Program Costs

International Trainees​

International Stewards:

U.S. Program Fees & Benefits

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 U.S. program candidacy. Upon invitation to submit your Steward Application for SAGE, MESA’s U.S. program (SAGE) fee is $1850 USD. MESA’s fee is paid in two steps:

  • $500 of your SAGE fee is due when you return your Steward Agreement to MESA after accepting a U.S. Host invitation. MESA will then confirm your U.S. Host placement, and issue and deliver your visa documentation so that you may schedule your visa interview at the nearest U.S. 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. Your SEVIS receipt will be included with your visa documentation packet which you must have in hand before your U.S. Embassy interview.
  • $1350 balance of your SAGE fee due when your J-1 visa is approved by U.S. 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’s GP and to our organization help to ensure these services and program benefits:

  • Enrollment in the 12-week Food Systems & Global Citizenship course which is now required of all SAGE candidates before U.S. arrival
  • Course certificate given by Global Partner & MESA upon completion
  • U.S. Host screening and Training Plan
  • U.S. Host assignment that meets your training objectives
  • Pre-U.S. arrival information, J-1 Visa application packet & delivery (includes visa application 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
  • SAGE Orientation upon U.S. arrival via Zoom (or in-person at MESA’s office for Stewards who arrive SFO): review Steward Dashboard, handbook, program objectives, and receive an introduction to American culture & institutions
  • Stipend or wages, 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
  • SAGE Certificate (upon successful U.S. program completion)
  • “SPRIG” mini-grant eligibility for Steward alumni-initiated home country projects
  • U.S. Department of State J-1 program Alumnus 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, U.S. Embassy form DS-160, etc. Any additional, optional fees charged by MESA’s Global Partner must be disclosed to candidates at the start of their SAGE Steward application process.

Refund Policy

Your $720 non-refundable fee ($500 SAGE deposit + $220 SEVIS fee) is due only if you receive and accept an invitation to train with a U.S. Host placement.

The $1350 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

  1. DS-160 form/ MRV fee: $160 payable to the U.S. Embassy. Both 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 addition to MESA’s required $150 pre-arrival course & 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 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.


  • 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 charges an additional fee of up to $600 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).

Next: J1 Visa Eligibility