By Kyle Garrett
Getting a Student Visa for Flight Training
In spite of worldwide demand for qualified commercial pilots, flight training in many regions is prohibitively expensive, a regulatory nightmare, or both. While it may seem strange to travel to a completely different country to train, learning to fly in the United States can be a huge benefit to student pilots from many regions. There's only one major catch - getting a student visa for flight training.
Which visa is right for me?
Let's jump ahead in the process slightly and discuss visa specifics. The United States issues two kinds of student visas - F1 and M1. With such descriptive titles, I'm sure you know exactly which one you need right? Honestly, in spite of their unhelpful titles, the basic difference between them is when they expire.
An M-1 visa, which is good for up to 12 months, is best for a student pilot seeking a limited number of certificates or ratings. For example, a typical commercial pilot course (including private pilot training and an instrument rating) might take 8 months to complete. In this case, when you enter the U.S., officials will stamp your visa with an expiration date of 8 months plus a 30 day grace period to complete your training and return home.
An F-1 visa, which is not given an expiration date, is best for student pilots in university programs or certain longer professional pilot courses that might include flight instructor certificates or time-building. Such programs may take years to complete or allow a very limited amount of work-study opportunities for students without requiring a work visa.
Where do I start?
Now that you understand the difference in the two types of visas, you're probably curious where to begin. As an international student, you must choose a flight school which offers training approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) under Federal Aviation Regulation Part 141 and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to issue I-20 forms. It is highly recommended to seek out a school that caters to international students, because those schools will know how to navigate all the regulatory hurdles and keep you flying.
Photo: Nic McPhee from Morris, MN, USA (Bush pilot) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
What do I need?
Once you've located a school, most of the hard work is done. You will need to contact the school, such as Phoenix East Aviation, and provide them with all the necessary documents and fees in order to get a signed I-20 form that you will take to the nearest United States Embassy or Consulate with your completed visa application on your scheduled interview date.
I'm sure all of this sounds complex, but the most important thing to remember is you need to find an approved school here in the U.S. that offers the training you want. Since they regularly work with student pilots from all over the world they can help you navigate through the process and get started learning to fly in the U.S. today.
To find a school in the USA start here: AviationSchoolsOnline.com. You can also search Globalair.com’s aviation training directory. For more information on visas, please go to https://visaguide.world/us-visa/
About the author - Kyle Garrett is the founder of Aviation Schools Online, has over 20 years of experience in the marketing and vocational school industry, and is an experienced instrument-rated private pilot.