Statement: Pulitzer Prize Expands Eligibility for Books, Drama and Music Awards to Include Noncitizens

September 12, 2023

Media Contact:
Shayna Samuels

Define American applauds inclusive criteria for “those who have made the United States their longtime primary home.”

LOS ANGELES, CA — Today, the Pulitzer Prize Board announced its decision to expand eligibility for the Books, Drama and Music awards to include “permanent residents of the United States and those who have made the United States their longtime primary home.” The amended criteria expands on its original U.S. citizenship requirement and will go into effect beginning with the 2025 awards cycle, which opens in the spring of 2024.

“We applaud this decision by the Pulitzer Prize Board to make its prestigious literary awards accessible to all storytellers regardless of citizenship status, and are confident that this decision aligns with the Pulitzer’s past efforts to uplift voices calling for justice and equality. In an increasingly nativistic world, we are grateful that the Pulitzer is continuing to be a visionary leader,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Define American Founder/President Jose Antonio Vargas. “At a time when the human rights of immigrants are at risk, cultural institutions like the Pulitzer Prize can play a vital role in defining who is viewed as an American. We urge other organizations to follow the Pulitzer’s lead by making storyteller support and award opportunities more accessible to all.”

Creative industries are more interested than ever in correcting the systemic marginalization of underrepresented communities. Yet there remains a glaring lack of awareness of the unique challenges facing storytellers who are immigrants and how to best support them in their creative and professional development. Despite being a sizable portion of the U.S. population, all too often, immigrant, migrant and undocumented artists, storytellers, and other creatives are excluded from the opportunity to contribute to our artistic landscape due to their citizenship or immigration status.

“By considering immigrants of all statuses for Pulitzer literary awards, the Pulitzer Prize Board is taking a critical step toward including art and stories that are necessary to defining the experience of being American,” said Define American Executive Director Rebecca Neuwirth. “Define American will continue to advocate for storytellers of all backgrounds and statuses to access the recognition they deserve for their contributions to American literature and culture.”


In August, the nonprofit organization Undocupoets circulated an open letter to the Pulitzer Prize Committee to raise awareness about the inability for undocumented and other immigrants to access Pulitzer literary awards. The letter was inspired by a Los Angeles Times op-ed penned by Javier Zamora, who declined to be a Pulitzer judge after realizing his citizenship status prohibited from being eligible for the prize.

Earlier this year, Define American released Creativity is Boundless: An Inclusive Guide to help organizations, such as the Pulitzer Prize Board, understand practical next steps for making artist support opportunities (including fellowships, grants, and residency programs) more inclusive and accessible to all, regardless of immigration status.

While U.S. immigration policy may appear complex, organizations have the ability to adjust internal policies to make awards, fellowships, grants, and residencies accessible to immigrant, migrant, and undocumented applicants.

Define American’s efforts to expand eligibility for the Pulitzer Prize are part of its ongoing efforts to support inclusivity in the arts and awards. In 2018, Define American co-advocated to the Rhodes Scholarship to expand eligibility to undocumented applicants, enabling Jin Park to became the first DACA recipient to be selected as a Rhodes Scholar.

Read more: Creativity is Boundless: An Inclusive Guide