Reciprocal Exchange Component: Frequently Asked Questions about the Winter 2020 Application


What are the eligibility requirements for the Fellowship Alumni?

Fellows must be considered Alumni of the Fellowship by the U.S. Department of State. Fellowship Alumni may not be employees or immediate family members of employees of the U.S. Government. Fellowship Alumni must reside in the host country and be present for the duration of the Reciprocal Exchange.

What are the eligibility requirements for the American professional?

American professionals must be U.S. citizens currently living in the United States.  American professionals may not be employees of the U.S. Government.

Does the Reciprocal Exchange support Fellowship Alumni travel to the United States?

No, the award supports the travel of American professionals to Africa to continue work with Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni on the continent.

Can an American professional who received a Reciprocal Exchange Award once be eligible to apply for a new one with a different Fellowship Alumni in a different country?

Yes, American professionals, including previous recipients of one award, and Fellowship Alumni from all cohorts are eligible to apply. American professionals who have received two or more Reciprocal Exchange Awards previously are ineligible to apply. Preference will be given to Americans and Fellowship Alumni who have not previously participated in a Reciprocal Exchange.

Are there any priority topic areas the U.S. Department of State and IREX would like to fund this year?

Please refer to the application criteria included in the announcement.  Rather than indicating priority areas, the application should demonstrate the need for travel and impact of the project both in the Fellowship Alumni’s country and the American’s U.S. community.

Can I access the application from my phone or tablet?

Yes!  You can access the application from any device that is connected to the Internet.  The application is mobile-friendly, so it is easy to apply from your phone or tablet.  Please remember to submit all required attachments with your application.

I am unable to move past the general information section. How do I apply?

Please review the eligibility requirements.  The application will not let you proceed unless you meet general requirements and have fully completed the section.  Any question with a red asterisk is required and therefore must be completed before you can move forward with the application and/or submit it.

My American partner submitted an application; is our application complete?

No, both the American professional(s) and the Fellowship Alumni must submit the application form for it to be considered complete.  While similar, the American and Fellowship Alumni applications require different answers in some sections.

After I complete and submit my application, can I go back in and make changes or add supplemental materials at a later date?

No, once you have submitted your application, you can no longer add any additional information or make any changes.  All information and documents should be uploaded prior to final submission.

I have a physical disability or other special needs and I need another person’s assistance to complete my application.  Is this alright?

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to apply for the Reciprocal Exchange component.  Applicants with physical disabilities or special needs who require another person’s assistance to complete an application may do so.  However, the thoughts, ideas and content of your application must be your own.  While you may collaborate with the American professional or Fellowship Alumni on your application, you cannot collaborate with the person assisting you on the content of your application.

Can I submit a paper copy of the Reciprocal Exchange application?

No, you must submit your application through the online application system. Paper applications or applications by email attachment may not be accepted. Learn more about the application process.

When can applicants expect to receive notification on the status of their application?

Applicants will be notified of their selection status 6 to 8 weeks after the deadline.


Can multiple American professionals apply as a group?

Yes, multiple Americans can apply as a group for a Reciprocal Exchange.  Each American applicant may be eligible for up to $5,000.  Proposals with multiple applicants should consider this in formulating their budget. Please review the Budget Template for additional details.

Can an American professional who wishes to partner with multiple Fellowship Alumni in different countries for the same or similar projects apply for more than one award, so as to establish a support network?

The American applicant can propose partnering with Fellowship Alumni in different countries on the same project, but s/he will only be eligible for one award at the standard maximum funding level of up to $5,000 per American professional. Please review the Budget Template for additional details.

My proposal has extra costs.  Will IREX/the U.S. Department of State be able to provide additional funding for these costs?

No, up to $5,000 may be provided to each American professional to help cover the cost of travel to and from Sub-Saharan Africa and to support approved program-related costs.  Fellowship Alumni and American professionals will be responsible for covering additional costs. Please review the Budget Template for additional details.

How are funds disbursed?

