Fulbright 2020 – 2021

Program Announcement, Fulbright Master’s Program for Citizens of Afghanistan

Fulbright Master’s Degree Fellowship

2020-2021 Fulbright Master’s Degree Fellowship Program Announcement 

CURRENT STATUS: OPEN

Deadline for Application Submission: February 28, 2019 at 11:59 p.m.  Late applications will not be accepted. 

Submit Your Application Package to KabulFulbright@state.gov

Download the Editable PDF Application: Application (PDF 3MB)

The U.S. Embassy is pleased to announce the 2020-2021 Fulbright Graduate Fellowship Program for citizens of Afghanistan to pursue a fully-funded Master’s degree in the United States.  The Fulbright Graduate Fellowship pays for up to two years of graduate study in the United States to earn an MA, MS, MBA/MPA, LLM or similar graduate degree.  Fellows receive a tuition grants for their coursework and a monthly stipend to cover living expenses at their host institution.  Fellows also receive roundtrip transportation and health benefits.  In addition, Fellows may also attend special enrichment activities throughout their program.  These activities are excellent opportunities to network with Fulbrighters from other countries and to interact with prominent Americans across a range of professional fields.  For more information about J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Program, please visit http://eca.state.gov/Fulbright.

2020-2021 Cycle

Deadline for applications: February 28, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. (Kabul time)

Interviews: Late March and early April 2019

Fulbright finalists notified: May 2019

Visa interviews: May-July 2020

Travel to United States: August 2020. (Note that certain candidates may be required to travel to the United States as early as January 2020 for a pre-academic Intensive English Program.)

Eligibility Requirements

  • Applicants must be citizens of Afghanistan and currently residing in Afghanistan.
  • Applicants must have a four-year bachelor’s degree (first university) by Spring 2019 and a strong academic background as demonstrated by their academic transcripts and references. Please note that if you have a three-year bachelor’s degree from any country, you are required to have at least a one-year Master’s/post-baccalaureate diploma in order to qualify.  Applicants graduating in Fall 2018 or earlier who make it to the interview stage will be required to bring attested transcripts and diplomas to the interview; applicants graduating in Spring 2019 will be required to bring transcripts and a letter from their Registrar confirming that they are expected to graduate by May 2019.
  • Applicants must score a minimum of 79 on the Internet-based TOEFL exam or a minimum of 6.5 IELTS and submit their score with their Fulbright application.
  • Applicants must submit two application essays: 1) a Personal Statement and 2) a Statement about Study Research Objectives. Both statements should contain clear goals, well-reasoned statements describing why they selected the academic field of study, and how their academic plans contribute to their long-term professional goals.
  • Applicants must present three letters of recommendation, usually two academic and one from an employer.

Evaluation Criteria

Applicants must be committed to returning to Afghanistan and demonstrate a specific plan for using their Fulbright experience in their professional lives and in service to their country.  Strong preference will be given to applicants who have not had extensive recent experience in the United States.  Note: All grantees are required to return to Afghanistan for at least two years at the conclusion of their grant in compliance with the J-visa requirements, to promote mutual understanding, and to serve as future leaders in the public and private sectors of Afghanistan.  After grantees return to Afghanistan and establish themselves in their careers, it is still possible to apply for a visa to the United States to allow travel for business or tourism purposes.

Applicants should demonstrate leadership qualities, including volunteer experience and involvement in their communities.  The U.S. Embassy in Kabul encourages students from all academic backgrounds to apply.

Ineligibility Factors

  • Persons who will not have graduated in Spring 2019
  • Persons with a dual U.S./Afghan nationality or those having a spouse, parent, fiancé or child over 18 years of age who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • Employees of U.S. government agencies such as the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. Agency for International Development.
  • Persons who have a pending application for immigration to any country (this includes Special Immigrant Visas).

No Dependents

The Fulbright Graduate Fellowship Program in Afghanistan is provided for the recipient only.  Dependents, including spouses (Maharam) and children, are not eligible to receive a visa.  There are no exceptions.

How to Apply

STEP 1: Determine eligibility.  Read the instructions carefully.  Before you apply, be sure that you qualify.

STEP 2: Submit the application.  You must submit the completed application package and supporting documents by the deadline; late applications will not be accepted.  There are no exceptions.

Fulbright Selection Process Announcement

Stage 1: Technical Eligibility Review

For the complete Fulbright Scholarship Program Selection Criteria, please click here.  An applicant may be considered technically eligible for consideration as a Fulbright candidate if he or she meets the following minimum requirements:

1. Completed a four-year Bachelor’s Degree, or a three-year Bachelor’s Degree with one additional year of undergraduate or graduate studies in a related field by Spring 2019.
2. Has an official TOEFL iBT test score of at least 79 or 6.5 in IELTS.
3. Holds Afghan citizenship.
4. Does not hold U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residency in another country.
5. Maintains a permanent residence in Afghanistan.
6. Does not have a pending application to immigrate to any country.
7. The following persons are ineligible for grants during and for a period ending one year following the termination of such employment, association, or service:
a. Employees of U.S. missions abroad who work for the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. Agency for International Development. This provision includes all employees, paid or unpaid (including part-                                  time or temporary employees, consultants, externs, fellows and contract employees). This provision does not apply to interns.
b. Board members or staff of a Fulbright Commission.
c. Officers of an organization, in the United States or abroad, including members of boards of trustees or similar governing bodies, and individuals otherwise associated with the organization, wherein the                                organization and the individuals are responsible for nominating or selecting individuals for participation in any exchange program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
d. Immediate families (spouses and dependent children) of individuals described in paragraphs a-c. This provision does not disqualify self-supporting children who live apart from their parents.

For purposes of this section, the one-year period of ineligibility is calculated from the date of termination of employment, service, or association until the due date for submission of applications for programs under this chapter.

