Program Costs

MESA-authorized Global Partners (GPs) are approved to charge a $150 enrollment fee for prospective SAGE candidates to join their 12-week “SAEP” course. The SAEP certificate course promotes professional development and does not require interest in SAGE. For those seeking to join the US SAGE Program, SAEP includes preliminary screening and consideration for SAGE. SAEP fee is required for first-time SAGE nominees.

Next Level Program (NLP) alumni candidates are welcome, but not required to enroll in SAEP.

MESA’s US program fee is $1850*. Your SAGE or NLP fee is paid in two steps:

  • SAGE or NLP Deposit: $500 of your $1850 program fee is due when you accept a US Host placement invitation and return your Steward Agreement to MESA. MESA will then confirm your placement, and issue and deliver your visa documentation so that you may schedule your visa interview at the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. This fee is non-refundable.
  • SAGE or NLP Fee Balance due: $1350 when your J-1 visa is approved by US Consul. This fee is due only upon J-1 visa approval. It is non-refundable once your J-1 visa is approved.

*MESA’s shorter, 3-4 month SAGE Program hosted by an education-based nonprofit partner costs $1350. This option typically includes a $200 monthly stipend for incidentals.

What do my program fees include?

MESA is a non-profit, educational organization. Steward SAGE fees paid to MESA Global Partners and our organization support these services and program benefits:

  • Enrollment in SAEP, the 12-week Food Systems & Global Citizenship courses, now required of all first-time candidates before SAGE consideration
  • SAEP certificate given by Global Partner &/or MESA upon completion
  • US Host recruitment, screening and Training Plan
  • US Host assignment to match your training objectives
  • J-1 Visa application documentation delivery & Pre-arrival information
  • Assistance to prepare for J-1 interview at US Embassy*
  • J-1 Program sponsorship – maintain active visa status and notify SEVIS of any changes
  • Online SAGE Orientation: review Steward online Classroom, handbook, program objectives, and receive an introduction to American culture & institutions
  • Monthly check-ins with MESA staff
  • Monthly educational & community building webinars featuring special guest presentations on agroecology, regenerative agriculture, global food systems, etc.
  • Free US lodging, utilities & food (unless otherwise specified in the Host Training Plan)
  • Comprehensive medical insurance, including tele-health
  • Stipend $800 USD/month for 2024 start dates, minus 14% federal tax requirement (stipend likely to be lower if you accept an education-based, nonprofit placement)
  • Full-time Coordinator Support
  • Up to $150 educational enrichment reimbursement to attend a farmers’ conference, online course, and/or farm workshop(s)
  • SAGE Certificate of Achievement (upon successful program completion)
  • “SPRIG” mini-grant eligibility for Steward alumni-initiated home country projects
  • US Department of State J-1 program Alumni membership, includes more opportunities for professional development, networking, travel, and grants!

*Some SAGE candidates may request additional services during the J-1 visa application process. MESA Global Partners are permitted to charge additional fees for optional services, such as help to complete your Steward application, US Embassy form DS-160, etc. Any additional, optional fees charged by MESA’s Global Partner must be disclosed to candidates before they apply for SAGE.

Refund Policy

Your $720 non-refundable fee ($500 SAGE deposit + $220 SEVIS fee) is due only upon confirmation of your US Host placement.

The $1350 balance of your SAGE fee is due only upon US 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 US 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 Required Costs

  1. $220 SEVIS I-901 fee, due before your US Embassy interview date. In most cases, MESA can file and pay your SEVIS I-901 fee for you and add it to your SAGE deposit invoice. You must bring your SEVIS I-901 receipt to your US Embassy interview. This fee is non-refundable, but remains valid for 1 year.
  2. $185 Nonimmigrant visa applicant processing fee. This fee must be paid to the US Embassy when you schedule your visa interview. This fee is non-refundable, and must be paid again if your visa is not approved at your first interview and you want to try again.
  3. Round-trip Airfare to/from your US Host placement, Cost varies by dates & from/to locations.

Optional Costs

  1. Global Partners (GP) may charge additional service fees for U.S. program preparation, J-1 visa application assistance and/or other pre-arrival services. Please ask MESA’s GP for documentation of any required or optional service fees, plus refund policy, before applying. MESA current regional GPs are listed here.

Total Estimated Costs (USD)

$150 SAEP course (first-time Stewards only) + $1850 SAGE Fee + $220 SEVIS Fee + $185 Embassy interview + $1000-$2000 Round Trip Airfare = $3400 – $4400 Total, based on airfare variability

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 help cover a portion MESA’s program services. Most US Host partners also pay a monthly Host fee to support our program. MESA also raises funds via individual donors and foundations.


  • If a Host invites your participation, carefully review the Host Training Plan for stipend plus non-monetary compensation, including housing, food, etc., offered before accepting the placement.
  • MESA charges an additional fee of up to $600 if you request relocation or want to extend your original training period at a new Host assignment (US training cannot exceed the 12-month maximum).

Next: J1 Visa Eligibility