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Frequently Asked Questions

Click on the question category below to find FAQs on that given topic, or scroll down to see each question.

General Program Information
Timeline and Preparation
Travel and Visas
Placement and Housing Arrangements
Application Procedure
Teacher Recommendation and Parent/Legal Guardian Statement

General Program Information

NSLI-Y provides merit-based scholarships for rigorous overseas language immersion programs at beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels for U.S. youth. NSLI-Y aims to provide a tangible incentive for the learning and use of foreign language, increasingly important in our interconnected world. In addition to the rigorous language instruction offered, NSLI-Y programs also allow participants to learn more about their host culture through cultural activities and excursions, as well as opportunities to connect with host country peers. NSLI-Y participants also act as citizen ambassadors by supporting American engagement abroad and promoting international dialogue.

After program completion, NSLI-Y participants are eligible to join the NSLI-Y Alumni Association and participate in alumni activities focused on networking, professional development, continued language and cultural learning, and community service.

All NSLI-Y programs include:
  • Pre-departure orientation
  • In-country orientation and support
  • Language and cultural instruction with opportunities to apply acquired skills and knowledge
  • Cultural excursions
  • Community service projects
  • Accommodations, usually with a host family
  • End-of-stay orientation
  • Alumni activities, including access to the U.S. Department of State's online community, International Exchange Alumni
The costs covered by the scholarship are:
  • Round-trip travel between the participant's home city to the pre-departure orientation and the overseas host program location
  • Pre-departure, arrival, and end-of-stay orientations
  • Tuition and related academic program costs including preparation, support and testing
  • Educational and cultural programming, including program travel
  • In-country support
  • Room and board
  • Visas for entrance and exit of the host country
  • Secondary medical benefits
The costs not covered by the scholarship are:
  • Costs associated with obtaining a valid U.S. passport
  • Required medical examinations and immunizations for the NSLI-Y medical review or visa requirements
  • Pocket money for personal items
  • Excess baggage fees
NSLI-Y does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, impairment, political opinion, or economic and social standing. The program welcomes applications from all eligible students and seeks to support all students through the application process and as participants, should they be selected.

NSLI-Y staff are available to answer questions and provide guidance on safety and security. Applicants are encouraged to educate themselves about the laws and social customs of host countries. Applicants are advised that each NSLI-Y country has its own laws, social customs, and norms. If you have questions or concerns about applying for NSLI-Y, please contact
NSLI-Y experiences vary across program sites and from year to year. In general, NSLI-Y summer programs are quite structured. During the summer, participants typically have breakfast with their host families or in their group housing, commute to their local host institution, and attend language class for 3 to 4 hours each morning. After morning language classes, participants have lunch with peers, and spend afternoon hours attending language classes, conversing with language partners, participating in cultural activities or community service, and/or completing assignments or projects. In the evening, participants often spend time with their host families and completing homework.

The daily experience of academic year participants varies greatly from one program to another. All academic year participants receive at least 10 hours of formal language instruction per week at a local school or post-secondary institution, and may take other academic or enrichment classes. Some programs place participants with host families for the full academic year, while others combine shorter host family stays with monitored dormitory or group housing arrangements. Participants often spend time working on semester and/or year-long projects.
Administration and implementation of NSLI-Y is a collaborative effort. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) grants funds to American Councils for the administration of NSLI-Y and maintains substantial involvement in program concept, design, and implementation. American Councils provides overall administration of the program including managing recruitment and selection, alumni activities, monitoring and evaluation efforts, and ensuring grant compliance. Implementing organizations, including a placement team at American Councils, work with overseas partner organizations to plan and implement NSLI-Y programs. Students interact with the American Councils administration team during the application and selection period. Finalists work with their assigned implementing organization prior to departure and during the NSLI-Y program abroad. American Councils engages with alumni to coordinate language testing, surveys, and involvement in the NSLI-Y alumni network.
Graduation requirements vary from state to state, so you should discuss your plans to participate in NSLI-Y with your guidance counselor. The primary focus of NSLI-Y is language learning, and most classes will be language classes, though students may also have an opportunity to attend academic classes in the target language. Your high school will make the final decision on whether or not to grant academic credit. You should take into consideration that such U.S. specific subjects as English, Literature, World History, State History, etc. are unlikely to be offered at an equivalent level or offered at all. You might want to arrange to take certain required courses prior to, or after your participation in, the NSLI-Y program. 

