Program Costs

International Stewards

SAGE candidates pay a $150 USD fee to MESA’s authorized Global Partner (GP) for enrollment in the required Food Systems & Global Citizenship certificate course which includes preliminary screening and consideration for US program candidacy. Upon invitation to submit your Steward Application for SAGE, MESA’s US program (SAGE) fee is $1850 USD. Your SAGE fee is paid in two steps:

  • $500 of your $1850 SAGE fee is due when you return your Steward Agreement to MESA after accepting a US Host invitation. MESA will then confirm your US Host 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.
  • $220 SEVIS I-901 fee. In most cases, MESA can file and pay your SEVIS I-901 fee for you and add it to your SAGE fee invoice. Your SEVIS receipt will be included with your visa documentation packet which you must have in hand before your US Embassy interview.
  • $1350 balance of your SAGE fee due when your J-1 visa is approved by US Consul. This fee is payable and non-refundable once your J-1 visa is granted.

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 the 12-week Food Systems & Global Citizenship courses, now required of all candidates before applying to SAGE
  • Course 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 US Consul interview*
  • Program sponsorship – maintain visa and notify SEVIS of any changes in Host assignment or Steward status
  • Online SAGE Orientation: review Steward online Classroom, handbook, program objectives, and receive an introduction to American culture & institutions
  • Bi-weekly virtual drop ins with MESA staff and Stewards
  • 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)
  • Medical insurance
  • Stipend $700 USD/month (may be lower or $0 if you accept to train with a nonprofit, education-based Host placement)
  • Full-time coordinator support
  • Up to $150 educational enrichment reimbursement to attend a farmers’ conference and/or farm workshops
  • SAGE Certificate (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 professional development, travel and grant opportunities!

*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 Costs

  1. DS-160 form/ MRV fee: $160 payable to the US Embassy. Both the DS-160 & SEVIS I-901 forms & fees are non-refundable and must be filed/paid before your US Embassy interview;
  2. Round-trip Airfare to/from your US Host, cost varies by dates & location;
  3. Optional:  In addition to the $150USD prerequisite courses & SAGE nomination fee, 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.

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 SAGE service costs. Most US Host partners also send MESA a monthly Host fee to support the program. MESA also raises funds via individual donors and foundations.


  • If a Host invites your participation, carefully review the Host Training Plan for 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