We get a lot of questions about the education of foreign students and continuation of their careers in the United States. We’ve decided to write this article to organize all the incoming questions and to help you to understand the huge flow of information, including that does not always correspond to reality.
- Is it possible for a foreigh student to start his pilot training in the US? Definitely, yes. There are no restrictions for foreign students there, except for one additional procedure – all foreign students are required to obtain a TSA approval for training.
- What is TSA and how to get it? TSA — Transport Security Administration, that also issues permits for foreign students to obtain a pilot’s license. This process can take 4-5 weeks, so it should be started as early as possible. We highly recommend you to request for this permission before traveling to the US, in order not to waste time waiting for it. This process can be made online on the website https://www.flightschoolcandidates.gov. You would not be able to start your Pilot Training without TSA approval. You can have ground classes but you can not start flying. So take care of the TSA as early as possible.
- Do I need a Student Visa? This is a complicated question, that is in a “gray” area of the law. On the one hand, the training requires a student visa, on the other hand, in accordance with the law, if the training takes less than 18 hours per week, student visa is not necessary. Today both TSA and FAA do not pay any attention to the type of visa you entered the United States with. Thus, if your main purpose of the visit – tourism or business, you can safely enter the country with B1/B2 visa, while it is not prohibited to get flight-training (if less than 18 hours per week). If you received the M-1 visa from any school, keep in mind that you would be able to study only in that school. If by any chance you miss classes for more than 2 weeks, that school has a right to withdraw the invitation and to cancel your visa. We recommend to apply for a student visa only if you are planning your training for more than 6 months (maximum period of stay according to B1/B2 visa).
- What types of student visas exist and what are their purposes? There are two types of student visas: M-1 and F-1 (we do not consider academic visa J-1 here, as it is complitely different type for studying in the universities). M-1 visa allows students to stay in the United States during the entire period of studying (even if it takes a few years), but does not allow to work (except for work on the campus, that is discussed separately). As a rule F-1 visa allows to undergo the OTP – in other words to have practice of the specialty and to stay in the US for one year after completion of training. For those who are planning to continue their career and get hours as an instructor, it is necessary to get F-1 visa.
- Can I work during the period of my studies? If you stay in the US with a B1/B2 visa or a student visa M-1, you CAN NOT work. You can not earn money legally in the United States either. If you have a remote earnings (eg, programmers, designers, marketers working for the company in other countries but the US and you are not tax residents of the US), it is your personal business. It is impossible to have your pilot trainings and at the same time to work legally as a waiter, for example, as well as to work in your flight school and get paid for it. There are many ways to help at your school (to sit at front desk and answer calls or to help in the hangar washing aircraft or assisting mechanics) and in return to receive a discount for your training or free flight hours. That is not prohibited. But it is not legal to get money for the work in both of these cases.
- How can I stay in the US after my training and find a job as a pilot? That is the most frequent question we hear. The answer is simple – by no means. The more complicated answer depends on the specific situation. If you do not find a way to stay legally in the US (for example, to get married/marry a US citizen or to win/get a green card or political asylum or staying for religious reasons), you do not have a chance to stay here and moreover to find a job as a pilot. According to the legislation, official pilot in the US airline (and other companies in the aviation industry) could be a US citizen or US resident (a person who has a green card or work visa or a work permission). None of airline companies in the United States would help you to obtain a work visa or work status, simply because the are so many pilots in the United States, and labor costs for the alien employment are too high. So when you plan your training, and do not have a legal way to stay and work in the US, think in advance about how to build your career in other countries or in your home country. If you just want to get a Private Pilot’s License, the following point does not apply to you.
- I have complited my training, but I have only 250 hours of flight time. In my country 800 (1000, 1500, etc.) are required for employment. What should I do? This is the most complicated question, and the simple answer is to get an Instructor Licence, to get F-1 visa and to stay working as an instructor for one year in the United States. This is not the best way, but perhaps the only legal one, that is available to everyone. Of course, there can be different options, for example, you can transfer the aircraft around the world (and after five to seven of such trips you can get more than 500 hours at once). You can fly with friends, by purchasing a number of necessary hours (what is called, Time Building), but it’s not cheap, anyway. Our separate article will cover the questions how to get the required amount of flight hours in order to work in airline company or charter carrier in future. Generally speaking,to a greater extent, acquaintances and good terms with people in aviation world really help. If you know a lot of people in this field, your chances to get flight hours will increase.
- What can I do with the FAA Pilot’s License, if I can not stay in the US and can not fly or build my career here? In fact, the US license – is a universal and the most professional license in the whole aviation. First of all, you can fly in airplanes/helicopters with the US N-registration anywhere in the world. We know a lot of examples when our graduates fly in business jets in Europe and Asia with the US registration. Second, you can convert your FAA-license to any national license of your country. Different countries have different laws and it is better to get information in the aviation administration of your country, but most countries are happy to accept an American license, because it proves the quality of training, high level of knowledge and English language and at the same time, it is not so difficult and expensive to get it as to get an EASA license, for example. With FAA license you open you way into aviation all over the world.