Virtual NSLI-Y

Virtual National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y), a program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), introduces U.S. high school students to languages critical to U.S. national security. Launched in 2019, Virtual NSLI-Y is a 10-week,  beginner-level foreign language and culture experience, in line with the ACTFL World Readiness Standards, that also introduces participants to the people and culture of places where the target language is spoken.

Participants are placed into a virtual class of approximately 10 students with an experienced language teacher that meets two times per week for 90 minute sessions.  Virtual NSLI-Y includes cultural learning and fosters intercultural understanding, designed in line with Asia Society’s Four Domains of Global Competence.

Available Languages in Beginner Level Only: Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Korean, Russian, Turkish

Cost: Virtual NSLI-Y is a merit scholarship program. Submitting an application does not guarantee selection. Please refer to the FAQ for details on what the scholarship covers.
Duration: 10 weeks (during the school year)
  • Fall 2022 program: September – November 2022
  • Winter 2023 program: January – March 2023


  1. Mondays and Wednesdays: 6:30 - 8:00 PM Eastern Time
  2. Tuesdays and Thursdays: 7:00 - 8:30 PM Eastern Time
  3. Wednesdays: 6:30 - 8:00 PM Eastern Time and Saturdays: 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM Eastern Time
  4. Thursdays and Sundays: 7:00 - 8:30 PM Eastern Time

Language Level Goal: Novice Low

Share the program flyer with interested students!

Watch our short webinar recording to learn more about this program

Program Components

Virtual NSLI-Y will operate in the spirit of the long-standing NSLI-Y goals. Virtual NSLI-Y programs may include the following elements:

  • Interactive target language instruction from an experienced language teacher via live videoconference classes and an asynchronous class collaboration space
  • Listening/speaking practice and video recitations
  • Worksheets for reading/writing
  • Homework, quizzes, and language assessments
  • Skits, roleplays, video entries, and final projects
  • Cultural and language learning opportunities, including featured guests such as:
    • NSLI-Y alumni
    • U.S. government representatives or private sector employees who use language and cultural skills
    • Peers, professionals, or guest speakers in countries where the target language is spoken
  • Virtual tours of sites of historic or cultural significance like museums or markets
  • Videos related to cultural learning or grammatical concepts in the target language

Program Schedule:

Virtual NSLI-Y will be offered in Fall 2022 (Sept – Nov) and in Winter 2023 (Jan – March). There will be two separate application cycles. Students may only take part in one Virtual NSLI-Y program.
Fall 2022:

  • Classes will begin the week of September 12 and continue through the week of November 14 for ten weeks of instruction. Pre-program activities will take place in August and September. The Fall 2022 application is now closed.
Winter 2023
  • Classes will begin the week of January 9 and continue through the week of March 13 for ten weeks of instruction. Pre-program activities will take place in December and January. Application deadline is October 20, 2022.

In total, there will be at least 30 hours of formal, synchronous instruction for the Virtual NSLI-Y program. Participants should also expect 3 hours of pre-program preparation before the first session (Student Orientation, pre-program assignments, and a Test Session), and up to 3 hours of assignments or homework per week outside of class sessions. Additional optional meetings (for student community-building, cultural opportunities, etc.) will be offered outside of regular class times.

Sessions will be 90 minutes each, twice per week. Individual class dates depend on a student’s class schedule (see options below). Attendance requirements will apply.

Virtual NSLI-Y applicants will indicate their preferences for class times in the application. Applicants must rank all schedule options. Those selected for the scholarship will be informed of their status and class placement by mid August 2022 for the Fall 2022 program and by early December 2022 for the Winter 2023 program. Preferences are not guaranteed as class placement will depends on teacher availability and other factors.

*Virtual NSLI-Y sessions will not take place on U.S. federal holidays; schedule adjustments to account for this will be communicated to students.*

Schedule Options:
1. Mondays and Wednesdays: 6:30 - 8:00 PM Eastern Time
2. Tuesdays and Thursdays: 7:00 - 8:30 PM Eastern Time
3. Wednesdays: 6:30 - 8:00 PM Eastern Time and Saturdays: 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM Eastern Time
4. Thursdays and Sundays: 7:00 - 8:30 PM Eastern Time

Eligibility and Participant Expectations

• U.S. citizen
• U.S. high school student for 2022-23 academic year, who is between ages of 15-18 at the start of the Fall 2022 Program (Birthday range: September 13, 2003 - September 12, 2007) and living in and attending school in the U.S.
• A beginner/novice-level learner in the selected target language, who:

  • Has not received formal instruction in the target language from school/home school, camp, tutor, or online programs and will not be enrolled in formal instruction during the Virtual NSLI-Y program
  • Is unable to affirmatively answer the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements for any level
  • Is not a previous participant of any NSLI-Y program
  • Is not a current or past participant of another U.S. Department of State (virtual or in-country) exchange program
  • Meets the following requirements for immediate family member employment:
For a period ending one year following the termination of such employment, association, or service:
  • Employees of the U.S. Department of State/U.S. Agency for International Development are ineligible. This provision includes all employees, paid or unpaid (including part-time or temporary employees, consultants, externs, interns, fellows and personal services contractors).
  • Immediate family members (e.g., dependent children) of employees of the U.S. Department of State/U.S. Agency for International Development are ineligible. This provision includes all employees, paid or unpaid (including part-time or temporary employees, consultants, externs, interns, fellows and personal services contractors). Self-supporting children who live apart from their parents are qualified to participate.
  • Employees (and their immediate family members) of private and public agencies under contract or grant with the U.S. Department of State who perform services on behalf of U.S. Department of State exchange programs are ineligible.
In the selection process, preference will be given to candidates who:
• Have no prior exchange experience
• Have no or limited overseas travel, or residency
• Have no or limited familiarity with culture(s) associated with the relevant target language
• Have not received formal instruction or tutoring in any of the other NSLI-Y languages (Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Persian, Russian, and Turkish)
• Have not received formal instruction or tutoring in any language

Technical Requirements: Participants must be able to access the following:
• Reliable internet
• Laptop, desktop computer, or tablet (a mobile phone is not a suitable alternative)
• Web camera (built-in or USB)
• Headset (headphones and microphone combination)

*Selected finalists who do not have access to the above due to financial need may contact for documentation to request funding assistance.*

Participation: Virtual NSLI-Y requires that participants be mature, self-directed learners who can actively participate in the program in a virtual environment with limited supervision from the virtual teacher(s). Attendance at all scheduled activities and completion of assignments are mandatory. If participants have more than three (3) absences, they may be dismissed from the program. The program’s focus is on exposure to language and cultural learning; grades will be used to provide students with feedback and track progress.

Students who require accommodations for disability or chronic illness are encouraged to apply. Applicants may share information about necessary accommodations in their application; this information will not be considered in the selection process. Finalists will be provided with a disability policy and instructions on how to request reasonable accommodations.

Pre-Program Requirements: Prior to the start of virtual class sessions, participants are expected to complete:
• Student orientation
• Address and contact information updates (for shipping and program contact purposes)
• Accommodations requests, if needed
• Pre-program survey
• Test session to meet teacher/classmates
• Brief assignments or readings as specified by the teacher prior to the program’s start

On-Program Requirements:
• Complete homework assignments and projects
• Complete required program surveys
• Attend all classes and program activities. If absent, students must review material that they missed and complete all assignments on schedule. Students may be considered for dismissal if they miss more than 3 classes (or the equivalent), are regularly tardy, or violate policies described in the Terms and Conditions.
Attend additional student group meetings for community-building outside of class hours, cultural opportunities, and U.S. Department of State presentations when possible (optional but highly encouraged)

Post-Program Expectations:
• Complete post-program survey
• Participate in closing ceremony

Certificate of Completion: 
To receive a U.S. Department of State certificate of completion, participants must: 

  • Complete pre-program and post-program surveys
  • Attend all scheduled virtual sessions (*up to three (3) excused absences allowed)
  • Actively and fully participate in virtual sessions
  • Complete all homework assignments outside of classroom hours as required by teacher or program staff
Participants may apply for in-person NSLI-Y and other ECA programs in the future if they meet eligibility requirements. 

Application and Timeline

Program Application for Winter 2023
Note: You will be redirected to American Councils for International Education's application system at Create an account if you do not already have one and be sure to read the Tips at the bottom of the login page. Please pay attention to announcements on the application site about upcoming site maintenance windows.

Program Terms and Conditions

There are two Virtual NSLI-Y programs, Fall 2022 and Winter 2023 with different applications.

Fall 2022
Application open: May 26, 2022
• Application deadline: June 30, 2022 (Reccommendation due by July 3, 2022)
• Notification of Status and Placement: early-mid August 2022
• Pre-program requirements: August - September 2022
• Program dates: week of September 12 and continue through the week of November 14
Post-program requirements: November – December 2022

Winter 2023
• Application open: September 15, 2022
Application deadline: October 20, 2022 (Reccommendation due by October 23, 2022)
Notification of Status and Placement: November - December 2022
Pre-program requirements: December 2022 – early January 2023
Program dates: week of January 9, 2023 and continue through the week of March 13, 2023   
Post-program requirements: March – April 2023


Why Virtual NSLI-Y?

Virtual NSLI-Y opens the door to language learning and offers students the opportunity to gain critical language, communication, and other practical skills
as well as cultural understanding in an online setting.

