Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible to host?

All types of families are encouraged to apply. Above all, we strive for a great match between the exchange student and host family—based on shared interests and motivations. With 1,100 students from more than 70 countries coming each year, chances are we will find the right student for your family.

Are we good candidates for hosting?

Truly, there is no "typical" host family just as there is no “typical” exchange student. Sometimes, the right match for a foreign exchange student is a married couple with teens in the home like the Steffen family in Nevada. Younger siblings often love the attention of an exchange student, and for international teens who are used to being around smaller children, this can be a very comfortable environment—after all, kids are kids in any culture. (Just ask the Wilsons in New Mexico.) There are, of course, exchange students who come from single family homes (and have great experiences with single host parents like Lisa Ringer in Indiana) and those who enjoy the attentiveness of empty-nesters, such as the Knutsens in Wisconsin.

Likewise, PAX students come from both rural and urban areas and have preferences for the type of community in which they experience exchange. Kristine from Ukraine loved her exchange year in rural Indiana. The bottom line is that, because the U.S. is so large and so diverse, there is no singular or correct way to experience the program.

What do host dads have to say about the experience?

Of course, the experience is different for everyone. Mel Blunt in Missouri has hosted more than 20 students, and Joe Lukas in Mississippi 14 in his own right—there's obviously a lot they both love about the experience. Joel Barron (also a Mississippian) grew up with exchange students and was excited to keep the tradition going when his young family invited Paul from Germany into their home.

Being as she comes from a landlocked country, Philipp Altobelli got a kick out of showing his Kazakh host daughter the Jersey Shore. Christoph from Germany was very excited that his host dad Michael invited him to a Vikings home game (and explained American football). When it came to a special Earth Day project, Troy Shields in Pennsylvania appreciated the helping hand provided by Ghanwa from Pakistan. Gil Roy in Maine—meanwhile—loves road trippin' with his students. Scott Knox (Arizona) reports having had a great time at Zion National Park with his students as well.

Zhiwei's host grandfather appreciated that their student was so interested in learning to fish—the Connecticuter helped the young man from China fashion his very own bamboo rod. And finally, there's Donald Leonard in Nevada who was simply blown away by his Dutch son's on-stage presence!

Do host families need to be located in specific parts of the country?

PAX works with host families in all 49 states of the Continental United States.

Are host families paid?

Host families of J-1 exchange students host on a voluntary basis. That said, host families are entitled to a tax deduction for each month they host.

Does the student speak English?

Yes, all PAX students have a demonstrated level of proficiency in English and have studied the language for a minimum of three years. Students come to America with a desire to immerse themselves in the language. Families are often amazed at how their student's English fluency improves, often quickly and dramatically, once they are immersed in school and social life.

Do PAX students have responsibilities?

Being an exchange student is like joining a family. It comes with rewards and with responsibilities. Students are expected to adapt to the host family's lifestyle, respect and uphold house rules, participate in family activities, and pitch in with chores.

Does PAX have rules for participants?

Yes—along with clear disciplinary procedures. PAX program rules cover everything from drinking, driving, drugs, and tobacco use (none of which are permitted) to expectations in school and for when exchange students need to return home. Independent travel is also limited. Program rules are detailed in the PAX Host Family Handbook, which every family receives before their exchange student arrives.

What is a host family’s financial obligation?

All PAX exchange students have their own spending money, provided by their natural families. The host family is responsible for providing the student three meals a day, including either a school bag lunch or school lunch money. (If the family provides a packed lunch but the student prefers to purchase a school lunch, the student may do so at his or her own expense.) All other expenses, including independent travel, extra school fees or activities, social events, personal and hygienic supplies, or telephone calls are paid by the student.

Will the host family need to cover medical expenses?

All PAX exchange students are covered by full medical insurance with a small deductible. Host families have no financial liability for a student’s health-related expenses.

How old are the students who participate?

PAX students are between the ages of 15 and 18 when they enter the U.S. The high school the student attends will determine what grade the student will enter.

Does the host family need to secure a visa for the exchange student?

Most PAX students enter the U.S. on a J-1 exchange visitor visa, secured with a DS-2019 form issued by PAX. PAX assumes all responsibilities for visas and any other travel documents.

What responsibilities do host families have?

PAX families are asked to provide students with three quality meals a day, a place to sleep and study, transportation to and from school activities, and a warm, supportive environment. Private rooms are not required.

Are the students allowed to participate in after-school activities?

Absolutely! The students are encouraged to join clubs and organizations to enhance their experience while living in America. Read about how Maris from Thailand learned to play soccer in Minnesota or how Carla from Germany fulfilled her dream of joining the marching band while in Texas! 

How long do students stay with host families?

Year program students stay for 10 months and arrive in mid-August. Semester students stay for five months and arrive in either mid-August or mid-January.

Are there shorter hosting opportunities?

Families who are not able to commit to hosting for a full-year or semester can become a “Welcome” family. Welcome families host a newly-arrived student upon their arrival for six to eight weeks.

Can families host more than one student?

Yes, families can host two students at a time. Some families decide that hosting two exchange students is better for them. Some find the experience more rewarding; others feel more comfortable knowing that the students can share the exchange experience.

In order to host two students, both students and their natural parents must approve this arrangement. Additionally, students may not speak the same native language. This ensures that only English is spoken in the home. Read about Eunice Spooner's experience hosting two students in Maine.

What if problems arise?

Community coordinators and the PAX national office have a great deal of experience in both matching participants with families and providing support throughout the year. When a problem or concern arises, your coordinator is expected to begin by holding a “3-point meeting,” a facilitated discussion with you and your student. The coordinator serves as an objective moderator, making sure that everyone’s thoughts and feelings are heard.

Sometimes, formal disciplinary action is required in addition to the 3-point meeting. If it becomes necessary to move a student to another family, PAX assumes responsibility, and the community coordinator is available for counsel and support.

What happens if a host family goes on vacation?

Vacations are a great way for PAX students to experience the diversity of the U.S. Students should cover their own vacation costs with the spending money provided by their natural parents. If it is not possible for your student to travel with you, your community coordinator can suggest alternatives.

Do host families get to choose their student?

Yes. PAX works with you based on your preferences, which may include gender, country of origin, hobbies and interests, etc. You can even search for students awaiting a host family right now on our site!

Can home-schoolers host PAX students?

Yes. That said, per U.S. Department of State regulations all PAX students enroll at an accredited high school.

When do students arrive?

Students arrive in August for full-year or first semester only exchanges and in January if they are visiting only for the second semester.

When do students leave?

PAX students are expected to return home within two weeks of the last day of school or by the program end date on the student’s DS-2019 form—whichever is earlier. Departure dates for U.S. Government scholarship students on the FLEX and YES programs sometimes vary slightly from this norm and will be shared with you just as soon as travel arrangements are made.

How does a potential host family get started?

Just give us a call at 800.555.6211 or fill out a host family inquiry on the “Families” page.