Professional Development Fellowship Program - FAQs
The 2018-2019 Professional Development Fellowship (PDF) program application period is now open. Applications are due on May 13, 2018. Find the application, instructions, and other guidance on the PDF page.
General Questions About the Program
- What is the Professional Development Fellowship (PDF) program?
- What is the timeline for the professional activities?
- Do I have to get pre-approval to use PDF funds?
- Who is eligible to apply for the PDF program?
- Are Members of Household (MOH) eligible to apply for the PDF program?
- Is the PDF program open to spouses and partners who are currently employed?
- Is a non-U.S. citizen spouse or partner eligible to apply for a PDF?
- My direct-hire U.S. government employee spouse has just been accepted to the May A-100 class. We won't know where we are going until October. Am I eligible to apply for a PDF in case our assignment is overseas?
- My husband is being posted to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. Would this be considered an overseas assignment, and as such, would I be eligible to apply for a PDF?
- I am a U.S. government contractor at the U.S. Embassy. Is my wife eligible to apply for a PDF to finish her degree?
- We are currently residing in Virginia while my husband takes language training at FSI. We will arrive at post this August. Am I still eligible to apply, even though we won't be at post by the application deadline?
- Am I eligible to apply for a PDF if we will be assigned to and residing at an overseas post for only part of the PDF program period?
- If one of my proposed course starts in July but takes 12 weeks to complete, can I complete the course AFTER the PDF program period end date of July 31 the following year?
- When will the PDF application period open?
- Where can I find the application form for the PDF program?
- May I submit two applications?
- I would like to submit a proposal for distance learning courses and also a professional conference. Is this acceptable or do I need to choose just one?
- When I submit my application, can I include additional information as a separate attachment?
- I want to change my proposal. Can I send you another application?
- My whole project does not reach the reimbursable project expenses minimum of $1,334. Can I still apply?
- What travel document do I need to include with my application? For example, I have my assignment notice but no travel orders yet.
- Which professional activities are eligible under the PDF program?
- Can I take courses at FSI for my PDF activity?
- I plan to take online courses. Can I include the monthly internet cost and the cost of a laptop in my proposal?
- Can a PDF be used for an online MBA through a host country school?
- I am interested in studying for an online Masters degree that will take more than a year to complete. Is it possible to apply for a PDF?
- I am a medical professional. Can I apply to receive a fellowship for pursuing a local host-country certification?
- Does language training qualify for this program?
- My proposal is for a certificate program which requires that I take three elective courses. Do I need to choose my electives now?
- I can’t locate the dates and costs of my proposed activity online because the schedule hasn’t been announced yet. How do I submit my proposal without this?
- My family and I plan to relocate to our overseas posting soon. Given that we will not necessarily have time to research all educational facilities before the PDF applications are due, may we be somewhat general in describing the program and school to which I would apply? Or does the application need to be exact?
- I am finalizing the budget portion of my PDF application. My proposal costs are for activity in my host country. How do I handle the exchange rate for the USD figures? If I am selected, what if the costs increase by the time I begin?
- I understand the PDF program is reimbursable after completion of the professional development activity. How do I know if I will be given a PDF?
- What is the selection process?
- What can I do to prepare a competitive application?
- I was not selected. Can FLO tell me why? Can you recommend other fellowship/award programs?
- My project was approved and there have been changes in my personal circumstances. I would like to change the content of my application. Is it possible?
- How many times may I change my application after it has been approved?
- My whole project turned out to be more expensive than I originally budgeted. Can I withdraw?
- Will FLO consider my application for the two following PDF seasons if I withdraw after the January 5 cut-off date?
- Which expenses would not be eligible for reimbursement under the PDF program?
- I was selected to receive a PDF. I will need to pay for registration for my approved activity before the PDF program start date of August. Will I be able to submit this cost for reimbursement?
- I was selected and received FLO’s email that explains my responsibilities as a PDF recipient. The email indicates that I must submit an Automatic Clearing House (ACH) form. I am concerned about providing my personal information; how do you handle it?
- My professional development activity is for 2 semesters of study. Can I submit my reimbursement request once I have paid for my second semester?
