What is Homestay?
Homestay is a cultural exchange between a local individual or family (called a host) and a visiting international student (guest). A homestay allows guests the opportunity to stay in a warm, welcoming Australian household, rather than in an impersonal apartment, dorm, or hotel.
Who can host and what is required?
Traditional families, non-traditional families, single people, roommates and friends living together – any person or group who is willing to share daily life with an international guest can be a host. As an AHN homestay host you must:
- Make yourself and your home available to your guest. Our hosts must be able to provide a clean, comfortable and private bedroom for guests.
- Hosts must speak clear and correct English in the home.
- Help your guest settle into a comfortable and safe home and help them to learn. You will be willing to make them feel at home with conversation, support, inclusion in family activities and personal warmth. Ideally, you’ll have a sincere interest in other cultures and a desire to connect with new friends from around the world.
- Provide healthy food for your guest (if this is included in their service, please see “what levels of service can I offer” for more detail.)
- Show your guest around the community to assist the guest to become familiar with the local area and customs, while in a relaxed and friendly household setting.
- Help your guest to access or organise important services e.g. setting up a bank account and mobile, and assist your guest to seek medical or dental attention as necessary.
- Maintain valid clearances. All hosts and permanent residents over the age of 18 must have a valid police clearance (to host Over 18’s) or Working with Children Check (to host Under 18’s). Details of State and/or Territory requirements as detailed here.
How much do I get paid to host?
All hosts receive payments by direct deposit every 2 weeks. The amounts vary based on:
- What meals and amenities you provide
- Your region
- The age of the guest
We provide payments in a 2-week cycle because it means you get paid more frequently and always for the exact number of days you host. For a more in depth overview of payments please contact your local AHN office and they will be more than happy to assist you.
What levels of service can I offer?
We offer several packages for guests in homestay these include:
- Complete Homestay: host provides 3 meals, 7 days / week
- Traditional Homestay: host provides breakfast and dinner, Mon-Fri, 3 meals Sat-Sun
- Dinner-Only Homestay: host provides dinner only 7 days / week
- No-Meals Homestay: No meals provided by the host
*Packages will vary depending on your state, contact your local AHN office for more detail.
What is it going to be like?
Most of our guests are university students and have travelled a long way for the opportunity to study in Australia. An Australian education, strong English language skills and knowledge of western culture may set the student up for a brighter future at home. Because it is so important, students will often be very focused on their studies and school activities. They will want to join you at mealtimes (if you are sharing meals) and for family activities and outings.
How long do students stay?
Most placements are for 28 nights. After this time, if both guest and host wish to continue, the placement will be extended. Some guests stay for 4 weeks then find their own accommodation, while others choose to stay for an extended period to make the most of their cultural exchange.
Do I need to be near a major university?
Yes, our hosts need to be within a maximum 60 minutes by public transport (including walking time) of a university, college, TAFE, ESL school, professional or high school where there is current student demand.
Who are these guests and where do they come from?
AHN guests are mostly tertiary education students who are here to study in a degree program, an ESL, or vocational course. We do also place high-school students, interns, older professionals, and study tours. All of our travellers currently come to Australia with an educational objective. These students come from all over the world. Some of the most active regions right now are Asia, the Middle East and South America.
What areas do you need hosts in?
To see if AHN is currently placing students in your area, go to our locations page and select your city. If you don’t see active links for your area, AHN is not currently placing students near you. You are welcome to apply even if your area is not represented, we’re always looking to expand, though you are less likely to get a guest placement.
Do we need to be native English speakers?
You need to speak clear, correct English in your home anytime the guest is around but you do not need to be a native English speaker. If your speech is heavily accented or difficult to understand, we’ll help you identify that early in the process and probably recommend against hosting. One of the primary objectives of homestay is for guests to perfect their English therefore they need to learn from your conversation.
Do the students speak English?
English proficiency will vary but they will speak some basic English when they arrive. Remember though, their goal is to improve these skills through homestay and having conversations with you. You will need to be patient, curious, kind and respectful, especially at first as you navigate new communication.
Are any background checks required?
All hosts and permanent residents over the age of 18 must have a valid police clearance (to host Over 18’s) or Working with Children Check (to host Under 18’s). Details of State and/or Territory requirements are available here.
How long does it take to get a student placed in my home?
Once you complete the application, self-assessment, interview, and background checks we begin the process of matching you to the right guest. This can happen right away or could take months, depending on demand in your area and what guests match with your lifestyle and preferences.
Do I need to be committed to hosting with AHN when I submit the application?