Please note that NSLI-Y is a rigorous immersion program and requires your full attention and effort; participants should not plan on completing academic study for their U.S. schools while on program.
There is no expected level of language proficiency at the end of a NSLI-Y program as each participant is different and students begin NSLI-Y at varying levels of proficiency. NSLI-Y offers participants the unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the cultural life of the host country, providing extensive formal and informal language practice. Participants are expected to work hard during their NSLI-Y program, complete all assignments and projects, utilize informal language learning opportunities, engage with their host families, and participate in all required exams and oral proficiency interviews.
Participants will travel to their host countries in groups. Participants on summer programs will generally live in the same community and attend classes and activities together. Participants on academic year programs often live in the same community as other participants, though in some cases they may be the only NSLI-Y student in their community or school. All participants will have a resident director and/or local coordinator in the same or nearby community who will provide guidance and support for the duration of the program.
As a program designed for youth aged 15-18, participants on NSLI-Y should not expect a lot of independence. NSLI-Y is a structured language-learning experience.  Participants attend language classes, cultural activities, and excursions with others in their group. In the evenings and on weekends, participants have planned activities, study time, and/or time with their host families. Participants typically have a curfew and should not expect to travel independently while on program. Participants who travel without authorization will be considered for program dismissal. In addition, participants are not permitted to consume or purchase alcohol on program and those who do so will be considered for program dismissal. Please refer to the NSLI-Y Terms and Conditions form for more information about program policies.
No, the NSLI-Y Scholarship is not transferrable. Scholarships are offered for a specific NSLI-Y program and requests to change language, location, or program will not be considered. The placement of selected students is at the discretion of NSLI-Y administration and implementing organizations based on program preferences indicated on the application form, proficiency in the target language, and other considerations.
Student safety and security is the highest priority for NSLI-Y. The U.S. Department of State, in consultation with its embassies and missions overseas, approves all NSLI-Y host countries and communities. The U.S. Department of State and the implementing organizations continuously monitor events in host countries and are in contact with U.S. embassies and missions. All NSLI-Y students are registered at the U.S. embassy or consulate in the host country. During their pre-departure orientations, students receive safety awareness training, which includes discussions of how to address risks specific to the host country. Living with a host family or in a closely monitored dormitory setting also increases student safety.

Read more about safety and security on the For Parents page.
Yes, NSLI-Y participants are required to complete post-program language tests.  Further, participants are expected to complete several post-program surveys from their implementing organization and  American Councils for International Education.

NSLI-Y alumni are strongly encouraged to share their NSLI-Y experience with their home community and school, using the NSLI-Y Alumni Outreach Toolkit. Alumni are encouraged to be active members of the NSLI-Y Alumni Association to contribute to the ongoing development of NSLI-Y.
Absolutely! The NSLI-Y Facebook and Twitter pages are great tools for finding out more information. You can also visit Ask NSLI-Y alumni Facebook group to communicate with alumni and other applicants about application tips, cultural and religious norms in your potential host locations, what to pack, language learning advice, and ideas about what to do after high school.
NSLI-Y and YES Abroad are both funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and support U.S. youth to study in similar regions of the world. Click here to learn more about the similarities and differences between the programs.


Absolutely not, but you must be passionate about language learning! The goal of NSLI-Y is to increase the number of Americans studying and speaking critical languages, so students with all levels of language experience and ability may apply.
No, NSLI-Y accommodates students with varying levels of proficiency in the target language. Previous language study is not required to apply for NSLI-Y. Applicants with previous knowledge of or proficiency in the target language are not given preference in the review process. All applicants are encouraged to discuss their interest and commitment to language learning in their essay responses.

All participants will be required to participate in pre-program language learning programs, as guided by their implementing organization, and complete any assignments or assessments in preparation for the program. Preparation for NSLI-Y summer programs begins in the spring; academic year student begin their preparation during the summer.
Yes, however, since most NSLI-Y participants are at novice or intermediate levels, your class placement and overall experience may differ from others in the group.
Yes, home-schooled students are eligible. There is a special transcript form (included within the online application) for home-schooled students to complete and submit. Also, note that the teacher recommendation form must be completed by an adult who is not related to the student, but who knows the student well and can attest to her/his readiness to be an exchange student.
Yes, graduating seniors who will complete high school between December 2016 and June 2017 are eligible to apply for the 2017-18 NSLI-Y program, provided they meet the age eligibility guidelines.
No, only U.S. citizens are eligible to participate.
One must have U.S. citizenship to be eligible for NSLI-Y. If selected, a NSLI-Y finalist must travel with his/her U.S. passport.