- Can I apply to the next PDF open season to get reimbursed for classes I took already?
- I am already at post and one of my proposed courses starts in July and continues through the PDF timeline. Can I start the course before the approved PDF timeline and request a pro-rata reimbursement if my project is approved?
- What if I failed my course/licensure? Will I still get reimbursed?
- I listed several itemized project expenses in my budget. I will be able to partially complete some of them. Am I allowed to submit reimbursement for a partially completed project?
- I was selected for a PDF. One course that was approved will not take place before the next PDF season. Can I have my PDF reimbursement credited for the next season since I will not spend the course money?
- My personal circumstances have changed. I partially conducted my project and can only claim reimbursement for one item. This item is more expensive than what was budgeted and approved. Will you reimburse the item based on the budget or based on the real price?
- I ordered some course textbooks on my spouse's Amazon (or any other online) account. Is it acceptable if I submit the textbook receipt even though it has my spouse's name rather than mine?
- Can I substitute a book for a course I did not take?
- What kind of receipts/invoices do you accept?
- FLO indicates in the reimbursement memo that it will take 21 to 42 days to process my reimbursement. Why does it take so long? If I don’t receive my reimbursement before the end of the fiscal year (September 30), will I lose the fellowship?
- Do I have to report the PDF on my income taxes?
The Family Liaison Office's (FLO) Professional Development Fellowship (PDF) program supports spouses and partners in their efforts to maintain, enhance, and/or develop their professional skills while overseas. The program is open to spouses and partners of direct-hire U.S. government employees from all agencies serving overseas under Chief of Mission authority.
The total amount awarded will be subject to budgetary constraints. The program offers spouses and partners a chance to apply for a minimum individual PDF of $1,000 and a maximum of $2,500 offered on a reimbursable basis for enrichment activities. Applicants compete for a limited number of fellowships and applications are reviewed by a selection committee. Selected applicants will self-fund a minimum of 25% of the allowed reimbursable cost of the activity for which the PDF is based, while the PDF will cover the additional allowed reimbursable cost up to the maximum amount of $2,500. Proposals may include a wide range of activities, but are not limited to, classroom and distance learning courses, professional development activities, obtaining or renewing professional certifications or licenses and participation in professional conferences. The PDF program period is from August 1 to July 31 of the following year. Announcement of the annual PDF program period is usually released in March in a cable, the FLO Weekly newsletter, post newsletters, and on the FLO website. Applications are accepted through 11:59pm on a specific date, usually in May, although dates and program details may vary from year to year.
The PDF program period covers activities that commence no earlier than August 1 and conclude no later than July 31 of the following year. Activities started prior to and conducted after the approved timeline will NOT be reimbursed. There are no exceptions.
Yes. Applicants compete for a limited number of PDFs. Applications are reviewed by a selection committee. Open application season begins in March each year and ends in early May. All applicants are notified as to their status no later than August 1.
The U.S. Department of State‘s annual PDF program is open to spouses and partners of direct-hire U.S. government employees from all agencies serving overseas under Chief of Mission authority. Applicants must be the spouse or partner of a direct-hire U.S. government employee (“sponsor”) assigned to and residing at an overseas post under Chief of Mission authority during the fellowship period dates of August 1 through July 31 of the following year.
- Spouses and partners of those employees assigned to unaccompanied posts are eligible to apply only if they are residing overseas during the PDF period.
- Spouses and partners of those employees on domestic assignments, on TDY in the United States, in training in the United States, or who are on unaccompanied tours but are residing in the United States during the PDF program period are not eligible to apply.
- Applicants who have received a previous PDF and who meet the eligibility requirements may apply again. However, applicants who have received PDFs for the two previous consecutive program periods must wait one program period before reapplying.
Yes. MOHs (i.e., unmarried same-sex or opposite-sex domestic partner of the direct hire U.S. government employee) are eligible to apply for the program. Grandparents, parents, adult children, grandchildren and other MOHs not on the orders of the direct hire employee are not eligible to apply.