Not at all. Submitting the application is a great way to learn more about the specifics of hosting in your area and it doesn’t obligate you in any way. We don’t have any sales people on our team and we won’t pressure you about hosting. You can decide to host or not host at any time, whether it is at the beginning of the process or even if you are already certified or have hosted guests.
Does AHN comply with any Homestay Standards?
AHN have been the industry leaders in Homestay Standards throughout Australia. In Australia, we’ve earned government commendation for raising the safety and standards of the industry as a whole.
We’re a little different than more direct, peer-to-peer services in that we provide a full service approach to hosting. That means that we know exactly who is staying with you and what their background is. It also means that you have our support 24 hours a day in case there is a problem or emergency. We also handle billing and most collection activities and pay you directly, on time, via direct deposit. We give you training on cultural understanding and making international guests (and your own family) comfortable.
Our process for hosts ensures we prepare you to have the best experience and how we can offer the same quality and integrity to the guests who come to stay with you.
Click here for full details of the standards we adhere to.
So what is the entire application process and how long does it take?
The initial online application is just a capture of basic personal and household information and it should take only about 5 minutes to submit it and get the process started. The full process is outlined below:
- Complete the online application (5 minutes)
- Receive your welcome email
- Complete your online profile / submit banking info for payment (you can wait until later in the process)
- Take the online training and self-assessment (under 1 hour)
- Submit and wait for background checks to come back
- Schedule your home interview with your Host Manager
- You are ready!
We do advise you to take your time crafting the profile to ensure we get the best guest matches possible, but there’s no urgency to get it done. You just need to finish it before we start matching you with guests.
What do they like to eat?
Ultimately, they are here to experience Australia, therefore should be eating the everyday foods you prepare in your home. Some guests will be very easy-going about food and others will have a harder time adapting or will just be pickier eaters. You’ll need to figure this out through conversation and observation. In time, you’ll find some go-to favourites and you can also invite your guest to cook with you. It will be fun, you’ll learn new dishes, and you’ll get used what your guest likes and doesn’t. To see our student meal expectations, please click here.
If I spend more than my budget buying food requested by my guest, can I get reimbursed by AHN?
If your guest asks for special food, they need to buy that themselves (not ask you to buy it and reimburse you). Invite your guest to go to the store with you if you can, then give them the chance to buy the special things they want (within reason). It may be an interesting opportunity for you to learn about local international markets or foods you wouldn’t normally buy. Ultimately though, they are here to experience Australia, therefore should be eating the everyday foods you prepare in your home.
Do I just buy the food or do I need to cook for my guest?
You can choose the level of homestay you provide from our list of packages (see “what levels of service can I offer” for more detail) Breakfast and lunch are self-serve, so you will only need to have food available for your guest but you don’t need to prepare it. We ask that dinner (if you’ve chosen to offer it) is served at least 5 days each week and includes interaction and conversation with your guest. AHN payments are reflective of each package offered; reimbursing our hosts for their costs and effort.
Meals may sound like a hassle at first but our hosts confirm what we know to be true – that mealtimes are the best and most rewarding times to connect and build friendships with your guests, especially if you are cooking for yourself or your family anyway. Including your guest in mealtimes will make a much richer experience for you and for your guest.
Be clear with your guest which food is theirs and which you would prefer they do not use. If you have chosen to host a guest who is on a no meals plan, you only need to make the kitchen available to your guest.
What if the guest does not like my cooking?
Some guests will eat anything and some are very picky. But don’t worry, If your guest isn’t connecting with the food in your house, offer to take them to the store with you so they can pick out things they like. You can also invite them to teach you to cook a dish they enjoy or help them find recipes and local ethnic markets if they are new to cooking, but just miss the taste of home. You may also want to create a dedicated shelf so they can keep their favourite foods separate from the household pantry. Sometimes something as simple as finding a sauce or condiment from home can allow your guest to easily turn some simple meat and vegetables into something they will love.
What if my guest is vegetarian or only eats Halal or some special diet?
You will be able to specify in your profile whether you are willing to support special diets.
What is Halal and is it hard to incorporate it into our family meals?
Overall, cooking Halal is usually less trouble than it sounds, especially if you live in a city where Halal butchers are nearby. Halal is a process through which meat is butchered and treated, like Kosher. It is the same to prepare Halal meals as meals with conventional meat. You must avoid pork and alcohol and you just need to keep the Halal dishes distinct from the other. However, when a guest identifies as a Halal eater, it is worth having a conversation about it. Some may be very strict in their Halal practices but others may be happy to simply avoid pork and alcohol.
Does the guest have insurance?
AHN has its own comprehensive insurance that covers any damage caused by your guests. guests are required to take out their own health insurance before coming to Australia. If damage is caused to your property whilst you have a guest, you can contact your local office for advice and guidance on the appropriate steps to take.
