Host an International High School Exchange Student

The rewards of hosting an International Exchange Student are many. Your family will learn and grow with the experience as you build a lifelong relationship! Below you’ll find an overview of the ICES Host Family Program. Prepare to join thousands of other American families and host a High School Exchange Student today! Your adventure begins here!


ICES Host Family Program

A world of learning and friendship

ICES is a nonprofit organization that promotes intercultural understanding and global citizenship through the U.S. Department of State high school exchange program. The program allows American families to host international students for a semester or a year (or shorter), while providing them with academic and cultural support.

The program aims to foster mutual respect, friendship, and learning among American families and students from different background and countries.


What It Means to Be A Host Family

  • Have you ever dreamed of traveling the world and learning about different cultures?
  • Do you want to make a positive impact on a young person’s life and education?
  • Do you have an extra room in your home and a warm heart to share?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you might be the perfect host family for an international high school exchange student!

ICES host families come in all shapes and sizes. You may be single, a couple with or without children, empty nesters, retirees… All family dynamics are welcome!

Your role as a host family is simply to provide a safe and nurturing home environment for your exchange student. This will include meals while the student is at home and some transportation. The students will need their own bed and a place to study, but they may share a bedroom with a teenage host sibling of the same sex.

ICES exchange students come with their own health insurance and spending money to cover school lunches and fees, as well as any personal expenses like phone and clothes. They will live as members of your family (not a guests), participate in family activities, respect host family rules, and help with chores.

Exchange Program Duration

The J-1 visa exchange program operates on a semester or year-long basis. Most students will arrive in August and stay the full academic years (10 months), though students from the southern hemisphere often arrive in January to stay a calendar school year with planned activities for the summer break. Semester students are common for both Fall and Spring.

Check out some ICES Blog posts to learn more about who can host!

BLOG: 12 Myths About Hosting an Exchange Student
BLOG: Can Homeschoolers Host Exchange Students?
BLOG: Empty Nesters: Are they “good” host parents?
BLOG: Dad to Dad

Can’t Host An Exchange Student A Full Semester Or Year?

Become a Welcome Family

A welcome family is a short-term host family that agrees to welcome an exchange student into the community by hosting them for 4-8 weeks. This allows the exchange student to come to the U.S. and start school on time while the ICES Local Coordinator continues to search for a permanent host family. A welcome family is also sometimes referred to as a “temporary family” or an “arrival family.”

Being an ICES welcome family is an excellent option for families who like the idea of hosting but are not ready to make a commitment to a full semester or school year. It’s also a great option for families who would prefer to “try out” hosting before committing to the entire exchange.

The requirements and process to become a welcome family are the same as for a long-term host family. We are simply looking for families who can provide a safe and nurturing home to a student.

Welcome Program Duration

Exchange students will stay 4-8 weeks in the beginning of the Fall or Spring semester.

“What if we decide we want to host our exchange student all year?”

Some families discover that being a welcome family is so enjoyable that they’d like to host the student all year. In most cases, this is possible and you would simply need to notify your Local Coordinator of your intent.

While we love to see our welcome families turn permanent, please know that you are under absolutely no obligation to do so, and ICES greatly appreciates your willingness to help by being a welcome family.


Host Family Support

ICES provides host families with a full network of support starting at the local level. Our trained Local Coordinators are available to help with any questions or concerns you and your family may have during the hosting experience. A Local Coordinator will visit your home and provide you with detailed information about the hosting experience, while answering all of your questions.

The ICES field staff also organize regular events and activities for the students and host families to meet each other, share their experiences, and celebrate cultural diversity.

In an emergency or any other urgent matter, an experienced ICES office staff member may always be reach 24/7 by calling our toll-free number 800-344-3566.


What are the benefits of hosting?

Hosting an international high school student is a fun, eye-opening, and rewarding experience that can enrich your family’s life in numerous ways. You will learn about a different culture, language, and perspective while sharing your own values and traditions. Below are just a few of many benefits listed:

  • Bringing an international perspective to your home and family life.
  • Helping your children to have the confidence to speak another language. Inspiring your children to participate in a school exchange abroad.
  • Developing your children’s social and hosting skills.
  • Having fun and great company while learning about other cultures.
  • Sparking an interest in our own community and the changing world around us.

Check out some ICES Blog posts to learn more about the benefits of hosting an exchange student:

BLOG: Why I Host Exchange Students
BLOG: Host Families Have More Fun!
BLOG: 8 Reasons I Love Being a Host Mom

Hosting an exchange student is a life-changing experience that can benefit both you and your student in many ways. Don’t just take our word for it; listen to what some of our previous host families have to say:



ICES international high school exchange students come from Europe, Latin America, Asia, Oceania, and Africa. They are carefully screened and selected by our partner organizations overseas based on their academic performance, English proficiency, personality, and motivation. Only those students who are deemed excellent candidates for the program will be accepted. ICES will follow up with additional screening for maturity and adaptability to ensure students have a genuine interest in becoming an exchange student. Here are some of the things we screen for:

  • Age: Students are between the ages of 15 -18
  • Academics: A minimum of a C average in all courses taken over the past three years. Transcripts translated into English and a Teacher’s Recommendation.
  • English Language Skills: Students must demonstrate acceptable scores on the Standard Test for English Proficiency and be comfortable using English conversationally to follow coursework and socialize.
  • Personality: A personal essay written by the student to describe their personality, hobbies, and home life.
  • Attitude: The ability to deal with the inevitable challenges of adapting to another culture and communicating in a foreign language.
  • Intellectual Curiosity: An open mind toward learning the ins and outs of another culture, such as its social customs, as well as concrete experiences such as food and fun.

Students around the world contemplate and dream about an exchange experience. They wonder what things will look like once they are actually living with an American family and going to school. The impact an exchange experience has on these students is profound and meaningful. Being a host family not only gives students a place to call home, but it also changes their view on Americans, their perspective on life, and gives them the gift of friendship and “family”. As you change their lives, you change yours. Cultural differences melt away, and the rewards of hosting come with the realization that you made a difference and changed lives!

To learn more about how to become a host family, click on the button below.


A world of learning and friendship

The ICES Host Family program aims to achieve positive outcomes for both the host families and the students in terms of academic achievement, cultural awareness, language skills, personal growth, and lifelong friendships. The program evaluates its success using various methods such as surveys, interviews, testimonials, grades, attendance records, etc. The program also collects feedback from the host families, students, schools, partner organizations, and field staff to improve its quality and effectiveness.

We believe that hosting an international high school exchange student is more than just providing ‘room and board’; it is an amazing opportunity to create a lasting bond across cultures and borders.