Am I eligible to apply?

Harkness Fellowships are designed for midcareer professionals who are committed to advancing health policy and practice in the Commonwealth Fund’s principal areas of interest: improving health insurance coverage, access to care, the quality and efficiency of care delivery, and advancing health equity. Fellowships are not awarded to support study for academic degrees. All applicants must:

  • Be citizens of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, or the United Kingdom. Applicants who are not citizens of the country from which they are applying must have permanent residency and have lived in that country for at least the past three years. All applicants also must be committed to pursuing careers in the country from which they are applying. 
  • Show significant promise as a policy-oriented health care leader. Fellows come from a variety of backgrounds: government/policy, health services research, clinical practice, health care management, journalism, etc.
  • Have a demonstrated expertise in health policy issues and a track record of informing health policy through research, policy analysis, health services, or clinical leadership.
  • Propose a research project that is relevant to both the U.S. and their home country and is focused on creating policy or system-level change.
  • Have the relevant education and work experience to carry out the proposed research and take full advantage of the fellowship experience.

Is there an age limit?

There is no age limit for Harkness applicants. However, the fellowship is designed for midcareer professionals who are at a stage in their career where the fellowship can have a significant impact on career trajectory, and Fellows and can use their experience to influence policy and practice in their home countries over an extended period.

What is included in the application?

  • Statement of professional objectives;
  • Curriculum vitae;
  • Preliminary proposal (up to five pages, exclusive of references) for a policy-oriented research project that fits within the Commonwealth Fund’s principal areas of interest;
  • One (1) letter of reference from the applicant’s department chair or institutional director (more than one applicant may apply from the same institution);
  • Three (3) professional references from individuals who can comment on the applicant’s past work and the potential contribution of their proposed research project;
  • Three (3) examples of work products, such as journal articles, reports, or other pieces of writing (if submitting unpublished products please add a description of the piece/its purpose).

Please note that reference letters are due on the same date as the application, and it is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that all four references have been submitted.

Is there a list of suggested projects for Harkness applicants?

No. Applicants are encouraged to submit proposals based on original ideas that align with the Commonwealth Fund’s principal areas of interest. In preparing an application, candidates should review the Fund’s recent work. The proposed research project must be relevant to both the U.S. and their home country and be focused on creating policy or system-level change. For quantitative research proposals, candidates must explore the availability and accessibility of data sets. For qualitative proposals, they must consider how they will collect data (document review, interviews, focus groups, etc.).

Can I see an example of a successful Harkness Fellowship research proposal?

Yes, please see example 1, example 2, or example 3.

Do I need to know where I want to be placed, prior to applying?

No. Fund staff work closely with all newly selected Fellows to identify potential mentors who are experts in their area of interest. Mentors supervise Fellows’ research, provide technical expertise and guidance, and facilitate access to relevant data, contacts, and organizations. Through their mentors, Fellows are affiliated with an institution — university, think tank, health care organization, government agency — that serves as their home base for the year. If you do have ideas about whom you would like to work with or where you would like to be placed, you are encouraged to include this in your research proposal.

Can I contact former Harkness Fellows about their experiences with the Fellowship?

Yes. You are welcome to reach out to former Harkness Fellows to learn about their experiences in the program. If you are unable to connect with a particular Fellow, please email Molly FitzGerald ([email protected]) to confirm their contact details.

I have applied to the Harkness Fellowships before. Can I apply again?

Yes, you are welcome to apply again. However, the Fund cannot provide critiques of declined applications. 

What does the fellowship award cover?

The fellowship award provides dedicated research funding and a generous living stipend, including round-trip airfare, a fixed monthly stipend for living expenses, health insurance coverage, and payment of U.S. federal and state withholding taxes. An additional family supplement is provided to fellows accompanied by a partner and/or children under the age of 18. Exact terms of the award may vary by country.

Fellows are encouraged to seek salary support from their home country employer, particularly if coming from a for-profit organization. In some cases, Fellows may opt to arrange paid leave from their home institution (in lieu of receiving the monthly living stipend) to maintain their current income. If partial salary support is provided by a Fellow’s home institution, it will be supplement by the Commonwealth Fund to meet the amount of the monthly living stipend.

What are the requirements of the Fellowship?

Harkness Fellows are expected to publish the results of their research. Products may include a peer-reviewed journal article or report for a high-level policy audience, as well as issue briefs, op-eds, and blog posts. Depending on the nature of the project, other products more relevant to frontline delivery system innovation also may be encouraged. Fellows are also expected to attend all seminars organized by the Fund. 

Can I bring my family?

Yes! The fellowship year is an adventure for partners and children as well. As described above, an additional family supplement is provided to fellows accompanied by a partner and/or children under the age of 18. The Great Schools website offers various ratings and anecdotal parental reports, and former Harkness Fellows are happy to provide guidance on schools. 

What kind of visa will I need?

Harkness Fellows enter the United States on a J-1 (Exchange Visitor–Research Scholar) visa. The Commonwealth Fund provides newly selected Fellows with the documentation necessary to apply for visas for themselves and their family members at the U.S. Embassy in their home country. Partners and children are issued J-2 visas. For more information go to

Can my partner work during the fellowship year?

The partners of Harkness Fellows often take the opportunity to step away from work and explore the U.S. That said, spouses of J-1 visa holders can seek employment in the U.S. but must first apply for employment authorization through the Department of Homeland Security. The I-765 Form (“Application for Employment Authorization”) is available at There are fees associated with filing the application, and you must provide proof that the money being earned is not required to support the Harkness Fellow. The estimated time for obtaining employment authorization is six to eight weeks, but the process can take longer depending on the individual situation. It is also necessary to obtain a Social Security Number or SSN for tax filing purposes. Depending on where you live, obtaining a Social Security Number can take another six to eight weeks.

Nonmarried partners are advised to travel to the U.S. on a visitor visa (B-2). B-2 visa holders are not eligible to work in the U.S. unless sponsored by a U.S.-based employer, in which case the employer is responsible for applying for the visa on the employee’s behalf.

Am I required to spend 12 months in the United States?

Fellows must spend between 10 and 12 months in the United States to ensure they have enough time to complete their projects and take full advantage of all the opportunities that are available. A minimum of 10 months’ tenure in the U.S. required.