Will I Receive Financial Compensation for Hosting an Exchange Student?

Most students studying abroad will do so on what they call a J-1 Visa. The J-1 Visa permits students to come to America for educational purposes. They are issued by the United States Department of State and are granted for a specific period of time. Students on this type of Visa are sponsored by a student exchange program. These programs find host families and supervise the students while in the states. All host families for J-1 Visa students are strictly voluntary and receive no compensation.

Host parents of students on the F-1 Visa, however, are reimbursed for costs associated with caring for their students. The F-1 Visa is a program of Homeland Security. It also applies to education and training for foreign students but has a few minor differences than the J-1 Visa. 

Exchange Students on the J-1 Visa

The J-1 Visa is the most known program for foreign students wishing to study in the United States. Although the host family will provide housing and food for the student, the natural parents are responsible for their clothing and incidental expenses. To make sure these items are covered, the exchange student program typically requires that the student receive a monthly allowance from home. 

Some non-profit organizations also sponsor a foreign exchange student. With a program like this, the program will send the student a stipend to assist with their stay abroad. They will also typically arrange housing with someone that is a member of their organization. Again, the host family is not compensated directly for boarding a student. Instead, they are either paying it forward with plans of sending their own child on a travel abroad trip, or their child already went and they are giving back.  

It is more affordable for students to travel on the J-1 Visa. It is also viewed as representing more of the heart behind studying abroad because the host family is taking a student purely for the experience and not for the money. Along with education, J-1 students are interested in learning more about the culture, improving their English, and experiencing what it is like to be an American teenager. 

Exchange Students on the F-1 Visa

The F-1 Visa has more flexibility than the J-1. It is open to elementary, middle school, high school and college/university students. Most often, the F-1 student will work directly with the school and a homestay company that arranges room and board for them. There are also a few agencies that oversee all aspects of the process. These organizations will also screen and qualify host families to ensure they are staying in a safe and comfortable home environment. This includes interviews, site visits and criminal background checks. 

Under the F-1 Visa, the student is allowed to stay in the country as long as the school approves and the student is pursuing either a diploma or degree. Some might come to attend a summer education camp that lasts just a couple of weeks while others might be here for many years. 

Unlike the J-1 Visa, the F-1 Visa does not focus cultural exchange but is mostly about educational achievement. to complete a degree program. When hosting a student on an F-1 Visa, you can expect to be compensated for their room and board. This pay will vary based upon the homestay company or agency that you are working with. You will also receive more in high-cost living areas or if hosting a younger student due to the increased level of responsibility. Because you are being paid to host your student, more will be expected of you. For example, with the J-1 Visa, an exchange student can share a room with a child that is close to their age and is the same sex. Under the F-1 Visa, however, the student has to have their own room and a separate closet for their clothes. 

Along with covering the cost of their room, board and other expenses, students on the F-1 Visa must also pay tuition to the school. Although most F-1 Visa students will attend private schools, some will go to public schools. 

It might be tempting to consider the F-1 Visa because of the compensation. You might think that you can get the experience of hosting without incurring the cost, but it is not that simple. Take a look at this comparison chart to help you decide. 

J-1 VisaF-1 Visa
Host families are not paid.The host family is paid.
For high school students.For elementary, high school and college/university students.  
The exchange student is expected to live as part of the family.Participation in family life is optional. Ask your local coordinator about the program’s expectations.
The exchange student can share a room.The exchange student has to have their own room along with a separate storage area. 
Three meals a day.Three meals a day. 
One semester or a school year. From a couple of weeks to many years. 
Transportation to school and other activities. Transportation to school and other activities. 
The exchange student helps out with family chores. The exchange student keeps their room clean but doesn’t have to help with other household chores. 
The student does their own laundry. The student does their own laundry. 
Host family must show that the student will have a quiet place to study. The host family has to supply the student with a desk or table in their room. 
Host parents qualify for a tax deduction. Stipend might be considered rental income. 

With the J-1 Visa, you will not be compensated for hosting a student. Instead, the student will become part of your family and will participate in activities, help with chores and you’ll become their parent while they are in your care. This includes taking them to school, helping with homework, establishing a curfew, and providing them with support and encouragement. The F-1 Visa is somewhat of a rental arrangement with older students and more similar to the J-1 Visa with younger students. As a family, you’ll need to discuss what you want to gain from hosting a foreign exchange student. You should also interview different programs and agencies to help you to determine what is the best fit.