Many Virtual NSLI-Y participants successfully apply for NSLI-Y or other in-person international exchange programs.  Virtual NSLI-Y participants report increased readiness, interest, and confidence for international travel and cross-cultural experiences.

There are many benefits to studying a language. Read the research on language study benefits. Language learning can also serve as a foundation “to build bridges of understanding” and to become mbetter prepared for the 21st century globalized labor market. Read more about international exchange.

What is covered by a Virtual NSLI-Y scholarship?

• Program materials/textbooks (if used by instructor)
• 10-weeks/30 hours of instruction with an experienced language instructor through videoconferencing tools
• Cultural learning (for example, interaction with international peers, guest speakers, etc.)
• Access to a digital platform for assignments/projects/etc.
• Certificate of program completion (if participant fulfills all program requirements)

Not included:
• Internet access, software, or hardware (Email to request financial assistance to procure necessary items. Eligibility requirements for financial assistance will apply.)
• Travel of any kind 

How do you define novice/beginner in the language?

• A student who has little to no formal or informal exposure to the language. A novice/beginner level student may have done very limited self-study but must not be at Novice Low proficiency. A novice/beginner cannot do any of the following in the target language: NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements
• Students who have received formal tutoring or instruction in the target language are not eligible. 

Can I still apply for NSLI-Y summer or academic year if I participate in Virtual NSLI-Y?

• Yes. Virtual NSLI-Y students who meet all NSLI-Y eligibility requirements may apply for NSLI-Y summer or academic year programs. Your participation in the Virtual NSLI-Y program will be considered in the application process for these programs. 

Are Virtual NSLI-Y alumni eligible for the NSLI-Y or Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) alumni associations?

• Virtual NSLI-Y alumni are eligible to join the ECA alumni community, a large network of alumni from U.S. government-funded and U.S. government-facilitated exchange programs.  Joining the ECA alumni community allows exchange participants to build on their exchange experiences, network with fellow ECA alumni, and gain access to online resources and events.  For more information, please go to the ECA alumni website.

• NSLI-Y alumni association membership is open only to participants who have completed summer or academic year programs.  However, Virtual NSLI-Y participants are welcome to engage with the NSLI-Y community through NSLI-Y social media and to present about the Virtual NSLI-Y program at your school or in your local community. Email to receive presentation resources.

Can Virtual NSLI-Y students submit stories to NSLI-Y Interactive?

• Yes, please do! Go to NSLI-Y Interactive.

How do session times work if participants/teachers are all in different time zones?

• All sessions are scheduled according to the U.S. Eastern time zone. Adjust class times according to your location. See ‘Program Components’ for possible class schedules.

Can I apply to Virtual NSLI-Y if I am a U.S. citizen who is attending high school outside of the U.S.?

• No. Virtual NSLI-Y is only open to U.S. citizens attending a U.S. based high school.   

Can I apply to Virtual NSLI-Y if I am not a U.S citizen, but I am attending high school in the U.S.?

• No; applicants must be U.S. citizens.

What if Virtual NSLI-Y sessions fall on a federal or religious holiday?

• Virtual NSLI-Y activities will not take place on U.S. federal holidays. If one or more sessions fall on a U.S. federal holiday, program administrators or your teacher will be in touch with you about scheduling adjustments to normal class days/times. If your class has one or more sessions that fall on a religious holiday that is not a U.S. federal holiday, sessions will not be cancelled. Students observing that holiday should notify their teacher in advance to be granted an excused absence and will be expected to make up work according to teacher instructions.

What if I must miss a session for a doctor’s appointment, college interview, project meeting, etc.?

• Virtual NSLI-Y students are allowed up to three (3) excused absences. To be considered an excused absence, the student must communicate with their instructor at least 24 hours in advance of the session. Students who miss a session because of sudden illness or due to an emergency should communicate with their instructor at their earliest possible convenience.


Good to Know: An American Academy of Arts and Sciences report, “America’s Languages: Investing in Language Education for the 21st Century”, stresses the value and importance of increased “access to language education for all U.S. citizens, irrespective of geography, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background”. Some of the challenges that schools face in meeting this goal (lack of language teachers, little additional resource capacity, large grant focus on STEM curriculum, etc.) can be addressed with virtual, synchronous instruction. Besides “virtual”, there are many different terms to describe online learning environments and methodologies. Read more about of the vocabulary of digital learning spaces and designs.

Resources on virtual learning:
U.S. Department of Education – National Education Technology Plan
U.S. Department of Education – Future Ready Schools
U.S. Department of State – Collaboratory: Virtual Exchange Programs
U.S. Department of State – Stevens Initiative

Questions? Please contact

Explore multimedia stories about Virtual NSLI-Y experiences on NSLI-Y Interactive.

Please keep in mind that some program details are subject to change.

Receive NSLI-Y Application Updates!


Questions? Need more info? Contact us at 866.790.2086 or

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