Fulbright Foreign Student Program

Fulbright Foreign Student Program 

The South African Fulbright Foreign Student Program provides grants for South African university graduates to pursue post-graduate studies at a United States university in any subject (excludes MBA and studies that require contact with patients). Students are selected through a rigorous application and interview process and receive a high level of support ranging from visa processing and health insurance to a comprehensive pre-departure orientation and re-entry session.  Applications for the 2023-2024 cycle should open in January/February 2022

The following opportunities are available:

  • VSR (non-degree) : South African PhD students enrolled with a South African University may apply to conduct one year’s research at a U.S. University as a Visiting Student Researcher (VSR). Current National Research Foundation (NRF) funded PhD students are encouraged to apply.
  • MA/PhD: Post-graduate students may apply for scholarships towards Master’s or Doctorate degrees. Scholarships are awarded for two years towards one degree – Master’s or Doctorate (renewable each year).


  • Be a South African citizen OR a permanent resident with a minimum of 5 years of permanent residency status in South Africa (Please note: S.A. nationals with dual citizenship from the U.S. are not eligible for the program)
  • For Non-Degree (Visiting Student Researcher) studies: Must be registered for a PhD with a South African university
  • Have a four-year bachelor’s degree, or a three-year bachelor’s degree plus honors year, or a four-year B-Tech degree when applying for Master’s
  • Have a Master’s degree when applying for a Doctoral degree

What do we look for in our applicants?

  • Academic excellence
  • Required scores for the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) for each specific field of study
  • Clearly written study objectives
  • Demonstrable interpersonal skills with evidence of cultural sensitivity and a genuine desire to learn more about the United States and share with American citizens aspects of South African culture
  • Experience and interest in extracurricular and community activities
  • Evidence of leadership potential
  • A desire to further the Fulbright Program and give back to your home country upon returning

The Selection Committee and the Interview Panel will also be looking for clear reasons for selecting your U.S. university preferences. The Fulbright Program expects candidates to conduct a thorough university search and to identify institutions which are a strong fit for their academic, personal and professional goals.

Prospective Fulbright participants should be aware that public health conditions, availability of consular services and travel, as well as U.S. institutional operating status and policies may affect their ability to travel to the U.S. and participate in academic programs.

Guidance for applications 

Frequently Asked Questions

For questions not addressed via any of the above resources, please contact the Fulbright Office: fpsa@state.gov

Medical and MBA programs are excluded for South African applicants.

  • Master’s or Doctoral Degree: 2 years of funding towards one degree.  For Doctoral degrees, at least 2-3 years of study are required beyond the initial two years.  Doctoral candidates need to secure their own personal or other funding to continue studying in the United States.
  • Non-Degree: Participation in a visiting research program for one academic year (9-10 months).
  • Fully funded awards generally cover the following, but can vary according to each grantee’s program:
    • Travel allowance and transportation from South Africa to the authorized U.S. destination
    • Health benefits
    • Settling in allowance upon arrival in the U.S.
    • Monthly maintenance allowance (to cover living expenses)
    • Tuition and fees
    • Book and computer allowance
    • J-1 visa sponsorship

Yes, however candidates applying to pursue a first master’s degree will take priority and a strong justification for a second master’s is required.

Yes, but at your own cost. The Fulbright program covers graduate degrees up to two years only. In America PhD students are routinely funded by their university after the first two years but this cannot be guaranteed.

No. You may suggest the universities of your choice on your Fulbright application; however the Fulbright program team will make the final university placement.

In recent years South Africa has been allocated 15-20 scholarships; this can vary from year to year, depending on U.S. Government budget allocations.

No. Application deadlines are strictly adhered to and no late applications or supporting documents will be accepted after the closing date.

No, the U.S. academic year begins in September and ends in May.

The Fulbright selection and university placement process takes time to complete. Suitable university placements are made to cater for the specific study objectives of each grantee. Visa applications and travel arrangements also take time to complete.

The majority of master’s degrees in the U.S. involve two years of advanced coursework and end with a research paper that should take no more than one semester to write. A PhD in the U.S. normally includes those same two years of advanced course work but then continues with two to four years of in depth research and ends with a book length dissertation. This can vary between universities and programs within universities. Please check the websites of the programs you are considering.

Due to the large number of applications we receive, we cannot contact each person individually. If you do not hear from us within 30 days of the closing date, please assume that your application was unsuccessful. We invite you to apply again for the next academic year. Some of our Fulbright Alumni applied two or three times before being accepted.

Only South African citizens and permanent residents of South Africa are eligible to apply. Citizens of other countries residing in South Africa may contact the United States Embassy in their country of origin to find out more about the Fulbright Program in their country.

Yes, you may apply for either a master’s or doctoral degree. Successful candidates are expected to commence their studies more than a year later.

You may apply to spend up to one academic year in the United States either as a non-degree student attending courses or as Visiting Researcher conducting research under the mentorship or supervision of a U.S. university professor.