergencies or answer any questions the Local Coordinator is unable to resolve. At least once per semester, the Local Coordinator will come visit you in person to make sure everything is going well. All staff members have been fully trained both by our organization and the Department of State, and are ready to help guide you through this exciting experience!
What if we have a family emergency and are no longer able to host?
While we would like to avoid moving a student as much as we possibly can, we understand that emergencies do occur that call for a change in plans. Rest assured that if you have a sudden emergency, such as a death in the family, Student Ambassador Exchange will be there to help you and, if necessary, will move your student to a backup family for the rest of the year or until you are able to host again.
Students won’t be arriving until next August. When should we submit a host family application?
You can submit a host family application anytime! We will be accepting student applications on a rolling basis and are hoping to begin matching students with families this winter. The sooner you send in an application, the more time we have to place you with a student who will be an excellent match for your family!
Of course, these questions do not cover everything that you need to know to be a host family. Please feel free to send us an email or give us a call – we would love to discuss the possibility of being a host family with you!