Host Family Financial Responsibility for the Foreign Exchange Student

The idea of hosting a student from another country can be exciting. Along with the anticipation of adding a new member to your family, you will probably have a little fear about what obligations and commitments you might have in terms of a foreign exchange student.  If you were to take a student, what is the financial responsibility of a host family to that student?

When hosting a student, in most cases you are a volunteer meaning you will have some financial obligations toward your student. Your responsibilities, however, are pretty standard and include basic needs like food, shelter and a ride to school.

Why are Some Host Families Paid While Others are Not?

Some agencies will compensate you for the cost involved in taking a student. What is the difference in these programs?

Most students coming to the United States do so on the J-1 Visa. The J-1 Visa is open to high school students interested in studying in a town or city for up to one school year. If a student is on a J-1 Visa, the host family cannot legally be paid. Hosting a student does, however, make you eligible for a tax deduction.

Both high school and community college students are eligible for the F-1 Visa. If a student comes to the United States on the F-1 Visa, the agency can pay the host family although it is not required. The payment the family receives is meant to compensate them for the costs associated with housing a foreign exchange student. This is often referred to as a homestay arrangement and can last anywhere from 4 weeks to as long as 4 years. Therefore, the amount paid to the family will vary based upon the length of stay. Additionally, programs or agencies pay different amounts and have different requirements.

Your Financial Responsibility for Your Student

Whether or not you are receiving a stipend, you will have similar financial responsibilities to what you have with your own children. That said, expect your grocery bill, water bill and lights and gas bill to increase. You might even spend a little extra on gasoline if you have to drive your student to sports practice and other extracurricular activities.

Can I Afford to Take a Foreign Exchange Student?

You might wonder whether your family can afford to take a foreign exchange student. This is understandable, but know that you don’t have to be wealthy to host a foreign exchange student. In truth, most families can afford to give a kid an opportunity to experience a different culture because the expectations of all the programs are reasonable. All just ask for you to give your student the basic necessities. Your food menu shouldn’t change nor should you adjust your lifestyle any. If you serve spaghetti, give your student that. If you serve cold cereal for breakfast, that will suffice. Along with 2-3 meals a day, being that your student is a teen, a couple of snacks a day might also be good.

The program will also require that your student have a comfortable place to sleep and study. Some agencies will allow students to share a room with another teen while others may not. That said, you might have some upfront costs related to furnishings like buying a bed, desk or dresser in which your student will store their belongings. However, you are not required to provide your student with electronic and technology items like a television, alarm clock, computer or cell phone.

Will the Foreign Exchange Student Have Their Own Money?

Most foreign exchange students come from middle-class income families although some might have a little more even less (as some might be on scholarship). As a policy, most international student exchange programs require that students get a monthly stipend from home. These funds are allotted for costs associated with clothing, sports, travel, and recreation. If you can afford to pay for a few things like movie tickets or bowling activities, that is nice but is not required. Just make sure your agency representative and your student are clear on what you will and will not pay for. Communication is the key to avoid any misunderstandings.

Will I be Responsible for Health Insurance?

One of the biggest concerns you might have is about medical care. What if your student gets ill while they are staying with you? Are you responsible for doctors or hospital visits? What about medication? No, you’re not required to cover any costs associated with medical care. Each program ensures that your student has a medical insurance policy that is specific to international students.  Along with emergency medical care, it should also cover costs associated with physicals for sports.

Am I Responsible for School Tuition?

Most exchange students on the J-1 Visa will attend public school, therefore, there is no tuition to be paid. But many kids on the F-1 Visa opt to attend a private school. You might also want your student to attend a private school because that is where your kids go. You are never financially responsible for a student’s tuition. In fact, some private schools will waive or discount the tuition. Either way, the parents of the student would be responsible for the tuition if they agree for their child to attend that school. Just be sure to let your representative know so that you’ll be matched with a student that has the financial means to attend private school if they do not waive the tuition. 

You may have more or less than your student is accustomed to. But don’t worry about that. The program will do their best to match you with a student that will fit well in your family both socially and financially. Additionally, photos of your home, family and occupation along with your application will be shared with your student and their families. Likewise, you’ll get copies of your student’s application and information so you both feel comfortable with the pairing.