Yes. Applicants may be employed or unemployed. If you are a current or previous Department of State employee, please provide us with your employee number (found in box 44 of the SF-50) to facilitate reimbursement.
Yes. U.S. citizenship is not a requirement to apply for a PDF. Please go to FLO's PDF webpage for complete eligibility criteria as described in the PDF guidelines. Please be aware that if selected to receive a PDF, payment must be made to a U.S. bank account owned by the PDF selectee. If a PDF selectee does not have a SSN, they can still be reimbursed.
5. My direct-hire U.S. government employee spouse has just been accepted to the May A-100 class. We won’t know where we are going until October. Am I eligible to apply for a PDF in case our assignment is overseas?
No. To be eligible to apply for a PDF, you must have an overseas assignment by the application deadline. Additionally, you must be residing at an overseas post during the PDF period.
You would not be able to apply in this case. The U.S. Mission for the UN position is a domestic assignment. To be eligible to apply for the PDF program, your direct-hire U.S. government employee sponsor (spouse or partner) must be assigned to an overseas post.
Unfortunately, contractors’ family members do not qualify for this program.
8. We are currently residing in Virginia while my husband takes language training at FSI. We will arrive at post this August. Am I still eligible to apply, even though we won’t be at post by the application deadline?
Yes. As long as you have an assignment to an overseas post at the time you apply and you reside overseas during the PDF program period, which is August 1 through July 31. Please note that you cannot begin your PDF activity before arriving at your overseas post.
It depends on the timing. You can’t begin your PDF activity until the PDF program period begins, which is August 1 or before arriving at your overseas post. If you are departing the overseas post, you must complete your PDF before the end of the PDF program period, which is July 31.
No. PDF program activities must be started and completed within the program period dates of August 1 through July 31. There are no exceptions as the finance department will not have adequate time to process the reimbursements.
FLO typically calls for PDF applications in the spring, with applications accepted until a specific deadline in May. The PDF program period is August 1 to July 31. FLO posts the most current details about the PDF program on FLO’s website. FLO announces the program in an ALDAC and in FLO Weekly. To subscribe to FLO Weekly, please email FLOPublications@state.gov.
No. You can submit only one application.
You can only submit one PDF application but your proposal can include multiple activities as long as they all support your professional development plan. Be sure to state the proposal in detail in your application, including a breakdown of the costs for all activities.
No. To be considered, your application must be completed as instructed, without attachments.
If the PDF application deadline has not passed, email FLOAskPDF2018firstname.lastname@example.org to notify FLO that you wish to withdraw your original application. You must then submit your revised/corrected application prior to the application deadline.
No. Please make sure your complete project meets this minimum requirement otherwise your application will not be accepted.
You do not need to include any travel documentation with your application. Please indicate your dates of assignment on the application.
Activities can include, but are not limited to, classroom and distance learning courses, professional development, obtaining or renewal of professional certification and license, and participation in professional conferences.
No. FSI courses are not eligible PDF activities because FSI does not accept payment from individuals.
No. If you are submitting a PDF proposal for an on-line course, you must have internet connection and a computer. Hardware and equipment are non-allowable expenses.
Yes. This activity is eligible for the PDF program. If your proposal is selected, the courses must be taken within the PDF program period to which you apply.
Yes. You can apply with a proposal toward earning a degree. Submit your proposal for the portion of your studies that will occur, be billed and paid for during the PDF program period that commences on or after August 1 and will be completed by July 31 the following year.
Yes. Doctors, nurses, lawyers and other licensed/certified professionals are eligible to apply for educational requirements to obtain a local host-country license/certification. Please be aware that the requirements for this will vary greatly from country to country and the length of time it may take to get the license/certification may be far longer than the time you will be in your current assignment.
No. Please indicate how many elective courses you plan to take during the PDF program period and provide a list of electives that you can choose from that qualify for your certificate program. The list must come from the school’s website page/catalog. If your proposal is selected, your reimbursement request and invoices/receipts must match your approved proposal course list.