Note that the issuance of a visa to travel to a NSLI-Y location is at the sole discretion of the host country. Holding citizenship for another country in addition to the U.S. may impact one’s visa application. Please be sure to note your dual citizenship on your application.
Past NSLI-Y summer participants are eligible to apply for an academic year program, but are not eligible to apply for another summer program. Successful alumni of summer programs will be considered more competitive if they apply for an academic year program in the same language (with the exception of Persian, which has no academic year program). No applicant is eligible for a third NSLI-Y program.
Students who are interested in studying the language of their birth country are welcome to apply for NSLI-Y. These applicants should reflect on how participation in NSLI-Y and study of their preferred NSLI-Y language is linked to their future academic or professional goals. If selected for the program, such students should remember that NSLI-Y is a rigorous language immersion program. There will be many opportunities for cultural exploration, but students should not plan or expect to seek out relatives or return to the city of their birth during the program.

Timeline and Preparation

After you submit your application electronically, you will receive a confirmation email from American Councils. In December, you will receive an email from American Councils notifying you whether or not you are selected as a semi-finalist. Please note that American Councils does not have the capacity to provide individualized feedback on the application process.

Semi-finalists will be contacted on a rolling basis to schedule interviews. Interviews will take place in December, January, and early February. Semi-finalists will be required to submit a medical evaluation form in February 2017.  Semi-finalists are strongly encouraged to apply for a passport by January if they do not currently have one.

Go to the How to Apply page for a calendar of important dates and more information about the application and selection process.
No, all NSLI-Y participants must attend the pre-departure orientation and travel with their program group to the host country. Individual school and activity schedules vary widely and NSLI-Y cannot make exceptions for students who have scheduling conflicts. If your graduation or other important event conflicts with your NSLI-Y program dates, you will have to make a choice about participating in one or the other.
Semi-finalists will be required to submit a completed medical evaluation form in February 2017. Applicants should not submit a medical evaluation form unless they are notified that they are a semi-finalist. Semi-finalists will receive a medical evaluation form upon notification of their status in December 2016.

All finalists’ and alternates’ medical evaluation forms are reviewed by independent medical professionals. This process is only initiated after an applicant is selected as a finalist or alternate. The medical review process may take an extended period of time. During this period, finalists and alternates may be asked to provide additional information or clarification related to the medical review. Results of the medical review will determine if a candidate meets medical requirements necessary for program placement and participation in NSLI-Y. As described in the Terms and Conditions, withholding relevant health information may be cause for disqualification or termination of the scholarship at a later date.

Note that NSLI-Y alumni of summer programs are not guaranteed medical clearance for a NSLI-Y academic year program.
Finalists will receive a variety of pre-departure information, which will include language study materials.  Finalists will be expected to participate in various pre-program preparation requirements, as determined by the implementing organization.

Go to the How to Apply page for more information about the program timeline.
Each implementing organization conducts its own orientations. While locations and durations vary pre-departure orientations are usually held in the international departure city and last one or two days. The purpose of the orientation is to prepare students to be a safe and successful exchange participant. Topics generally include information on health and safety, program information and schedules, program rules and guidelines, an overview of host country culture, how to deal with culture shock, your role as a citizen ambassador, and teambuilding activities. Attendance at the pre-departure orientation is mandatory.

Travel and Visas

All selected participants will need a valid U.S. passport. If you already have a passport, it must be valid at least six months after the intended date of return to the U.S. For information on obtaining a passport for the first time or renewing, please visit (Please note: If you are traveling to Russia, your passport must be valid for 18 months after your anticipated return to the U.S., and if you are traveling to India or China, your parent(s) or legal guardian(s) may be required to have a valid passport as well.) Note that passport processing time may be lengthy.
All semi-finalists are encouraged to apply for a passport if they do not currently have one or renew their passport if it will expire before the dates listed in the guidance provided below. Please apply for a passport or renew your current passport as soon as possible, as the processing time can sometimes be lengthy. Passports must be valid for at least six months after the intended return to the U.S., or 18 months after your anticipated return to the U.S. if you are traveling to Russia.

