FAQ Kennedy Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program – Saudi Arabia

K-L YES 2022 - 2023


Q1: When did the program start and when did Saudi Arabia join the  

A1: The program was established by U.S. Congress in October 2002, 
and officially started in Saudi Arabia in 2005. Our first student went on a program in 2005. In Saudi Arabia, AMIDEAST manages the YES program in partnership with the local U.S. Embassy, Public Affairs Office. 


Q2: Who pays for the YES program? 
A2: The program is funded through the U.S. Department of State and sponsored by the Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs (ECA). 


Q3: What does the program cover? 

A3: The program covers all major costs like airfare, US visa fee, boarding and lodging in the USA, school tuition, and $125 as monthly pocket money. 


Q4: What is a “Finalist"?  What is an “Alternate"? 

A4: A finalist is a student who has been designated to receive a YES program. Finalist status is contingent upon a student providing any required medical or other follow-up documentation and receiving the necessary visa and passport as well as they secure placement alternate (reserve candidate) is designated to receive a scholarship if, and only if, a designated finalist declines or is unable to accept the scholarship. 


Q5: When alternates will be offered a scholarship? 

A5: Alternates are offered a scholarship only when one becomes available.  This can happen at any time until June 1st. After that date, it is generally no longer possible to replace a declined finalist with an alternate candidate.  


Q6: Is there any flexibility in age? 

A6: No, the age criteria are not flexible. Students must be minimum of 15 years old and a maximum of 18.5 years on 1st August (the year they are traveling to the USA) for the program.  


Q7: Can I apply, compete, and then if I get selected, I decide if I am serious about actual participation in the program?  

A7: This is highly discouraged; you can apply only if you are genuinely and seriously interested in participating in the program from the very beginning and has full family support and permission. Since we are not charging any fee for applications, it adds to our cost of processing the applications and tests if an applicant is not serious about the program participation.  


Q8: I have already traveled to the USA, can I apply?  

A8: Students cannot have stayed in the U.S. for more than 90 days consecutive in the last 5 years. 


Q9: Can I apply if my sibling has been on YES program? 

A9: Yes. 


Q10: I am not a Saudi national, do I qualify to apply for the program?  

A10: No, the program participation is only for Saudi nationals holding a Saudi  



Q11: I am a dual national (Saudi & American), am I eligible for the program? 

A11: No, you won’t be eligible for the program. 




Q1: Where will the students live in the USA?  

A1: All YES exchange students are placed with host families for one academic year and given admission in a school for one academic session. These placements are done by placement organizations that are private non-profit, educational exchange organizations selected by ECA to receive students on this program  


Q2: Who is the placement organization? 

A2: Saudi students will be placed by (ACES, AFS USA, American Councils, ASSE, FAYA/AIFS, AYUSA, CCI Greenheart, CIEE, FLAG, IRIS, PAX, STS Fdn, World Learning, World Link, and YFU USA) 


Q3: What are host families?  

A3: These families are very carefully chosen and take care of the exchange students like their own children, attending the parent’s meetings at schools, getting involved, and taking interest in everything the students are doing. These families give special importance to the exchange students to make this one year memorable and exciting for them organizing activities and events for the students. 


Q4: Where do host families come from?  

A4: The host families are as ethnically diverse as the population of the U.S. While English must be the first language spoken in the home, this does not preclude the fact that many families are from varied ethnic backgrounds, i.e., African Americans, Asian Americans, European-Americans and Hispanic- Americans. The percentage of white, Anglo-Saxon families grows smaller and smaller each year. Students should be prepared to be placed with host families from any type of ethnic and cultural background. In addition, families of all religious backgrounds can be found in every American community. Most American families attend church and identify themselves with a particular religion. Host families are Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, Protestant, Baptist, and most other religions represented in the demographics of the U.S. 


Q5: How are the hosts selected?  

A5: The staff from the placement organizations mentioned above selects the host families matching them with the interests of the students they are placing with the family. The potential host families are found through community service organizations, churches, athletic leagues, youth groups, foreign language classes, malls, county and state fairs, advertising, etc. 11.  


Q6: What will be my status at the host family? 

A6: Students will develop many relationships during the ten months on the YES program.  

The relationship with the student's host family is at the heart of the cultural exchange and will likely be the most important of the year. 

 American Councils and other placement organizations staff make every effort to place students with families that will complement their students' personalities and interests. 

 All YES students need to possess a strong desire to be part of an American family and a willingness to accept responsibilities in their new family. 

 These responsibilities will include (for both boys and girls) helping with household chores, keeping one's room clean, and abiding by all family rules, even if they differ from their natural family rules. 

 Students must exhibit flexibility, tact, politeness, and maturity of character. YES, students who expect to be treated like guests or given special consideration in their American families are unlikely to succeed on the program.  


Q7: Can I live with my relatives?  

A7: No, students are not allowed to be hosted by their relatives in the USA or can demand to be placed with relatives. Any interference by the relatives in the USA will affect the adjustment process negatively.  


Q8: Can you ensure I live with a Muslim family?  

A8: No. This cannot be ensured or guaranteed or demanded from American Councils or from the placement organizations. AMIDEAST Saudi Arabia does not interfere in the placement part of the program and it is entirely up to the placement organizations in the U.S.  


Q9: Are the students safe in the host families?  

A9: Yes, they are safe socially and physically, provided students follow YES rules and abide by the family rules.  




Q1: Can I pray and fast while on the exchange in the USA?  

A1: Yes, you can pray and practice your religion very easily. The U.S. families and schools cooperate a lot in this regard. However, you will have to politely explain to them and seek cooperation without putting a lot of burden on them, e.g., do not expect your hosts to get up and prepare sohoor for you, you will have to do it yourself. 


Q2: Can I wear a headscarf (Hijab) while in the USA and in the U.S. School? 

A2: Yes, all-female students can continue to wear their headscarves in schools, at the family, and whenever or wherever they choose to wear them.  


Q3: Can I get the Halal food? 

A3: Halal meat can be purchased from the Halal meat shops in the community or ordered by mail, taking into consideration these hops are expensive and can be far away from the host family’s house. However, no student can demand it from the host parents if the hosts cannot afford it or do not want to spend extra money on Halal food in addition to the regular grocery. Students can buy Halal meat from their own pocket money and should be willing to cook their meals from the Halal meat as well or vegetable dishes if they choose to be vegetarian. In US homes most mothers are working. Expecting hosts to cook additional meals for you would be too much and impolite. You need to be prepared to cook yourself any additional meals that you want to eat. 





Q1: Can I graduate from High School in the USA?  

A1: The program cannot guarantee the student will be provided with a high school diploma. The students will be enrolled in grades 10/11/12 in a US school. They will be given a marks sheet/transcript for the subjects they study and other achievement certificates and letters.  


Q2: Do I have to repeat my academic year? 

A2: Depending on the school system a student comes from and the Ministry of Education on equalizing students’ transcripts, this will vary, students must discuss this with their own schools in Saudi Arabia before applying for the program. If it is not possible to get admission in the next higher classes back in Saudi Arabia, students must be prepared to lose one academic year. This program has more cultural value and the development of valuable skills that will be an asset later in the social and academic life of a YES student. 

Q3: Can I stay in the U.S. after the program's end date? 

A3: Staying in the U.S. after the program's end date is illegal and a crime. The J1 visa students receive a time-bound visa and students must return to their home countries once the program is done