Do I need to get special insurance to be a host?
AHN has arranged a tailor-made cover (exclusive to AHN), underwritten by XL Catlin Insurance Group that has been designed specifically for AHN hosts and AHN managed guests in a homestay situation.
It is a requirement under the AHN program for hosts to have appropriate liability insurance protection for themselves and guests and appropriate cover for guests belongings. The insurance AHN has arranged provides this protection.
What’s covered by my homestay insurance/ where can I find more info?
What if I have my own insurance policy?
Hosts who believe they already have appropriate insurance cover should send a copy of their policy to the independent insurance broker appointed by AHN. The broker will assess the cover for suitability and respond directly to the host with the outcome within 3 working days. If your current policy is suitable we will be notified and AHN insurance will not be required.
What’s my liability if something happens to the guest on my watch? On my property?
By agreeing to host, you are agreeing to do your best to help and support this visitor, providing a safe and secure environment and assisting them to adjust to the Australian way of life. If something happens to the guest on your property, your risk is the same as it would be for any guest in your home.
Under 18 students do require extra duty of care – for more information about your responsibility for a younger guest’s welfare, see our Under 18 Code of Conduct.
What should I do before the student arrives?
In anticipation of your guests arrival we have provided a quick checklist to ensure all key topics are covered during the guests first few days with you. Click here to view our checklist and ensure you have covered everything before your guest arrives.
Do I get to meet the student before they arrive or I accept them?
You’ll get some information about the guest through the Homestay Management System, but you probably won’t get to meet them in person until they arrive at your house. In most cases, you can begin emailing and getting to know your new guest before the guest leaves their home country.
How do I make them comfortable?
Click here to view our checklist and ensure you have covered everything before your guest arrives.
If you have traveled, you’ll know it can be hard being so far from home, especially the first time. Making your guest comfortable can transform their experience from scary to life-changing and wonderful. Data shows us that international students in a comfortable, warm, supportive, and harmonious home perform better in classes and other endeavors they take on in their new culture.
Making someone comfortable is simple and you already know how to do it. For example:
- have food and drinks available and offer them regularly at first. Saying “make yourself at home” is easy but most guests won’t feel comfortable to get what they need on their own. You need to offer.
- Ask them what they need, especially when they first arrive. Maybe they are tired and would like to rest. Maybe they would love a shower or a meal. Maybe they are excited to get out and get their bank account set up. Maybe they are anxious to get a local mobile phone so they can call and tell their family they’ve arrived safely. Give them options.
- Make sure their room is clean and orderly and try to make it inviting. A lamp with soft light, some pictures, a vase of flowers, a soft throw blanket or pretty pillow – these things show that you care about their comfort.
- Take them to the grocery store and have them pick some things they like. Set aside an area in the fridge or cabinet for food that they can have anytime and let them know this is for them.
- Ask them about their studies, hobbies, or family. Ask them about anything they’ve noticed or been curious about since they’ve arrived in Australia.
- Invite them to join you for errands, to watch TV, or to just sit and visit.
Do I need to provide transportation for my guest?
Most of our guests are old enough to manage public transport on their own and most will prefer it. We just ask you show them how to use it for the first few times. If you are happy to provide guests with a lift this is appreciated but not necessary. We do have some younger guests who do request transport – this is advised at the time of making the placements.
Can I host if I have a pet?
Of course, it just needs to be stated on your profile. Some guests will fall in love with your pets. Some will be afraid, allergic, or have a religious prohibition for being around pets. In those cases, we’ll ensure you aren’t matched with that guest.
Can I request certain nationalities or a certain gender?
Yes, you can, though we may invite you to challenge some of your thoughts or assumptions if we feel strongly we have a great match for you. Ultimately, it is up to you. You are never obligated to host.
Do I pay taxes on host payments?
Generally speaking, you can host up to 2 guests at any point and the payments will not be tax assessable however we recommend speaking with your accountant about your individual circumstances.
Can I make a profit hosting?
Homestay is not designed to be an income generator specifically. If you are careful with your payments and efficient with your spending, you can make a small income. Payments from AHN are designed to cover the costs associated with accommodating a guest, with a little extra to thank you for your efforts.
How many guests can I host?
You can host up to 3 guests at a time and as many guests consecutively as you like. You are paid per guest. We limit hosts to 3 guests at a time because the value of homestay is bigger than just the accommodation. It is about the interaction and the personal connection, so we want you to be able to have that with all your guests.
My student wants to pay me directly. What do I do?