Semi-finalists should be prepared to submit passport information to NSLI-Y by late February 2017. Scholarship recipients must have their passports in order to participate in the program and to begin the visa application process. The length of time to complete the visa process varies from country to country and can sometimes take months. Because a passport may be needed during the visa application process, finalists may not be able to travel internationally during this pre-program period. 
After receiving a NSLI-Y award, you will be assigned to an implementing organization. This organization will provide you with detailed instructions about the visa process for the country where your NSLI-Y program will take place. You will not need to apply for a visa until you are instructed to do so. Please remember that only U.S. citizens are eligible for NSLI-Y programs, and NSLI-Y students must travel with a U.S. passport. Because a passport may be needed during the visa application process, finalists may not be able to travel internationally during this pre-program period. 
You will travel on a chaperoned flight with the rest of the students in your group. Both domestic travel from your permanent residence and international airfare will be covered by the NSLI-Y scholarship. You must travel to and from the host country with your program group. Exceptions will not be made for individual scheduling conflicts.
NSLI-Y participants should not expect to travel independently while on program. Participants who travel independently without permission from their implementing organization will be considered for program dismissal. Trips may be planned by the program implementer to various cultural and historical sites in your host country. Please refer to the Travel Policies section in the NSLI-Y Terms and Conditions form for more information.
The administrators of NSLI-Y cannot provide medical advice about travel vaccinations. We recommend you follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for the country you will visit and consult with your physician.

Placement and Housing Arrangements

All  NSLI-Y programs feature homestays with host families that have been carefully screened and selected. Some programs place students in host families for the full program duration. Other programs place students in well-monitored dormitories and assign them to host families for weekends or for a segment of the program. Resident directors or local coordinators provide support to participants and host families throughout the program.
Host families typically do not speak much, if any, English. Students will be expected to use the target language at home. The homestay experience is sometimes challenging, particularly in the beginning, but many participants say that it is the most rewarding part of the NSLI-Y experience.
Typically, only one NSLI-Y student lives with each host family, but in some cases, two NSLI-Y students are placed with one host family.
Host families are chosen through a careful selection process with assistance from the host institution, host community partners, and/or volunteers. Prospective host families are interviewed in their homes and must provide references. All host families receive materials to sensitize them to cultural differences and to prepare them for the hosting experience. Implementing organizations do their best to match host families and students based on the host family's application materials and the placement information students provide in their NSLI-Y application. The most important criteria for selecting a host family are that the family can provide a safe environment and has a genuine interest in the cultural exchange that occurs in a host family arrangement.
Participants are not permitted to live with friends or relatives in the host country. Visits might be permitted if formally requested, but must not conflict with scheduled program activities, including language lessons.
Visits from natural family, home country friends, and relatives are STRONGLY discouraged during the program and require advance permission from the implementing organization. Such visits can interrupt the continuity of the relationship with the host family and diminish the exchange experience for both the participant and the host family.  Participants and their families must follow the requirements of their implementing organizations.  See the NSLI-Y Terms and Conditions for more information.  
No, you may not request to be placed in a certain city. Program locations and student placements are determined at the discretion of NSLI-Y administration and the implementing organization.

Application Procedure

NSLI-Y applicants are asked to designate language and duration preferences in their application. Applicants are only required to designate one preference for language and duration, but may designate one additional language/duration preference. Applicants are not given the option to designate preferences for implementing organization or program location. A finalist’s placement with a specific implementing organization or in a specific host country is determined by NSLI-Y staff.
If you have been experiencing technical difficulties, please email us at or call (866) 790-2086. NSLI-Y staff will be available to assist you between 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM Eastern Standard Time Monday through Friday. Contact American Councils promptly if you encounter a problem, well before the application deadline. There is no guarantee that American Councils staff will be able to respond to last-minute requests for technical assistance on or near the deadline date.
All applications and recommendation forms must be submitted online, except in rare cases in which the applicant can demonstrate that this requirement presents a significant impediment to applying for a NSLI-Y scholarship. Applicants who need to make alternative arrangements for submission of their application must do so by October 13, 2016. Applicants who need further assistance may contact American Councils at (866) 790-2086 or
Please refer to the application for specific instructions about submitting required documents.  Official transcripts should be sent by mail and postmarked no later than October 27, 2016.
If both parents have custody, they will both need to sign the form.
Applications without transcripts will not be considered, so be sure to have your most recent transcript sent by the deadline specified in the online application instructions, even if the current semester grades are not available.
Yes, in order to view your submitted NSLI-Y application, go to the application website and enter your user name and password. Once the application is submitted, you will not be able to make any changes to it.
The “Application ID” is the same as the Reference Code. This is an eight digit code that starts with four randomly-assigned letters followed by four randomly-assigned numbers and is given to you when you begin your NSLI-Y application. For example, at the top of your application screen, it should read something along the lines of:
Display form “Application for High School Students in the U.S.A.” [ABCD1234] of User “Student Name” for Program NSLIY 2016

The ABCD1234 is the Application ID or Reference Code. This number identifies your unique application.
To find out more about the selection process and timeline, visit the How to Apply page.

