Visa needed for flight training in USA

I finally setup my plans!

In December I will be in Florida for business and so it will be the opportunity to work on get my PPL.

Arranging my plans, I discovered that is not simple to understand what kind of immigration visa is needed for the flight training and with what kind of limitation.
What I discovered is that if the main purpose of your trip is to get the pilot license you need an M1 visa. This can be obtained with the help of your flight school, but the flight school must be registered at the SEVIS (if I understand correctly is a database that can make easier the request of the M1 visa). In this case you will not have time limitations and you can attend the accelerated programs.
If you go to USA with a different main purpose, that can be business or tourism, you can enter USA wit the Visa Waiver program (90 days without a visa) or you can get a B1/2 visa that will give you the option to stay 6 months continuous in USA. In this case, since you are supposed (correctly I add!) to be in USA for other purposes than flight training, you can still train in your spare time but you can’t train more than 22 hours/week or you will abuse your visa and you will go against immigration laws. Is not a joke to go against immigration laws, you can risk to be expelled from USA and loose the possibility to come back there all your life.

Best thing to do is to look for a school that have an international training program. They will give you all the suggestions and help you need to find your way in the visas’ jungle.

To know a little more I have found this answer from the Consulate:
“The academic student is defined as a “bona fide student qualified to pursue a full course of study and who seeks to enter the United States temporarily and solely for the purpose of pursuing such a course of study consistent with section 214(l) at an established college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or in a language training program in the United States.” The vocational student is defined as “an alien having a residence in a foreign country which he has no intention of abandoning who seeks to enter the United States temporarily and solely for the purpose of pursuing a full course of study at an established vocational or other recognized nonacademic institution (other than in a language training program) in the United States.” 8 USC § 1101(a)(15)(f) and (m). A “full course of studies” is defined separately for academic and vocational students. For vocational students, a “full course of studies” is defined as at least 12 semester hours if the school is a community college or junior college, 12 hours per week if it is a postsecondary vocational or business school, 18 clock hours of attendance a week if the dominant part of the course consists of classroom instruction in a vocational school, and 22 clock hours of attendance a week if the dominant part of the course of study consists of “shop or laboratory work.” 8 CFR § 214.2(m)(9). For academic students, the hours required for a “full course of studies” depend on the type of program (e.g., postgraduate, undergraduate, language school) that the student is taking. 8 CFR § 214.2(f)(6). Students who do not meet these hourly requirements do not qualify for an M-1 or F-1 visa. However, they can be admitted under a B-1/B-2 visa if the inspector determines that their course of study is incidental to their primary purpose of pleasure or for a business related purpose.  [...] …if the flying is incidental to your stay and less than 18 (or 22) hours per week you can train in USA with your B1 visa.”

and from American Flyers school I had this answer:
” If you do this training on your business Visa, we will be
limited to 18 hours of training per week. You can expect your program to
take 5-6 weeks at 18 hours per week.  Since you already have an account with
TSA, you will only need to change your training provider”

and “This rule is confusing and unclear.  It states that you must train at least
18 as a full time student so this is interpreted by SEVIS as part time being
less than 18 hours.

(iii) Study in a vocational or other nonacademic curriculum, other than in a
language training program except as provided in Sec. 214.3(a)(2)(iv),
certified by a designated school official to consist of at least eighteen
clock hours of attendance a week if the dominant part of the course of study
consists of classroom instruction, or at least twenty-two clock hours a week
if the dominant part of the course of study consists of shop or laboratory

I hope this can help you. When I will be at my flight school (already decided but I wait to be there to make the name public on my blog… for personal reasons) I will see if I can post the official answers to the visa questions.

Stay well


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