Critical Language Scholarship Program | Eligibility Requirements
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Eligibility Requirements

Note that the information below pertains to the Summer 2021 CLS Program and is subject to change in future application cycles.


To be eligible for the CLS Program you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or national at the time of your application.
    • Others, including Permanent Residents, are not eligible, even if they anticipate naturalization by the beginning of the program.
  • Be enrolled in an accredited U.S. degree-granting program at the undergraduate (associate's, bachelor's) or graduate (master's, doctoral, professional degree) level at the time of your application.
    • Your program must result in a degree. Applicants who are taking stand-alone or continuing education classes are not eligible.
    • Your institution must be an accredited U.S. institution. Students earning degrees at foreign institutions that are not based in the U.S. or its territories are not eligible, even if those institutions are accredited by a recognized U.S. accrediting agency.
    • You must be enrolled at this institution in the fall term of 2020. There are limited exceptions to the enrollment requirement; please read the following information carefully:
      • If you are not taking classes at your home institution in the fall term, please confirm that you are, in fact, enrolled. Institutions have different requirements to maintain enrollment status and you will be required to provide a signed letter from your registrar stating that you were enrolled during the fall term.
      • If you are taking a leave of absence to participate in an organized term- or year-long study abroad program, or to participate in a substantive internship program, you may request an exception to the enrollment requirement. Exceptions may only be granted in these two cases, and decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.
      • In either case, you must submit a signed letter from your home college or university in the U.S. explaining your situation and your intention to re-enroll following the completion of your study abroad or internship program. You must also submit documentation from the program provider explaining the opportunity and confirming your participation. This documentation may be submitted to American Councils by email at
      • Any applicant who was recognized as a semifinalist for the summer 2020 CLS Korean Program, or as a finalist or alternate for the summer 2020 CLS Program in any language before its suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic is exempt from the fall 2020 enrollment requirement. Applicants with this status are eligible to apply regardless of their enrollment status for the fall term of 2020.
    • You must successfully complete academic requirements for the fall term in order to remain eligible for the CLS Program. Students who withdraw or fail to maintain a passing grade average are not eligible to participate in the program.
  • Be at least 18 years old by May 15, 2021.
  • If in an undergraduate program (associate's or bachelor's), complete at least one full year of study (two semesters or three quarters) by the beginning of the CLS Program in summer 2021.
  • You may only apply once, for one language program, each summer. Applicants who submit multiple applications will be considered ineligible.
  • Participation is limited to a total of two CLS awards for any individual. Applicants who have been selected for and participated in the CLS Program one time may apply for a second award. Applicants who have successfully completed the CLS Program two or more times in overseas locations are not eligible to apply again. This limitation does not include participation in a CLS Virtual Institute.

The following persons are ineligible for the CLS Program:

  • Employees of the U.S. Department of State who work in offices under the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Academic Programs, in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), for a period ending one year following the termination of such employment;
  • Employees of private and public agencies under contract or grant with the U.S. Department of State who perform services related to the Critical Language Scholarship Program, for a period ending one year following the termination of their services; or
  • Immediate family members (i.e., spouses and dependent children) of the individuals described in the above paragraphs, for a period ending one year following the termination of such employment or service. This provision does not disqualify self-supporting members of families who live apart from their parents.

These provisions do not extend to part-time or temporary employees, consultants, or interns of the U.S. Department of State (including at U.S. Embassies and Consulates), or to contract employees of the U.S. Department of State, unless such persons perform services related to the Critical Language Scholarship Program.

For applicants to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program

Applicants to the CLS Program may apply for and receive both a CLS Program award and a Fulbright U.S. Student Program award in the same academic year. However, participants may not accept both a CLS Program award and the Fulbright Critical Language Enhancement Award, which provides supplemental critical language study funding for Fulbright U.S. Student Program grantees, in the same academic year.

If a participant receives a Fulbright grant with a mandatory pre-departure orientation in Washington, D.C. that falls during the CLS Program period, he or she may need to choose between accepting the CLS Program award and the Fulbright grant.

Felony and misdemeanor convictions

Applicant situations involving a felony or misdemeanor conviction will be reviewed on a case by case basis. Minor traffic violations do not need to be reported as misdemeanors. The applicant may also be asked to submit supporting documentation.

