For international candidates who seek practical training experience with ecological US farms, nonprofits, sustainable food suppliers, and organic research centers. MESA sponsors international trainees (aka “Stewards) within the US Department of State’s J1 visa exchange visitor program for up to 12 months.
US-based programs are designed for beginning or established farmers, recent agriculture graduates, and sustainable farm advocates from around the world. Do you want to live and train with a US Host placement working in sustainable agriculture? Join MESA! This program is offered year-round, based on Host availability.
MESA Stewards come with a wide range of expertise and life experience. Some work on family farms, others are emerging community leaders or working toward advanced degrees in agroecology and similar disciplines. Some come from regions that have been in conflict for long periods, where the future of small-scale food production is uncertain. What MESA Stewards have in common is a desire to be exposed to the innovations in sustainable agriculture production and marketing in the US, and an eagerness to share social and agricultural traditions with their Hosts.
Are you a MESA Steward alumni interested in the Next Level Program? Click here.
In addition to a one-time $75, non-refundable interview fee, MESA’s U.S. program (CAAPX) fee of $1850 is typically paid in two steps:
- $75 fee for MESA staff or a Global Partner/Country Representative (GP/CR) to interview you and determine your eligibility for the J-1 visa and U. S. Program. Non-refundable. Candidates nominated by a GP/CR typically pay the $75 application fee to MESA’s GP/CR.
- $1850 CAAPX fee = $500 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 delivery of your J-1 visa application packet. Your final $1350 CAAPX fee balance is due upon authorization of your J-1 visa by U.S. Consul.
What does my fee include?
MESA is a non-profit, educational organization. Steward CAAPX fees help to ensure these services and program benefits:
- US Host screening and Training Plan
- Customized matching with a US Host assignment that meets your training objectives
- J1 Visa application packet & int’l delivery (includes forms DS-2019 & DS-7002)
- Assistance to prepare for your US Consul interview
- Program sponsorship – maintain visa and notify SEVIS of any changes in Host assignment or Steward status
- Orientation – via Skype or half day 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, US food & lodging (compensation varies by Host placement)
- Curriculum (interactive, online courses, video links, discussion groups, instructor feedback, etc.)
- Employment authorization to receive wages, if applicable
- Full-time coordinator support
- Administrative and/or financial support to attend a farmers’ conference and/or workshops
- CAAPX scholarships for low-income candidates ($500 max, must be nominated by a MESA Global Partner)
- “SPRIG” grants for US Hosts to develop and collaborate with Stewards on sustainability projects
- Certificate in Applied Agroecology (must complete online coursework to earn this extra certificate)
- “SPRIG” grant eligibility for Steward alumni-initiated home country projects
The first $500 fee 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 $1350 balance of your CAAPX 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 J1 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.
- US Government Fees: SEVIS form I-901 ($180) & U.S. Embassy form DS-160/ MRV fee ($160) – both forms must be filed and paid before scheduling your US Embassy interview for the J-1 visa;
- Round-trip Airfare to/from your US Host placement;
- Health insurance that meets US State Department requirements for J1 visa trainees. Affordable insurance plans cost approximately $60/month and can be purchased from a variety of online insurance providers. Alternately, you may ask MESA to enroll you in our recommended insurance policy for $90/mo. which includes MESA enrollment and administrative assistance;
- In-country services fee. Global Partners (GP) and Country Representatives (CR) may charge their own fee for recruitment & screening, program & visa application assistance, and pre-arrival services. Please request written explanation of the application fees and refund policy from the GP/CR before applying. MESA’s home country representatives are listed here.
Do not apply unless you have the personal resources or funding required to cover the above costs!
The Steward CAAPX fee covers only part of the cost for the above services and benefits. Most US Hosts also send MESA a $225 monthly fee to support this program. Additionally, MESA raises funds via individual donors and foundations to support farmer-to-farmer exchanges.
- Stipend, wages, lodging and/or food may be provided by the US 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 (US training in agriculture may not exceed the 12-month maximum).