The American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies (AISLS) was established in 1996. Its central objectives are to promote US research and teaching on Sri Lanka and to build links between US and Sri Lankan scholars and institutions. It has 24 institutional members and over 110 individual members.

AISLS awards fellowships for two to nine months research in Sri Lanka for US scholars who hold a doctoral degree. It also offers smaller grants for pre-dissertation study, for language instruction in Tamil and Sinhala, and for graduate student participation at selected conferences.

As the professional association for US scholars and other professionals who are interested in Sri Lanka, AISLS operates a closed listserv that enables its members to exchange information. It also sponsors workshops and small conferences in both the US and Sri Lanka, and carries out a program for the preservation and dissemination of research materials. It holds its Annual General Meeting at the Annual Conference on South Asia, Madison WI.

The staff at the Colombo center offers support for visiting researchers. In addition to advice on logistical matters such as housing and transportation, the staff helps researchers make Sri Lankan contacts and find research assistants and translators.

The AISLS library at the Colombo center is open to US, Sri Lankan and third-country scholars. In addition to books on Sri Lanka, the collection includes some general works that provide theoretical and comparative perspectives. The library also subscribes to JSTOR, a database of full-text journal articles.

AISLS is a member of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC). Founded in 1981, CAORC is a private not-for-profit federation of 24 independent overseas research centers that promote advanced research, particularly in the humanities and social sciences, with focus on the conservation and recording of cultural heritage and the understanding and interpretation of modern societies.

AISLS is also an affiliate of the Association for Asian Studies.