University disciplinary action

Applicant situations involving university disciplinary action will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. The applicant may also be asked to submit supporting documentation.

Failure of an applicant to fully report felony and misdemeanor convictions or university disciplinary action will result in termination of the application.

Participation Requirements

The health and well-being of participants and staff are top priorities of the CLS Program. The CLS Program is a rigorous immersion program and may be physically and emotionally challenging. Each student must be committed to working hard and participating fully in the group program, beginning with the mandatory pre-departure orientation through the completion of the program.

Note that some program dates may overlap with the spring or fall academic term at your institution, and it may be necessary to work with your institution to accommodate the program dates.

Each participant must:

  • Be able to stay alert and to focus attention for up to several hours at a time during classes, while participating in cultural activities, and when receiving staff instructions.
  • Attend the pre-departure orientation and all daily classes and activities, as dictated by the program schedule and for the duration of the program (program dates will be announced prior to the deadline for accepting the award, if offered).
  • If taking prescription medications, be able to maintain proper dosage without assistance from instructors or others (except in emergency situations).
  • Perform necessary self-care, including maintaining adequate nutrition and hydration, dressing appropriately for environmental conditions, maintaining personal hygiene, and managing known medical conditions.
  • Comprehend and follow detailed instructions on travel, risk management, personal care, hazard avoidance, and other topics.
  • With reasonable accommodations, be able to navigate transportation independently between program-provided housing and the institute site, a maximum of approximately one hour each way.
  • Work effectively as a member of a team despite potentially stressful and difficult conditions. This may require problem solving on an interpersonal or group level as well as a willingness to accept differences.
  • Contribute to a safe learning environment. No inappropriate verbal or physical behavior toward others, either in person or online, is tolerated for any reason.
  • Effectively communicate ideas and concerns on an individual and group level.

Medical Review

If selected for a CLS award, you will be required to submit a medical information form and physician's statement to the CLS Program for review by an independent medical professional. Results of the medical review will determine if you meet medical requirements necessary for program placement and participation in the CLS Program. You must also inform the program of any changes in your health status between submission of these forms and the start of the summer program in order to participate.


All participants must enter the host country on a U.S. passport. In most cases it is not possible for individuals with dual citizenship to participate in the CLS Program in the country of his or her other nationality due to host country laws or policies requiring citizens to enter the country using the passport issued by that country alone. In some cases this may also apply to students whose parents hold citizenship in the host country. Applicants are responsible for determining whether they have, or are eligible to have, dual citizenship with the host country, and to address any potential consequences before accepting a CLS award.


All finalists must receive an appropriate visa from the CLS host country (deadlines vary by country).

  • The CLS Program, American Councils for International Education and the U.S. Department of State will assist you with your visa application, but cannot influence a foreign government's decision of whether or not to issue a visa. The decision to issue a visa rests solely with the government and consular mission of the country to which a student is traveling.
  • CLS Program finalists and, in some cases, alternates may be required to work closely with CLS Program staff on preparing their paperwork well in advance of regular deadlines in order to receive a visa.
  • Failure to meet deadlines or respond in a timely manner to CLS Program staff requests may result in not being issued a visa and therefore not being able to participate in the program.
  • Finalists may be required to submit their passports for visa processing in the spring, prior to the program start date. This may require finalists to cancel or reschedule planned international travel in order to participate on the CLS Program.

Military Affiliation

The CLS Program welcomes applicants with affiliation to the U.S. armed services. All applicants with military affiliation, including all U.S. Department of Defense military and civilian personnel, service academy cadets, service members of active and reserve components, as well as inactive service members, including members of the Individual Ready Reserves (IRR), may be subject to passport or visa requirements, special waiver requirements, prohibition of travel to the host country, and/or other restrictions. Prior to completing the CLS application, all applicants with affiliation to the U.S. armed forces should carefully review the CLS Program's instructions on this topic and seek advice from the appropriate commanding officer.

Additional Requirements

If you are selected for a CLS Program award, as a requirement of your participation you must agree to the terms and conditions of the award. A sample of the terms and conditions can be found online at the address below. The award terms and conditions are revised on an annual basis and may change before the 2021 summer program.

Sample Terms and Conditions of Award