The Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program was established by the US Congress in October 2002 in response to the events of September 11, 2001. The program is funded through the U.S. Department of State and sponsored by the Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs (ECA) to provide scholarships for high school students from countries with significant Muslim populations to spend up to one academic year in the United States.

Students live with host families, attend high schools, engage in activities to learn about American society and values, acquire leadership skills, and help educate Americans about their countries and cultures. Starting in 2009, the YES Abroad program was established in order to provide a similar experience for U.S. students (15-18 years) to spend an academic year in select YES countries.

Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program

Course level: Exchange of high school students

Scholarship period: 10 months

Institution and country: American High School and Host Family

Sponsor: U.S. Department of State and the Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs (ECA)

Number of awards: Approximately 900 students travel to the United States each year

Scholarship inclusions: All program-related costs

Eligibility criteria for the YES Program:

  • Nationality. Albania, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Egypt, Gaza, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Israel (Arab Communities), Jordan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Malaysia, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Pakistan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Suriname, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, West Bank, Yemen. Participants must have spent more than 50% of the last 5 years in one of these countries and have current family plans of returning to that country after the program.
  • Age. Must be 15 to 18 years old.
  • Be enrolled in 8th, 9th, 10th, or 11th grade at the time of application; have not completed more than 11 years of primary education nor received a high school diploma (senior high school) by the start of the program.
  • Be among the top 25% of academic performance in their grade level.
  • Have an equivalent of a B average or better without failing grades.
  • Strong academic and social skills, openness, and flexibility.
  • Demonstrated English language ability sufficient to study in a native English-medium setting.
  • Sufficiently healthy to participate in the program.
  • No previous significant travel to the U.S. on a U.S. government-sponsored program.
  • Committed to cultural immersion in the U.S through a home-stay experience.
  • Able to meet cross-cultural challenges with maturity, humor, and an open mind.
  • Meet U.S. J-1 visa eligibility requirements (for instance, U.S. citizens are not eligible for J- 1 visa).
  • Plans to share his/her experience with his/her home community upon return.

Application deadline and instructions:

There are multiple rounds to the YES application and selection process. All applicants are required to take an English proficiency exam, write a proctored essay, complete a YES program application, and participate in group and individual in-person interviews. All finalists are selected on the basis of merit.

For more details on the application process, it is best to consult country-specific instructions in the below link. 

Other useful links:

Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program