Fulbright Program Fully Opens for 2023-2024, Except for Afghanistan

The world's largest exchange program, curtailed in 2020, will return to full operations this application cycle, but Afghan scholars are excluded.
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  • Like other international exchanges, the Fulbright Program stumbled during the pandemic.
  • Amid university reopenings, a more normal 2023-2024 application cycle begins in April.
  • Restrictions lifted for most Fulbright hopefuls; Afghan students and scholars left out.

When universities around the globe shuttered in response to COVID-19, the United States' Fulbright Program — the world's largest exchange program — also came to a halt. The program officially paused on March 20, 2020.

After an application process that can take as long as 14 months, active Fulbrighters were forced to return home — in some cases to continue their duties remotely, but others were left without the means to salvage their Fulbright experience or their remaining stipends.

As host institutions reopened for the 2020-2021 year, Fulbright recipients were at the mercy of host countries and institutions. Some were able to travel and take part in face-to-face experiences once again. Others, intending to visit countries that had still not resumed in-person exchanges, deferred to the current 2021-2022 year.

Students and scholars eager to travel are hearing more good news, as borders, universities, and Fulbright opportunities continue to open. The upcoming application cycle for the 2023-2024 academic year includes the full roster of Fulbright grants, temporarily downsized during the pandemic.

For students and scholars from Afghanistan, however, the post-pandemic reopening of the Fulbright program morphed into a dead end.

Afghans Shut Out of Fulbright Program

Like many international Fulbrighters, Afghan grant recipients typically come to the U.S. to earn master's degrees. With educational options in their home country curtailed following the Taliban takeover last August, Afghan semifinalists for Fulbright awards had been anxiously waiting to hear if they can continue their education in the States.

On Jan. 28, the 140 Afghan semifinalists finally received word. Not only would the upcoming cohort be unable to come to the U.S., but the program would stop accepting new Afghan applications altogether, effectively canceling the program.

An official from the U.S. Department of State told ABC News, "Due to significant barriers impeding our ability to provide a safe exchange experience, the selection process for the Fulbright Foreign Student Program in Afghanistan for the 2022-23 academic year will not move forward … At this time, we are not proceeding with or accepting applications."

Fulbright Opportunities for Students, Scholars, and Artists

While Afghans are no longer eligible for the Fulbright Foreign Student Program and the Fulbright Visiting Scholar Program, both remain available to other international students and scholars wishing to study or work in the U.S.

The Fulbright Program aims to promote mutual understanding and looks for individuals who will serve as cultural ambassadors while living abroad. Applicants must have the language skills needed to successfully complete their proposed projects.

Fulbright Grants for Students

Grants are available to foreign and U.S. college seniors and graduate students.

Open Study/Research Awards — The traditional award for which candidates design proposals for an academic project in a specific country.

English Teaching Assistant Awards — Funds grantees who wish to provide local English language instruction. The Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant Award provides funds for international applicants to provide instruction in their native language to American students.

Fulbright-Fogarty Fellowships In Public Health — Unavailable during last year's application cycle, the public health fellowship is once again being offered, providing funding for graduate or medical school students who wish to conduct research or clinical research in settings with public health needs.

Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship — Provides a platform for grantees to tell cross-cultural stories under the mentorship of National Geographic editors. Content produced is featured on a National Geographic blog.

Fulbright Grants for Scholars

Fulbright Scholar Awards — The foundational Fulbright award is available to professionals, artists, and scholars at all career levels. Applicants from the U.S. may pursue the Global Scholar Award, the Public Policy Fellowship, and Arctic Initiative.

Fulbright Distinguished Scholar Awards — The most prestigious grant awarded by the Fulbright Scholar Program, the Distinguished Scholar Award is open to scholars with more than seven years of experience in their field.

Fulbright Postdoctoral Awards — Recently graduated or soon-to-graduate scholars (of Ph.D., J.D., M.D., Ed.D. programs) can deepen their expertise in their field and, in some cases, teach alongside global leaders.

Fulbright International Education Administrator Awards — Funds participation in a two-week intensive seminar to learn about the host country's education system and forge connections with colleagues worldwide.

Scholar-in-Residence Program — U.S. institutions host a foreign scholar for a semester or academic year.

The Fulbright-National Archives Heritage Science Fellowship — Connects visiting scholars with National Archives scientists and experts to conduct research at the National Archives' Heritage Science Research and Testing Lab in College Park, Maryland.

Established in the post-World War II era that gave rise to the United Nations, the Fulbright Program funds the education, teaching, and scholarship of students and academics worldwide.

Every year, the flagship U.S. exchange provides grants to some 8,000 students, scholars, teachers, and artists from the U.S. and is active in over 100 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific.

The program is administered by the U.S. Department of State, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

Since the program's inception, more than 400,000 Fulbright scholars have studied, taught, and performed research while taking part in international experiences that last from a few months to a full year. Fulbright alumni include 61 Nobel Prize laureates, 76 MacArthur Foundation fellows, and 89 Pulitzer Prize recipients.