Application Requirements

Interested applicants must submit a complete application by February 28, 2019 at 11:59 PM (Kabul local time).  The complete application package must be attached in one single e-mail message to KabulFulbright@state.gov.

  • One editable PDF version of the application.
  • Three academic or professional letters of recommendation; two academic and one from an employer is recommended.
  • Two application essays: 1) Personal Statement and 2) Study Research Objectives.
  • One Adobe Acrobat PDF file that includes the entire application and the aforementioned supporting documents.

Stage 2: Application Review and Interview Selection

The application materials of any applicant who is found technically eligible will then be thoroughly reviewed by a review panel from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.  The panel will evaluate and rank applicants on the following areas:

  1. Quality of academic proposal and relevance of proposed study to achieving professional goals
  2. Demonstrated leadership qualities and leadership potential
  3. Volunteer experience and/or community involvement
  4. Work experience
  5. Educational experience
  6. Writing ability and content
  7. Commitment to helping Afghanistan
  8. TOEFL iBT or IELTS Score

Those who receive the highest ratings during this review will be invited to the interview phase.

Stage 3: Interview and Essay

Applicants who are found technically eligible and who pass the application review phase will be invited to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul for an interview and to write an additional essay.

Interview: During the interview, applicants will be asked detailed questions about their proposed course of academic study, motivations for study in the United States, experience and qualifications, and will be evaluated on their English speaking and comprehension, as well as their ability to speak clearly, broadly, and intelligently on the following main topics:

  1. The applicant’s goals (professional, academic, and personal).
  2. How the Fulbright experience will support the applicant’s goals.
  3. How the applicant’s Fulbright experience will help Afghanistan.
  4. How the applicant’s prior experience has prepared him or her for Fulbright.

Essay: While at the Embassy, the applicant will be asked to write a short essay on a topic chosen on the day of the interview.  The applicant will have 30 minutes to complete this handwritten essay, without dictionaries or other assistance.  The interview panel will review the essay for English writing ability and for content.

Stage 4: Finalist Fulbright Candidate Selection

All applicants will be ranked by the total scores they received during the Application Review, Interview, and Essay stages.  The highest ranked applicants for the Master’s program will be nominated by the U.S. Embassy as finalist candidates.  The Embassy will also choose alternate candidates.  Finalist and alternate candidates will be notified of their status at this stage.  Nomination as a finalist does not guarantee that a candidate will be accepted at a U.S. university or participate in the Fulbright program.  A candidate may also be dropped at any time for failure to fulfill the requirements of the program or for failure to be admitted to a U.S. university.

Stage 5: Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and TOEFL Testing

Once notified, finalists and alternates will be required to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) in order to be admitted into a U.S. university.  Applicants who are unable to achieve a high enough score on the exam may be unable to gain acceptance at a U.S. university.  The Embassy will offer finalists and alternates a voucher to take the exam free of charge at the registered Test Centers in Kabul, Herat, or Mazar-e-Sharif.  Finalists and alternates will also receive one voucher to re-take the TOEFL test for free in order to achieve a higher score and help their chances of being accepted into a U.S. university.

Stage 6: University Placement

The Institute of International Education (IIE), the U.S. Embassy’s implementing partner for the Fulbright program, will submit applications to U.S. universities on behalf of the Fulbright finalists and alternates.  Fulbright candidates must not apply to universities on their own and must notify the Embassy about any prior contact they have had with a U.S. university.  IIE selects universities that offer academic programs that match a candidate’s study objectives and academic preferences.  Fulbright candidates who have higher TOEFL and GRE scores and better academic records are more likely to be accepted to a university.  The minimum TOEFL scores are insufficient to gain acceptance at well-known universities in the United States.

Stage 7: Visa Interview

In order to participate in the Fulbright program, all Fulbright finalists must qualify for a non-immigrant visa by attending an in-person, scheduled interview at the U.S. Embassy.  The Public Affairs Section has no influence on the decision of the Consular Section.  At this stage, applicants will be disqualified from the Fulbright program if they are found ineligible for a non-immigrant J1 (exchange visitor) visa.  Common factors that would make a person ineligible for a visa include, but are not limited to: unclear study or post-program plans, fraud or misrepresentation, current or past applications for an immigrant visa, previous violations of U.S. visa or immigration law, prior criminal acts, terrorist affiliation, violations of drug or alcohol-related laws, and past or current drug use.

Stage 8: Study at a U.S. University as a Fulbright Student

Once Fulbright finalists are issued visas, they can travel to the United States to begin their studies.  At that point, they officially become Fulbright students, or “Fulbrighters.”  Fulbright Master’s programs typically last one to two years.  Afghan Fulbrighters are typically issued one-year multiple-entry visas, so they may return to Afghanistan (at their own expense) during school breaks.  The initial flight to the United States and the return flight to Afghanistan at the conclusion of the study program are covered under the Fulbright grant award.  The Fulbright grant also includes orientation and enrichment seminars designed to enhance the Fulbright student’s academic experience and understanding of U.S. society and culture.

Stage 9: Return to Afghanistan and Make a Difference

Once Fulbrighters earn their degree, they must return to Afghanistan for a period of at least two years.  Applicants unable to fulfill this requirement will be considered ineligible for the Fulbright program.  Once Fulbrighters return to Afghanistan, they officially becomes a Fulbright Alumni and may be invited to participate in Embassy events and activities that are only open to U.S. exchange program alumni.  Fulbrighters are strongly encouraged to use their new skills and knowledge to become successful leaders in their institutions and to implement improvements and innovations in their professional field.  Fulbrighters are also encouraged to share their experiences with friends, family, and colleagues in order to expand the positive impact of the program on Afghanistan.