Membership

Individual Membership

CFR is an influential forum in which members gain unparalleled access to special programs and resources.

Overview and Benefits

Since its founding in 1921, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) has grown a membership of over 5,000 of some of the most prominent leaders in the foreign policy arena, including top government officials, renowned scholars, business executives, acclaimed journalists, prominent lawyers, and distinguished nonprofit professionals. The membership is composed of those residing in the greater New York and Washington, DC, areas, with a plurality based around the United States and abroad.

CFR members enjoy unparalleled access to a nonpartisan forum through which they engage with and gain insight from experts in international affairs. Members have in-person access to world leaders, senior government officials, members of Congress, and prominent thinkers and practitioners in academia, policy, and business, many of whom are members themselves. Convening nearly one thousand events annually, CFR is dedicated to facilitating an intellectual exchange of ideas through expert panel discussions, symposia, town halls, livestreams, and CEO forums exclusively for members. Through exposure to CFR’s think tank, publications, briefing materials, and special content on CFR.org and ForeignAffairs.com, members benefit from an expansive collection of unmatched intellectual capital and resources.

“The Council on Foreign Relations after ninety years remains at its core a membership organization.” — Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations

Membership

CFR seeks quality, diversity, and balance in its membership. Criteria for membership include intellectual achievement and expertise; degree of experience, interest, and current involvement in international affairs; promise of future achievement and service in foreign relations; potential contributions to CFR’s work; desire and ability to participate in CFR activities; and standing among peers. New CFR members are elected twice a year by the Board of Directors.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Membership is restricted to U.S. citizens (native born or naturalized) and permanent residents who have applied to become citizens. Permanent residents must email a statement to applications@cfr.org indicating their current citizenship and the date of their formal application for U.S. citizenship.

  • CFR visiting fellows are prohibited from applying for membership until they have completed their fellowship tenure.
  • CFR members are required to fulfill annual dues requirements.

To Apply

Candidates must submit an online application, complete with a nomination from a current CFR member and seconding letters from three to four other individuals. The online application consists of three parts:

  • contact information
  • CV
  • nominator and seconder information

Request an online application using the form below.

Annual Deadlines and Notification

The two annual membership application deadlines are March 1 and November 1. All membership candidates and their letter writers will receive notification of the election decisions in late June for the March 1 deadline, and in mid-March for the November 1 deadline.

Term Membership

The Stephen M. Kellen Term Member Program, established to cultivate the next generation of foreign policy leaders, encourages promising young women and men from diverse backgrounds to engage in a sustained conversation on international affairs and U.S. foreign policy. Each year, a new class of term members between the ages of thirty and thirty-six is elected to serve a fixed five-year membership term.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Term membership is restricted to U.S. citizens (native born or naturalized) and permanent residents who have applied to become citizens. Permanent residents must email a statement to applications@cfr.org indicating their current citizenship and the date of their formal application for U.S. citizenship.
  • Candidates for term membership must be between the ages of thirty and thirty-six on January 1 of the year in which they apply.
  • CFR visiting fellows are prohibited from applying for membership until they have completed their fellowship tenure.
  • Graduate students should generally wait until after the completion of their degree to apply for membership.
  • All CFR members are required to fulfill annual dues requirements.

To Apply

Term membership candidates must submit an online application, complete with a nomination from a current CFR member and seconding letters from two to three other individuals. The online application consists of three parts:

  • contact information
  • CV
  • nominator and seconder information

Request an online application using the form below.

Annual Deadline and Notification

The annual deadline for term membership applications is January 3. All term membership candidates and their letter writers will receive notification of the election decisions in late June.

Nominators and Seconders

Candidates are responsible for securing their nominators and seconders. CFR relies on its members to identify and nominate or second accomplished leaders in international affairs as candidates for membership. All letter writers are advised to commit themselves to supporting only those candidates they know personally. The first paragraph of nominating and seconding letters must include a clear and comprehensive statement about the nature of the relationship between the candidate and the letter writer. Thoughtful, candid, and succinct comments are far more effective than formal endorsements of candidates.

Nominating Letters

Candidates must be nominated in writing by a current CFR member. Nominating letters should be no more than five hundred words in length and should address the following criteria, which have always been central to the committee’s consideration of membership candidates:

  • intellectual attainment and expertise
  • degree of experience, interest, and current involvement in international affairs or in other areas affecting international affairs
  • promise of future achievement and service in foreign relations
  • potential contributions to the work of CFR
  • desire and ability to participate in CFR activities
  • standing among his or her peers

Seconding Letters

  • Seconding letters need not be as comprehensive (no more than three hundred words) and are not required to come from current CFR members, though it is strongly recommended. Writers are encouraged to state why the candidate should be considered for CFR membership based on the above criteria with an emphasis on "standing among his or her peers." Seconding letters should also provide relevant information that might not be included in a candidate’s CV or in the nominating letter.

Guidelines for Nominators and Seconders

  • All letters should be submitted through the online application program. As soon as a candidate enters the letter writers’ information into the online program, the letter writers will immediately receive an email with instructions for securely posting the letters into the candidate’s application.
  • Officers of CFR as well as members of the Board of Directors and Committee on Membership are precluded from nominating or writing seconding letters on any candidate’s behalf.

  • Members of the Subcommittee on Term Membership are precluded from nominating or writing seconding letters on behalf of candidates for term membership.

  • A spouse, close relative (e.g., parent, sibling, cousin, etc.), or in-law of a candidate may not formally nominate or second that candidate for membership.

  • Members are advised to write no more than two letters per application round.

  • Letter writers are encouraged to make comparative judgments about candidates where appropriate.

  • Members should refrain from writing on behalf of clients.

  • Letters will only be visible to the selection committees and relevant CFR staff.

Application Reactivation

  • A candidate who is not elected in any given application round will have his or her file held over, and all application materials including nominating and seconding letters will remain on file for a period of ten years. The candidate may reactivate a previous application, if that file is within ten years of the current application round.

  • If a membership candidate is not elected in two consecutive application rounds, the candidate is precluded from applying for three years.

  • If a term membership candidate is not elected in two consecutive application rounds, the candidate is precluded from applying for one year. However, the one-year hold period is waived if a candidate would be ineligible to reapply due to the term membership age restriction.

  • To reactivate an application, the candidate must email applications@cfr.org and specify the date or dates of previous applications, as well as the type of membership for which he or she is reapplying.

  • The candidate is required to submit an updated CV through the online application, specifying any significant changes since the previous application.

  • While the original nominating and subsequent seconding letters will be included in the reactivated application, the candidate must secure a minimum of one and maximum of three additional seconding letters. Additional letters should provide new insights that would be helpful in the selection process. It is not required that new seconding letters come from current CFR members, though it is strongly recommended. Previous letter writers may provide new letters only when new content is included.

Request a Membership Application

Membership Application Form

Citizenship Status
CFR membership is restricted to U.S. citizens (native born or naturalized) and permanent residents who have made formal applications to become citizens. Permanent residents must submit a statement indicating the date of their formal application for citizenship to applications@cfr.org. If you have any questions, please email or call 212.434.9456.
Type of Membership
Previously Submitted Application(s)
Have you ever submitted an application for membership or term membership?
 

Contact

For more information, please contact Membership:

212.434.9456
applications@cfr.org