Each year some 800 faculty and professionals from around the world receive Fulbright Scholar grants for advanced research and university lecturing in the United States. Individual grants are available to scholars from over 155 countries. Individuals who meet the eligibility requirements apply for grants through the Fulbright commission/foundation or public affairs section of the U.S. embassy in their home countries.

Individual Fulbright grants are available for scholars from selected countries to conduct research, lecture or pursue combined lecturing and research in the United States. Under the Visiting Fulbright Scholar Program, scholars apply in their home country for Fulbright awards.

In 50 countries the Fulbright Program is administered by binational commissions or foundations. Applications for Fulbright awards are received by the commissions, and preliminary selections are made by the commission board, with final approval by the presidentially appointed J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board (FSB) in the United States. In approximately 90 countries, the competition is run by the public affairs section of the U.S. embassy. In most countries, there is a very stiff competition for awards, and priorities may exist regarding disciplines, career level, type of activity, etc.

In many countries, particularly those with binational commissions, scholars are expected to submit evidence that they have identified a host affiliation in the United States as part of the application process, well before an actual grant is awarded. Scholars usually include a letter of invitation from the host institution in their application materials.

In other instances, often in countries where the competition is conducted by the public affairs section of the U.S. embassy, scholars apply for awards and identify their specializations. This information is used to determine placement at U.S. host institutions. For these grantees, the Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES) is active in confirming affiliations or arranging placements based upon the scholar's interests and needs.