Program Costs

International Stewards:

Program Costs

U.S. Program Fees & Benefits

In addition to a one-time $75, non-refundable interview fee, MESA’s U.S. program (SAGE) fee of $1850 is typically paid in two steps:

  • $75 fee for MESA staff or a Global Partner (GP) to interview you and determine your eligibility for the J-1 visa and U. S. Program. Non-refundable. Candidates nominated by a GP typically pay the $75 application fee to MESA’s designated GP.
  • $1850 SAGE fee = $650 due only if/when you accept a U.S. Host invitation. This fee is non-refundable. It includes activation of your Steward application, U.S. Host placement matching, and J-1 visa application packet delivery. Your $1200 SAGE fee balance is due only upon U.S. Consul authorization of your J-1 visa.

What does my fee include?

MESA is a non-profit, educational organization. Steward SAGE fees help to ensure these services and program benefits:

  • U.S. Host screening and Training Plan
  • Customized matching with a U.S. Host assignment that meets your training objectives
  • Pre-U.S. arrival information, J-1 Visa application packet & delivery (includes forms DS-2019 & DS-7002)
  • Assistance to prepare for U.S. Consul interview
  • Program sponsorship – maintain visa and notify SEVIS of any changes in Host assignment or Steward status
  • Orientation – via Zoom (or in-person at our Berkeley, CA office for Stewards who arrive SFO): review handbook, program objectives, online curriculum, and receive an introduction to American culture & institutions
  • Wages &/or stipend, U.S. food, lodging, medical insurance (compensation varies by Host placement)
  • Employment authorization to receive wages, if applicable
  • Full-time coordinator support
  • Administrative and/or financial support to attend a farmers’ conference and/or workshops
  • Partial SAGE fee scholarships for low-income candidates who are nominated by a MESA Global Partner
  • “SPRIG” grants for U.S. Hosts to develop and collaborate with Stewards on sustainability projects
  • “SPRIG” grant eligibility for Steward alumni-initiated home country projects
  • Certificate in Applied Agroecology (upon successful U.S. program completion)
  • U.S. Department of State J-1 program Alumnus membership, includes future global study, travel and grant opportunities

Refund Policy

Your $650 deposit is due only if you receive and accept an invitation to train with a U.S. Host placement. No refund upon confirmation of acceptance. The $1200 balance of your SAGE fee is due only upon U.S. Consul approval of your J-1 visa. No refund is given once your visa is approved. If you are denied J-1 visa authorization by U.S. Consul, MESA may assist you to re-apply and issue new visa documentation free-of-charge up to 365 days from the original start date listed on form DS-2019.

Other Costs

MRV Fee/DS-160 form $160 payable to the U.S. Embassy;

  1. SEVIS form I-901 – $220 payable to U.S. Government *the DS-160 & SEVIS I-901 forms & fees are non-refundable and must be filed/paid before your U.S. Embassy interview;
  2. Round-trip Airfare to/from your U.S. Host, cost varies by dates & location;
  3. Optional: In-country service fees. In addition to MESA’s recommended $75 interview fee, Global Partners (GP) may charge additional service fees for program preparation, J-1 visa application assistance and/or other pre-arrival services, such as the new Food Systems and Global Citizenship certificate courses.
  4. Please ask MESA’s GP for documentation of any required or optional service fees, plus refund policy, before applying. MESA GPs are listed here.

Additional Considerations

Do not request an interview or apply unless you have the personal resources or funding required to cover ALL above costs!

Steward fees only provide a portion of the above SAGE services and benefits. Most U.S. Host partners also provide a $225 monthly Host fee to MESA to support the program. MESA also raises funds via individual donors and foundations to support farmer-to-farmer exchanges.


  • Stipend, wages, lodging and/or food may be provided by the U.S. Host, but vary by placement. If a Host invites your participation, carefully review the Host Training Plan for compensation offered before accepting the placement.
  • MESA may charge an additional fee to revise forms DS-7002 and DS-2019 if you request relocation or want to extend your original training period with a new Host assignment (U.S. training may not exceed the 12-month maximum).