The AHN model is designed to make the homestay relationship easier by keeping the collections tasks out of your day-to-day communications at home and making them an AHN corporate function. AHN keeps a small percentage of the homestay payments in exchange for managing the administrative and legal tasks and providing 24/7 support for hosts and guests. If you decide to go direct with your guest, you will sever your connection to AHN’s services and support.
What if my guest smokes?
You do not need to accept a guest who states they are a smoker, your house is your house and smoking will not be tolerated unless you allow it. Smoking is a lot more acceptable in some other parts of the world than it is in Australia. If a guest is a smoker, they will be asked to smoke only outside of the house and in whatever area you designate. They will be required to clean up after themselves as you request. If any guest disrespects your smoking rules, AHN will help you correct the problem and will remove the guest if it continues.
What if I need a break or want to go on a holiday?
You simply log into your host account online and set your availability to “unavailable to host” as you’d like. When you are ready for your next guest, log back in and let us know you are available again by resetting your status. Alternatively, contact your local AHN office and let us know!
What is the holiday policy?
All intended holidays must be reported to your local AHN office at least two weeks in advance. For students over 18 there are three options:
- You are welcome to invite your guest to join you on a holiday. If you invite them to come along and don’t plan to pay their way (you are never obligated to pay their way), just let them know in advance what the costs will be so they can decide whether it fits with their budget.
- If the guest is staying behind and you are happy to leave them at home (over 18 students only) you are still responsible for upholding your hosting duties while you are away. You must let your guest know in advance. You must provide enough food for the student in your absence and prepare all dinners before your departure.
- If you want the student to be transferred to another homestay while you are away we require 2 weeks notice, you may be requested to drop your students to the new homestay and collect them when you return.
If your Guest is Under 18 they are NOT allowed to be left unattended. You must contact AHN immediately and we will arrange for temporary accommodation in another homestay for the student while you are away. There may be an option to have an approved adult (at AHN discretion) stay at your home with the student subject to a working with children check.
Do I take my guest out to dinner, on excursions, and on family trips?
We ask that you include your guest as much as you are comfortable to but you are certainly not obligated to include them in everything. Your payment will help cover costs but if you don’t want to absorb the expense of a meal out or an excursion, just talk with your guest ahead of time about what the cost will be for them and allow them to decide whether or not they would like to go along. Showing a guest around and giving them new experiences can be very rewarding for your family though, so don’t miss an opportunity to be a great host and give your guest something to remember!
If I invite my guest to come with me to an event, do I have to pay for them?
You are not expected to pay for your guest if you go on a trip, excursion, or out to eat at a restaurant. Just talk to your guest ahead of time to let them know how much it will cost and allow them to decide whether they’d like to spend the money to join you. If you’d like to offer to pay the guest’s way, you are welcome to do that.
Will guests have their own spending money?
Yes. All guests will have their own money. You are expected to pay for their food up to the point you’ve selected for your hosting level and to be a gracious host as you would for any guest but you are not expected to pay the guest’s expenses beyond your host agreement and hospitality.
What if it doesn’t work out?
AHN offers 24/7 support for both guests and hosts and will assist you from the start to finish of the placement. If things aren’t working and we can’t resolve them for you, we’ll arrange for the guest to move to a different home.
Do I need to do anything special to help an under 18 year-old student?
All guests under 18 years of age and their hosts, must be aware of the information outlined in our Under 18 Code of Conduct.
Am I responsible for helping to get a mobile phone? What about co-signing on a bank account for the guest?
We do ask you to take your guest to get a mobile phone and bank account when they first arrive as they will not be familiar with Australia nor their surroundings. Hosts should help guests understand options, contracts, and commitments, but never co-sign or pay for services for the guest. Your guest should be responsible for their own personal business, with your help and support.
Am I allowed to have a curfew for the student?
Of course. You are sharing your home and you are responsible for setting and communicating the rules of your house. Remember that you are usually hosting young adults and they will appreciate flexibility as they explore this new place and adventure. Try to balance your needs and expectations with theirs as you work together to agree to house rules. If you are hosting an under 18 student you will need to ensure that the curfew complies with the requirements detailed in our Homestay Policy:
Can I have my own set of house rules?
Yes. It is important to set your house rules and expectations and communicate them clearly at the beginning of the placement. Remember that young guests are like young people everywhere. They may need to hear the rules a few times and be shown examples of what you expect. International guests may need some additional help understanding. Be clear, firm, kind and patient
Our generic AHN House Rules Template can be found here – you can modify these accordingly.
Do I need to clean their rooms and pick up after them? What about their bathroom?
