If you're thinking of hosting a foreign exchange student in your home, here are the fast facts you need to know about possible tax deductions, language barriers, how long a foreign exchange students stays, and more.
Families who choose to host a foreign exchange student will introduce their kids to a new culture—China, Germany, Korea, Italy, and Norway are among the countries all around the globe that participate.
Money Matters: While host families are not paid, tax deductions typically apply (speak to your accountant or representative from the hosting agency). Hosts provide room and board, plus transportation to and from school and reasonable social activities. Generally, exchange students arrive with spending money for activities and shopping, as well as valid medical insurance.
Ages and Stages: Most foreign exchange students who come here are between the ages of 14-18. Twenty-five percent of host families from the EF Foundation have children younger than 12, and having a teenager is in no way required to host.
Language Arts: Students arrive with different levels of English language proficiency, though all are able to communicate effectively and are eager to immerse themselves in not only the culture but our language to gain fluency. Nearly 9 in 10 host families reported to the EF Foundation that communication was not a problem, and that their students were proficient in English. Your own young kids may benefit from having a new “brother” or “sister” who speaks a different language; in fact, children’s ability for picking up a new tongue is greatest when they are younger.
Problem-Solving: All foreign exchange students who arrive through agencies accredited by CSIET are thoroughly background checked (including criminal history) and must comply with U.S. laws. If a host family discovers an issue such as drug usage or skipping school, the hosting relationship may be terminated. All reputable organizations have liaisons to help troubleshoot and provide support throughout the year. Online resources, orientations, local volunteers, and staff also provide guidance.
About Time: The typical duration of a student’s stay is either a semester (4-5 months) or a school year (10 months), dependent upon the organization arranging the exchange. Many groups, including AFS-USA, offer shorter time periods for host families who may not be able to commit to a full semester or who want to test the waters. Welcome families, who host the students for approximately 6-12 weeks, help ease the teens’ transition upon arriving in the States; and replacement families agree to host a family for the duration of a semester when a student/family match does not work out.