A global perspective: Implementing international exchange programs
International student exchange programs have long been recognized for their benefits to both the visiting students and their hosts. The value of promoting global awareness and cultural and linguistic exchange is increasingly important in an interconnected world. International students offer new perspectives in and outside of the classroom and give resident students a glimpse of other parts of the world.

Districts that would like to set up international exchange programs should become knowledgeable of the requirements and develop policy and procedures to ensure the eligibility, safety and well-being of visiting students.

For districts that maintain secondary schools and accept international student enrollment through a third-party organization, it is important to verify that the organization has been registered by the California Attorney General’s office. Districts can verify the registration of placement organizations with the California Attorney General’s Registry of International Student Exchange Visitor Placement Organizations. Verifying that the student is being placed by a registered organization ensures that all federal laws regarding visas and background checks of home placements have been followed. Districts can do additional research on the placement organizations through the annual advisory lists provided by the Council for Standards for International Educational Travel.

“Since international students are often away from home for the first time, and perhaps thousands of miles away from their nearest guardian, providing safeguards to ensure they are staying in a safe and welcoming environment is not only important to promoting a good experience for the student but also protecting the district from potential liability,” said CSBA Policy Manual Consultant Briana Mullen. Districts that fail to check that international exchange students are with a registered ISEVPO can potentially be held responsible for any harm that comes to the students while with the district.

The ISEVPO is required to provide certain information to the school, student and host family, including a description of services to be provided by the organization and a translated summary of the student’s complete prior academic coursework. The district may choose to require additional documents, such as evidence of health and accident insurance.

As required by state and federal law, districts accepting international exchange students also need to determine the amount they will charge for tuition so that they do not incur any financial loss when educating international exchange students. An international student, or the ISEVPO on behalf of the student, should reimburse the district for the full, unsubsidized cost of educating the student. While the law does not address how to calculate this cost, CSBA’s sample board policy BP 6145.6 – International Exchange, updated in July, and CSBA’s “Legal Guidance Regarding International Student Exchange Placement Organizations” recommend several possible methods that districts might use. For instance, a district might use the same factors specified in law for determining the total cost of education for a student who resides in a state or foreign country adjacent to California, including the amount expended per student for the current provision of instruction and services, the use of buildings and equipment, the repayment of local bonds and interest payments and state building loan funds, capital outlay, and transportation to and from school. Alternatively, the district could use the per-pupil amount of the high school base grant provided under the Local Control Funding Formula, augmented by the amount received for separately funded categorical programs and any federal funding received, or could consider its prior year per-pupil expenditures. It should be noted that students whose parents were residents of the state and departed against their will due to a transfer by a government agency, a lawful court or agency order, or the federal Immigration and Nationality Act are deemed to meet district residency requirements and cannot be charged tuition.

For further information regarding international exchange programs, districts are encouraged to review the resources available through the following agencies and organizations:

  • CSBA Legal Guidance Regarding International Student Exchange Placement Organizations, 2014:


  • U.S. Department of State, Exchange Visitor Program: http://j1visa.state.gov/programs/secondary-school-student
  • California Attorney General, Registry of International Student Exchange Visitor Placement Organizations: https://oag.ca.gov/exchangestudents/registry-list
  • Council for Standards for International Educational Travel: www.csiet.org/advisory-list