No – you should be a gracious and welcoming host but the guest is responsible to take care of their own mess and space. Make your expectations and house rules (you can modify these accordingly) very clear when the guest arrives and remind them of these rules should they not be following them. Remember however, many guests, especially the younger ones, may have never cleaned before and may not know how. Consider showing your guest how to clean, where to find the supplies and what you expect for frequency and standards. You may need to follow up and give them feedback (and offer some kind patience) as they learn.
What about laundry?
Talk with your guest to find out what works best for you and for them. Some guests (especially young women) may not want anyone handling their private things. Some will want to wash things too often or not at all, in which case it may be easier and more hygienic for you to do the washing for them. If you decide together that they will do their own laundry, show them clearly how to do it. Be very detailed – how much soap to use, water levels, what times of day are ok for laundry and how often they are welcome to use it. Do the laundry together a couple of times if this is new to them. Whether they do the laundry or you do, provide the guest with a laundry basket for their own use.
Can I ask the student to participate in household chores?
Yes. The guest is responsible for cleaning up after him or herself and for contributing to the household as a family member would. That said, it is not ok to use the guest as additional household help. Our generic AHN House Rules Template can be found here – you can modify these accordingly.
The guest refuses to turn off the lights at night, what should I do?
Guests sometimes feel uncomfortable turning all the lights off at night. Try a nightlight or changing the lightbulb to one with lower wattage. You can also explain to your guest that electricity is expensive in Australia and that it isn’t acceptable to leave lights on.
The guest asked me to purchase a special personal item for the bathroom. Am I responsible for that?
No. Be sure the guest has the basics – clean towels, toilet paper, cleaning supplies – and offer to take your guest to the store with you sometimes so they can purchase additional items they need.
Can you provide recipes?
There are lots of great websites with recipes if you need some help with meal planning. www.taste.com.au is a great one to get started.
My student guest is feeling very unhappy/depressed – what do I do?
Students get homesick and overwhelmed sometimes. Studying far from home in an unfamiliar culture and language is a very difficult thing to do. If your guest is struggling, please contact your Local AHN office who will notify the school to get resources in line to help your student.
Can I be in touch with the student guest’s parents?
Yes, if you need to. Your local AHN office can get you in touch or provide emergency contact info if the guest has provided it on their profile. In the case of emergency however, always contact AHN immediately.
Are my guests allowed to have overnight guests?
You make the rules for your house and assuming they are reasonable, your guest is expected to do their best to honour your rules. Most hosts would not want additional overnight guests. If overnight guests are welcome in your house, you can negotiate the specifics with your guest so that it works for you. If you are hosting an Under 18 student, the student will need to have permission from their school or guardian to have overnight guests. AHN must be provided with a copy of written confirmation before any overnight stays will be approved.
What should you do if the student’s parents wish to stay?
AHN do not encourage parents staying in homestay. Homestay is for the student only. Parents must stay at a nearby hotel. AHN always advise students to travel to the homestay alone, meet the host family and settle in, then speak to you about meeting their parents at a time that suits you. You are not expected to have the parents at your home unless you feel comfortable doing so. It’s important to have clear boundaries about whether you are comfortable having parents visit or not.
My guest would like to leave homestay. What do I do?
Notify your local AHN office and we’ll work with the guest to make arrangements. We require guests to provide 2 weeks’ notice before leaving a homestay. This isn’t always possible, but we will do our best to ensure a smooth transition for you and the guest. Ask them for their forwarding address so you can send on any mail that arrives for them. Ask them how they will get to their new accommodation and assist them if they need help. This does not mean that you have to transport them but they may need assistance in calling a taxi or getting to the train or bus. Please see our AHN Refund Policy for more detail.
Does AHN follow up on the student’s grades and confirm they are actually going to school?
AHN does not, but their visa requires they are actively attending school, so if that isn’t the case, the school will follow up on it. The student will be sent home if they violate the terms of their visa by not attending school. If your student is ill or If you find your student is not attending school as you think they should be, please contact your local AHN office or school.
What should my student call me?
This is your choice. It can be formal i.e. Mr. or Ms. or casual i.e. your given name or simply Mum and Dad.
Is it ok for me to go into my student’s room when they are not there?
Privacy is important. The guests room should be private to them during their stay with you. If you plan to clean the room then let the guest know when you will do this.
What should you do on the day that a student leaves?
Make sure that the guest has paid any outstanding balance of monies to AHN and advise the guest has left. Assist your guest to move to their next destination or airport (if required.) Update your AHN availability, making sure you indicate that your home is free to receive another guest if you wish.
As a former international student, I enjoy creating the opportunity to give that experience back. Having students from other countries enriches our cultural awareness at home.