YLAI Professional Fellows Program

The application process for the next Young Leaders of the Americas (YLAI) Professional Fellows Program will be announced here soon.

The Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) empowers entrepreneurs to strengthen their capacity to launch and advance their entrepreneurial ideas and effectively contribute to social and economic development in their communities. Since the initiative’s launch in 2015, more than 750 YLAI Professional Fellows from Latin America and the Caribbean have expanded their leadership and entrepreneurial experience through fellowships at businesses and organizations across the United States. Through the YLAI Entrepreneurship Institute and the individualized Fellowships, YLAI Fellows have accelerated their commercial and social ventures’ success and developed specific action plans to carry out upon return to their home countries. YLAI Fellows built networks, linkages, and lasting partnerships to attract investments and support for their entrepreneurial ventures. Program components have included:

  • Four-week Fellowship: With U.S. fellowship hosts in their fields of expertise, YLAI Professional Fellows gain valuable professional development skills at entrepreneurial organizations or companies across the United States and work jointly on an action plan to be implemented upon Fellows’ return to their home countries.
  • Washington, D.C. Closing Forum: YLAI Professional Fellows participate in a closing conference and networking event with top U.S. government officials as well as global public, private, and nonprofit leaders.
  • YLAI Entrepreneurship Institute: YLAI Professional Fellows expand their leadership, entrepreneurial, and management skills and knowledge through online and in-person trainings that complement their U.S. Fellowship.
  • Post-Fellowship Sustained Engagement: After successful completion of the U.S. Fellowship and YLAI Entrepreneurship Institute, YLAI Professional Fellows continue their collaboration with U.S. partners and have access to ongoing professional development opportunities, mentorships, networking, and alumni activities. YLAI Professional Fellows will be eligible for Innovation Small Grants to fund startup or scaling activities, Travel Grants to attend conferences, and a chance to welcome a Fellowship Host to their country to share expertise and expand the hosts’ understanding of the entrepreneurship climate in YLAI Professional Fellows’ home countries.

Financial Provisions of the YLAI Professional Fellowship Program

There is no fee to apply to become a YLAI Professional Fellow. All YLAI Professional Fellows Program expenses are covered by the U.S. government and include the following categories:

  • J-1 visa support.
  • Round-trip travel from participant’s home city to the United States and all required program travel.
  • YLAI Entrepreneurship Institute training and courses.
  • Program opening in an entrepreneurial hub in the United States and Closing Forum in Washington, D.C.
  • Four-week professional development experience.
  • Accident and sickness medical coverage.
  • Housing and meals throughout the program.

Who is eligible to apply?

Candidates will be considered without respect to race, color, religion, sex, gender, sexuality, national origin, disability or any other protected characteristic as established by U.S. law. Applicants with disabilities are eligible and encouraged to apply for the YLAI Professional Fellows Program. The YLAI Professional Fellows Program is open to young entrepreneurs who meet the following criteria:

  • Are between the ages of 25 and 35 at the Fellowship start date.
  • Are a resident and citizen of one of the participating countries*: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Maarten, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Venezuela.
    In the specific cases of residency in Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten, citizenship in the Netherlands is accepted
  • Are eligible to receive a U.S. J-1 visa.
  • Have a demonstrated track record of successfully growing their own business or social venture for at least two (2) years.
  • Are not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident of the United States.
  • Are not a U.S. government employee.
  • Are proficient in reading, writing, and speaking English.

The U.S. Department of State and its implementing partner reserve the right to verify all of the information included in the application. In the event that there is a discrepancy, or information is found to be false, the application will immediately be declared invalid and the applicant ineligible.

Applications not meeting the above technical eligibility requirements will not be forwarded to the selection committee. If you do not meet the technical eligibility requirements for this program, we invite you to visit exchanges.state.gov for information on other U.S. Department of State exchange opportunities.

What are the criteria for selection?

The YLAI Professional Fellows Program is an open, merit-based competition. There is no cost to apply. After the application deadline, a selection panel reviews all eligible applications. Semifinalists will be contacted to schedule an interview, and all applicants will be notified of their status.

The YLAI Professional Fellows Program candidate selection committee will use the following criteria, like the following, to evaluate applications and interviews:

  • Demonstrated professional entrepreneurial experience and knowledge.
  • Commitment to community or public service, mentorship, or volunteerism in your home country and to applying entrepreneurial and leadership skills, experience and knowledge to benefit your community and country.
  • Demonstrated understanding of how your personal and professional goals align with program objectives.
  • Demonstrated leadership, commitment to your organization’s or business’s success, positive attitude, initiative, and perseverance.

Application information

More information coming soon.