Critical Language Scholarship Program | Getting Ready

Getting Ready


To participate in the CLS Program, you must have a valid U.S. passport. In most cases, your passport will need to be valid for up to 6 months after your program begins and have at least two blank pages. However, in some cases your passport will need to be valid for at least 18 months after the start of your program. Your Program Officer will send you detailed visa information specific to the site where you are placed.

If you do not have a passport, or if you will need to renew your passport prior to your CLS program, you should begin looking into the passport process early, as it can often take several weeks or longer for you to obtain your new passport. Expediting your passport is usually possible, but it can be costly. The CLS Program does not cover the cost of obtaining new or expedited passports.


If your host country requires a visa, the CLS Program will assist you in the visa application process. In some cases, this may require you to ship your passport to CLS to be submitted to an embassy or consulate on your behalf. In other situations, you may be responsible for shipping your own passport and other supporting documents to an embassy, consulate, or visa processing agency. Passports are returned to participants prior to international departure.

Although the CLS Program will assist finalists in the visa application process, officials from your host country will make the decision about whether or not to issue you a visa. You should complete all visa paperwork neatly and carefully and make sure that you adhere to all deadlines. It’s also crucial for you to be respectful and courteous in any interactions you have with visa authorities, as they often have the sole power to issue or refuse your visa.


The CLS team will offer webinars for finalists on specific topics, as well as each CLS placement site. Finalists will receive emails from their Program Officers during the spring with more information about each of these opportunities.

Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI)

Before the program, you will be required to take a diagnostic phone-based test of your speaking skills called an Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI), administered by Language Testing International. The OPI test is scored on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) scale, a nationally recognized rating system for measuring language proficiency. Rather than test for knowledge of specific grammatical formulas or vocabulary, these proficiency tests are designed to measure what you are able to communicate or “do” with language, such as talk about yourself, describe something, ask and answer questions, or hypothesize. How well you do on the test does not affect your participation in the CLS program. The OPI test provides some insights to help with the placement process. However, it is not the sole factor, as the levels are very broad, and the test only measures speaking skills. Your institute will conduct placement using their own assessment measures, either before the program begins or shortly after arrival.

After the program, you will take a second OPI test similar in nature to the first test. The second test will be a certified version, however. After the satisfactory completion of all program requirements, you will receive both scores, along with a certified proficiency rating that you can include in your resume or CV. The CLS Program compares the pre- and post-program test scores in aggregate form to measure the effectiveness of the program for language learning. You will receive more information about the OPI before you begin the CLS Program.

CLS Arabic participants at the American School of Tangier.