If your proposed activity dates and costs for the PDF program period dates are not available, contact the provider to find out if it is likely the activity will be offered during the program period (commencing on or after August 1 and completed no later than July 31 the following year). The costs from the most recent offering of the activity that you find online must be used in your PDF proposal. Please be aware that if you are selected to receive a PDF, the amount awarded can’t increase, even if the activity costs increase.
10. My family and I plan to relocate to our overseas posting soon. Given that we will not necessarily have time to research all educational facilities before the PDF applications are due, may we be somewhat general in describing the program and school to which I would apply? Or does the application need to be exact?
Your application proposal and budget should contain the most current, available information as of the date you apply. If you receive a PDF, after completion of the project activities you will submit a single reimbursement request with invoices and receipts that match the items approved in the original proposal. Your reimbursable amount will not increase after project selection, and the final reimbursement will be calculated using invoices and receipts you provide.
11. I am finalizing the budget portion of my PDF application. My proposal costs are for activity in my host country. How do I handle the exchange rate for the USD figures? If I am selected, what if the costs increase by the time I begin?
You must use the most current costs available from the course provider and the exchange rate as of the date you apply. A link to the approved exchange rate site is included in the application instructions. Note: If you are selected to receive a PDF, the amount awarded can’t increase, even if the activity costs increase due to an increase in the exchange rate.
Applications are reviewed by a selection committee. Applicants will be notified of results no later than August 1.
There are a number of factors involved in the selection process and the applicant pool is very competitive. The selection committee criteria are outlined in the PDF program guidelines announcement of the open application season found on FLO’s website. The selection committee is comprised of representatives from regional bureaus, the Office of Overseas Employment and FLO. Each application is individually reviewed and scored by each committee member. Application scores are ranked within each bureau. Each bureau receives a percentage of the budgeted allotment correlating to the percentage of applications received from that bureau. Historically, FLO has been able to offer PDFs to approximately 30-50 percent of the total number of applicants.
Read the PDF program guidelines carefully and in their entirety. You can find them on FLO’s website. Address any of the selection committee criteria that apply to you. Clearly describe and detail your professional background and proposed plans. Submit an application that links your overall professional aspirations to your proposed enrichment activities for the upcoming PDF program period.
The PDF program is competitive and generates strong interest with hundreds of applications. Each application is carefully reviewed and weighed against the other applications. The selection committee meets and selects a limited number of applications in proportion to the amount of funds available. In addition to PDF, applicants may be interested in applying for other programs on FLO’s Scholarships, Financial Aid and Student Internships webpage.
FLO can accommodate some changes in course or conference selection provided the final project retains the essence of the project approved by the selection committee. As a recipient, you have the responsibility to inform FLO as soon as possible. FLO will determine if the proposed change will be approved. Please note that FLO will not reimburse any project change that is not preapproved.
Once. Inform FLO as soon as possible so that it can review the proposed changes. Changes will be considered on a case-by-case basis. FLO will examine the proposed changes to see whether they retain the essence of the project. FLO will not reimburse project changes that are not preapproved nor will FLO approve an increase in the fellowship arising from this change.
You may withdraw without incurring any penalties during the program cycle from August 1 to January 5. Inform FLO as soon as possible so that it can offer the funds to another family member. If you inform FLO after January 5, you will not be considered for the following two PDF program periods.
No. FLO chooses January 5 as a cutoff date because it represents a little more than 5 months of PDF activities. Your responsibility as a PDF recipient is to inform us as soon as possible if you need to withdraw from the program. FLO will consider force majeure requests on a case-by-case basis only.
Membership fees and subscription costs (except those for the purpose of providing electronic access to course content), travel, transportation, lodging costs, per diem, child care costs, startup business costs, hardware or equipment, books (except those required for course completion), and salaries are not eligible for reimbursement.
FLO will accept prepaid invoices issued on or after April 1 for approved activities that start on or after August 1. Submit all your invoices/receipts only after you have completed your activity. FLO is not responsible for any cancellation fees relating to project registrations that have not been fully approved.
3. I was selected and received FLO’s email that explains my responsibilities as a PDF recipient. The email indicates that I must submit an Automatic Clearing House (ACH) form. I am concerned about providing my personal information; how do you handle it?
