Frequently asked questions about the “Russian Business Leaders Program” (RBL) 

About the program


  1. Am I eligible to apply?
    The RBL program is intended for specialists aged 22-40 working in the private sector (for-profit companies, business, entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, social media, innovation, regional economic development and technology) and able to demonstrate leadership in their field.
  2. Can I apply if I’m currently working in infrastructure that supports entrepreneurship/innovation development (university, government office) but is not a for-profit business?
    If this is your only occupation, then your chances of being selected are low. However, you can consider applying for a different program – Professional Fellows Program (Russia Innovation and Entrepreneurship cohort) that is intended for specialists aged 25-35 working in innovation and entrepreneurship support, development and policy. More information can be found at
  3. Where will I be placed in the US?
    American Councils will match Fellows with worksites in the US. While Fellows may express a preference early in the process for a particular type of site, please note that American Councils has final say over all sites and Fellows may not choose their own sites. Fellows will be placed in a variety of organizations (businesses or organization, institutions, universities) that focus on start-ups or entrepreneurship or building a business so regardless of what particular background Fellows have, they will be able to learn about starting/growing a business and see US best business practices.
  4. Do I need to pay for the program? What are the costs?
    If you are selected as a finalist, the RBL program will cover all costs associated with your international travel, visa, and basic living costs in the US. There are no required costs to Fellows.
  5. How are Fellows selected?
    Fellows are selected through a competitive nationwide search that involves an extensive online application and interviews in English.
  6. What level of English proficiency is required for participation?
    Strong upper-intermediate skills are a must. All fellows are expected to actively participate in daily activities that involve speaking, listening, writing, and reading in English and won’t be provided with interpreters.
  7. Do I need to take the TOEFL exam?
    No, you don’t. However, if you have a valid TOEFL/IELTS score, you can indicate that in your online application.
  8. What type of US visa will I have? I already have a tourist/business visa. Can I travel to the program on this visa?
    All Fellows will need to receive J-1 visas- nonimmigrant visas for individuals approved to participate in exchange visitor programs in the United States. Fellows may not participate on their tourist/business visas and will need to obtain a J-1 visa. All visa fees will be covered through the program as well as travel to the visa interview. However, the granting of a US J-1 visa is a requirement for the program, and if you are rejected for a visa by the Consular section at the embassy you will not be eligible to participate. American Councils can assist fellows in the application process, but holds no sway over visa granting decisions made by the Embassy.
  9. While on the program, can I work a job in the US other than my internship?
    Working a job in the US other than your fellowship is prohibited. Participation in the RBL program carries an obligation for holding a full-time internship in a US organization that focuses on start-ups, entrepreneurship, building a business. As J-1 visa holders, participants are not permitted to be otherwise engaged in any form of employment while in the United States.
  10. Where will I be staying in the U.S?
    We usually place Fellows with American host families but if that’s not possible to secure a host family for some reason, we will arrange a hotel/apartment accommodation and will cover all expenses.
  11. Can I apply if I already had a J-1 visa and have “Bearer of subject to section 212 (E), Russia – two-year rule applies” note in my visa?
    No, you will need to fulfill this two-year home residence rule before you can participate in the RBL program.
  12. Can I apply if I’m not 22 years old yet or older than 40? Are there any exceptions?
    The age requirement is very strict so you can’t participate if you are not aged 22-40 at the time of application. Unfortunately, no exceptions.
  13. Will there be any orientation for Fellows before the program?
    Yes, American Councils will organize a pre-departure orientation in Moscow where Fellows will learn more about the program, its goals, parameters and logistics as well as will have an opportunity to talk to the program alumni.
  14. Whom can I contact if I have questions about the program?
    You can contact our RBL team at


About the application:

  1. Where can I apply for the RBL program? Can I send my application by email?
    You can apply for the program at This website will connect you to the online application where you will need to create an account (username and password). All email you receive from the application website will be sent from Please add this email address to your address book/safe list/approved senders list to help prevent messages from being blocked as spam or junk mail. We do NOT accept applications sent by email.
  2. What documents do I need to attach to my online application?
    In addition to the online application, you must submit the following application materials to be considered for this program:

    • Your resume or CV in English
    • A high quality digital copy of your international passport.
    • Three candid photos of you that show your personality and interests, which may be shared with possible host families
    • A signed copy of the Participant Terms and Conditions Agreement
    • A signed copy of the American Councils Privacy Policy Statement
    • A passport-style photo (this photo may be shared with potential host family, worksite and published in orientation and closing program books)
  3. Can I apply for the program if I don’t have a valid international passport?
    Yes, you can. If you do not have an international passport, then please provide a high quality digital copy of your domestic passport. We also strongly encourage you to apply for an international passport as soon as you are selected as a semi-finalist.
  4. Do I need to provide letters of reference? How do I submit them?
    Your application must include 1 (one) letter of reference. Applications without reference letters will not be considered. This letter must be submitted online. An eligible reference includes colleagues, advisers, supervisors, and other professionals who are familiar with your professional abilities. Applicants may not submit letters on their own behalf. In Section 5 of your online application, please provide your reference’s name and email address and press the “Request Recommendation” button. He/she should receive an email with a secure link to our confidential online reference form within one hour. Confirm with your recommender that they received this email message and can access their online forms. Your references must then use that link to complete and submit their letters online. Be sure to inform your recommenders to expect this email message. It will be sent from “”. Such emails are often misdirected to a spam or junk mail box. Inform your recommenders of this possibility.
  5. My recommender doesn’t speak English. How can he/she can fill out the online reference form?
    He/she can use a Google translation or ask someone for help with translation and then upload it. Or you can reach out to someone who speaks English.
  6. Do I need to complete my online application in one sitting?
    It is not necessary to complete your online form in one sitting. To continue later, press the “Save Changes” button that can be found at the bottom of any page, and then log out of the system. You can then log in at any time thereafter until the form deadline to complete your form. To save your work at any time, press the “Save Changes” button that can be found at the bottom of any page. It is a good idea to regularly save your work while completing the form to ensure that none of your work is lost in the event you lose your Internet connection, your computer is accidentally shut down, etc.
  7. I don’t know where I will be placed in the US – how should I approach the 3rd essay question? (“If you were offered an opportunity to do a virtual project with your U.S. hosts or invite your US supervisor to your home region for 7-10 days to implement a mutually beneficial education project (conferences, workshop, lectures etc), what project would you develop? Please describe the field, possible local partners, goals, activities, and any other details.”)
    While on the program, each Fellow will have an opportunity to submit an application for an outbound project with his/her US supervisor/colleague/mentor. Fellows and U.S. participants will be competitively selected. When you are initially applying for the program, try to think about a hypothetical project with an “ideal” US supervisor- this project should aim at benefiting your community/region and be realistic. Think about potential goals, partners and activities. Be creative!

Good luck!