Funds are given directly to the American professional.  Eighty (80) percent of the award will be disbursed prior to travel, upon submission of required documents.  The remaining twenty (20) percent of the award will be disbursed upon completion of the exchange and the submission of additional required documents within 30 days of the American’s return to the United States.  All other costs associated with the exchange must be funded by the Fellowship Alumni and/or American professional.

Are there any restrictions on how the funds can be used for this program?

Yes, there are restrictions. All air travel being paid for with Reciprocal Exchange Award funds must be Fly America compliant, and should be the most cost effective, economy-class airfare. Fly America compliance is guaranteed if Awardees use the IREX-preferred travel agency, Key Travel. Costs for Meals & Incidental Expenses may not exceed rates established by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). Funds may not be used to pay administrative or indirect costs of the project, such as the American professional’s or Fellowship Alumni’s salary. U.S. government funding may not pay for alcohol and other entertainment expenses such as tourism. Please see the guidelines listed in the Budget Template for additional information about restricted costs.

Do travel costs include visa-related expenses?

Awardees will be provided with optional visa procurement support by an IREX-preferred vendor when visas are required by the project host country. We recommend utilizing this service to ensure a smooth process for fulfilling all visa requirements before your travel. Our preferred vendor will provide you with customized guidance outlining visa requirements, necessary supporting documentation, application forms, length of time needed to obtain visa, etc. 

  • For Awardees who plan to use this service: IREX will cover the cost of this visa service as well as the visa fee itself, if required for the project country.  Visa costs do not need to be included in the project budget if the Awardee(s) plan on utilizing this visa procurement service.*
  • For Awardees who plan to opt-out: It is not required to work with our preferred visa procurement vendor.  If the Awardee(s) plan to opt-out of this service, visa costs must be included as a line item in the project budget.*

*Please note that exceptions apply to travelers to Nigeria.  See guidelines in the Budget Template for details.

Why are there exceptions for travelers to Nigeria?

Additional visa costs are allowable only for projects traveling to Nigeria.  Nigerian Immigration Service has started Biometric Visa Enrollment for all visas to Nigeria and applicants must travel in person to their offices in Rockville, MD; Atlanta, GA; or New York, NY to have biometric data captured when applying for a visa to Nigeria from the United States.  For more information regarding visa procedures for Nigeria, please visit the Embassy’s website.

Because of this special requirement to appear in person at the Nigerian Embassy or Consulate, applicants may request additional funding to cover these costs. Be sure to include the following categories in the proposed budget as needed: visa fees, U.S. domestic airfare, lodging, M&IE, and local ground transportation.  Domestic lodging and M&IE costs may not exceed U.S. Government limits as described above.

Work Plan

What does the work plan need to include?

American professionals and Fellowship Alumni must collaborate on the submitted work plan.  While your initial work plan may be broad, please provide at minimum your anticipated schedule and a general idea of content for each specific activity.  Work plans should also include information about what activities Awardees and Fellowship Alumni will undertake before and after Reciprocal Exchange travel to ensure that your project will be successful and will have an impact within the American professional’s U.S. community.  Add rows if necessary so that every activity, including those on the same day, is included in the plan.  Please see the guidelines listed in the Work Plan Template for more information.

How detailed does the work plan need to be?

Application work plans are expected to be broad, but please try to be as specific as possible on the following items:

  • Locations of activities
    • This is important so the U.S. embassies in the country you are applying for can confirm that the locations are safe for Americans to travel to.
  • Activity types (meetings, lectures, trainings, film screenings, etc.)
  • Activity participants (university undergraduates, elementary school teachers, local filmmakers, conference attendees, rural hospital staff, etc.)
  • Activity outcomes (for the implementation period only)
    • Describe what participants will take away from each activity (increased knowledge about a topic, new skill, etc.)

Review the application information and Work Plan Template for additional guidance.

Is there a required duration for the exchange?

No, you may propose any duration that is agreed upon between the Fellowship Alumni and American professional.

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