All applicants are notified in December by email if they are selected as a semi-finalist or not. 

Finalist notifications are sent on a rolling basis beginning in early March.  All semi-finalists for summer programs will be notified via email of their status by mid-April.  All semi-finalists for academic year programs will be notified of their status by late April. 
Please note that all contact regarding your NSLI-Y application will be sent to the email address you supplied in your application.

Please do not call or email American Councils or other implementing organizations to find out if you have been selected; NSLI-Y staff will inform you as soon as information is available.

Teacher Recommendation and Parent/Legal Guardian Statement

Yes, applicants are able to change the information they input within the Teacher Recommendation and Parent Statement section(s) after submitting their applications. In order to change the information, applicants should go to the application website, enter their user name and password, and navigate to the appropriate section to make the desired changes. Please note that any changes to the information submitted in the Teacher Recommendation and Parent Statement sections will cause any previously submitted recommendations to be deleted. In addition, any links previously sent to a parent or teacher will no longer open. Applicants should ensure that their parent and/or teacher have not completed the online recommendation form before changing the original information they submitted in their applications.

Note that changes to the Teacher Recommendation or Parent Statement sections must be made in time for parents and teachers to complete their recommendations by November 10, 2016, 4:00 PM Eastern Time.

If you have any questions, please contact or (866) 790-2086.
You may ask any academic instructor or counselor who can attest to your readiness to be an exchange student to write your Teacher Recommendation. It is a good idea to ask an individual with whom you have taken a class or worked with within the last two years.

For home-schooled students, the Teacher Recommendation must be completed by an adult who is not related to the student. Possible individuals may include, but are not limited to: scout leaders, coaches, clergy members, volunteer coordinators, and instructors.

Give your recommender plenty of time to complete the recommendation. As you are requesting a professional service from your recommender, you should request the recommendation as soon as you decide to apply for NSLI-Y.
The confidential Teacher Recommendation is used to determine an applicant’s academic motivation and promise as an exchange student. The recommendation form asks for information about the applicant through both multiple-choice questions and open-ended questions. The open-ended questions permit the recommender to provide specific examples of how the student is prepared for an overseas language immersion program. In order for your teacher to write a strong recommendation, you should give him/her a description of the NSLI-Y program and explain why you want to participate.
The parent or legal guardian you request to write the Parent/Legal Guardian Statement may provide us with a written translation of their statement. Past applicants have asked older siblings or other relatives to provide this translation. If your parent or legal guardian submits a translated statement, please ask him or her to make a note of this somewhere within their statement.

Eligibility Policy for American Outbound Youth Programs

The Youth Programs Division of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) seeks to make youth exchange programs funded by ECA available to a wide and diverse American audience. Also, ECA wants to prevent conflict of interest issues from arising with regard to Department of State employees who are involved in particular scholarships and exchange programs.

This eligibility policy is in addition to any program specific requirements and applies only to U.S. participants in the following programs sponsored (funded) by the Youth Programs Division, and only for programs that include travel outside of the United States:

  • Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES Abroad)
  • National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y)
  • Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX)
  • American Youth Leadership Program (AYLP)
  • Youth Leadership Program (participants who travelled overseas only)
  • Youth Ambassadors Program
Participation in Multiple Programs: Participation in more than one of the above-listed Youth Programs Division-sponsored exchange programs is permitted only in the following circumstances:
  • The programs do not take place in the same calendar year.
  • The first program in which the individual participated was a short-duration program of eight (8) weeks or less AND the second program is a semester or academic year program.
  • Alumni of the semester and academic year programs are NOT eligible to apply for any of the programs listed above.
  • Under no circumstances may an individual participate in more than two of the above-listed programs.
Family members of Department of State employees: Family members of employees of the Department of State whose official duties involve an ECA Youth Programs Division exchange program would be precluded from applying for that program. This is because there would be a conflict of interest or the appearance thereof if employees engage in official matters that affect the interests of their family members. In circumstances where a family member other than a spouse or dependent child wants to participate in a program in which the employee has official duties, the appropriateness of the employee engaging in such matters should be discussed with a Department of State Ethics attorney.

Family members of affiliated private sector employees: Family members of employees of ECA-funded implementers of grant programs and Department of State contractors whose official duties involve a particular ECA-funded youth exchange program are technically ineligible for that program. Family members include spouse and dependent children.