The ACH form allows FLO to request your reimbursement from the Department of State financial department in Charleston, SC. Please read the ACH form instructions carefully. If you have a Department of State employee ID, you do not need to provide us with your social security number. Please remember that FLO can accept the ACH via mail or telephone.
No. Reimbursement requests are submitted after you have completed your enrichment activity for a one-time reimbursement.
No. The PDF does not cover costs incurred before the PDF program period dates to which you are applying. If you are selected to receive a PDF, the fellowship program period will cover activities that start on or after August 1and conclude no later than July 31 the following year.
6. I am already at post and one of my proposed courses starts in July and continues through the PDF timeline. Can I start the course before the approved PDF timeline and request a pro-rata reimbursement if my project is approved?
No. PDF program activities must be started and completed within the program period dates of August 1 through July 31 the following year. There are no exceptions as this is a financial department guideline.
FLO understands that despite your best effort, it is not always possible to obtain a satisfactory course grade. The PDF program does not require students to successfully pass any exam although our program’s ultimate goal is to give our family members as many tools as possible to be successful. FLO will reimburse the project but will request that the recipient complete his/her activity as approved by the committee regardless of whether the recipient successfully passes his/her exams. If the activity is not completed within the designated program period, FLO will not reimburse this activity.
While FLO encourages recipients to commit to their project by conducting their activities to the best of their ability, we understand circumstances may change and we will accept partial project completion after reviewing with the recipient the reason why s/he cannot complete the project. Contact FLO as soon as possible so that we can use the remaining funds for another recipient. Also include an explanation for the partially completed project.
9. I was selected for a PDF. One course that was approved will not take place before the next PDF season. Can I have my PDF reimbursement credited for the next season since I will not spend the course money?
No. PDF fellowships are subject to budgetary constraints and we cannot offer credit for any portion of the award that is not used during the approved PDF season. You may contact FLO to propose a potential alternative course, but it should not substantially change the nature of your previously approved project.
10. My personal circumstances have changed. I partially conducted my project and can only claim reimbursement for one item. This item is more expensive than what was budgeted and approved. Will you reimburse the item based on the budget or based on the real price?
It depends. All changes to your activities must be approved by FLO. If you are unable to complete your full activity, reimbursement will be based on information submitted in the reimbursement package. Reimbursement will never exceed the awarded fellowship amount and each recipient must fund 25 percent of the total.
If you already purchased books using your spouse’s account, please have your spouse add a signed note to the invoice stating that the books were purchased on your behalf in accordance with your approved PDF fellowship. Otherwise, since you are the PDF recipient and will be reimbursed accordingly, please make sure all invoices are submitted with your name.
No. Only textbooks required for course completion are considered reimbursable expenses.
Please read carefully the Recipient’s Responsibilities email sent by FLO after you confirm your acceptance of the PDF. FLO gives precise instructions regarding ACH and expenses receipts.
- Receipts must explicitly state the purpose of the expenses
- Receipts must display the date of payment and itemized expenses being claimed
- Receipt must indicate that payment was made and the method of payment
- Credit card statements can only be accepted if accompanied by an invoice
- Scanned or faxed copies of receipts are acceptable
- FLO does not accept handwritten receipts or invoices
- Please keep all original paperwork for tax records
14. FLO indicates in the reimbursement memo that it will take 21 to 42 days to process my reimbursement. Why does it take so long? If I don’t receive my reimbursement before the end of the fiscal year (September 30), will I lose the fellowship?
The reimbursement timeframe is conservative. FLO provides the initial approval before submitting to the Department of State’s financial department for final review and disbursement. When possible, we recommend that you submit your reimbursement package prior to July 31. Reimbursements submitted toward the end of the fiscal year (September 30) may experience longer reimbursement periods.
Global Financial Services Charleston Office of Claims has confirmed that the reimbursement you receive for your Professional Development Fellowship activity is nontaxable, therefore; they will not issue a 1099. Please consult with your tax advisor if you need further guidance.
Please visit FLO's PDF webpage. If you need additional information, please email FLOAskPDF2018email@example.com or call FLO at 202-647-1076.