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Old 22nd Feb 2008, 21:24   #1 (permalink)
 
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Question Flying in the USA - another visa question - sorry!

I'm hoping to do some flying in the USA soon. I will need to do a few hours with an instructor/examiner including an FAA PPL check ride and will then do a load of private recreational flying.

I have completed the TSA/AFSP clearance and have their authority to begin flying subject to having a suitable visa. I asked them what sort of visa I need but they couldn't answer that.

I know that if you're doing a formal course of training you need an M-1 visa, but does anyone know if in this case a standard visa waiver will do? I'll try to get a straight answer out of the embassy on Monday, but if anyone can give me a heads-up now, that would be helpful.
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Old 22nd Feb 2008, 21:29   #2 (permalink)
 
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If its just for pleasure a visa waiver scheme will work... I think!
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Old 22nd Feb 2008, 21:49   #3 (permalink)
 
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My understanding of the situation is:

If its a BFR then you need neither TSA clearance or a visa.

If its the check ride and oral exam for the issuance of the initial licence, IR or ME then you need TSA clearance and an M1 visa. Whilst for some courses that have less than 18 hours of tuition a week you can use the VWP, flight training is not one of them!

If you have TSA clearance for the flight school you are using, then they may be able to let you know if they expect you to have a visa. But definately give the embassy a call and ask them!

When you have an answer post it back here - or even better add it to the knowledge in BackPackers USA training thread.
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Old 22nd Feb 2008, 22:24   #4 (permalink)
 
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Thanks for the replies so far. I hold a UK PPL and various other flying quals but need an FAA PPL in order to do the recreational flying I'm planning (I do not have time to wait for the 'verification of authenticity of foreign license' process). I am told that based on my currency and experience it will take a couple of hours with an instructor and a checkride to qualify for an FAA PPL (+ theory exam). In this sense it is 'initial issue' but could only be one day's flying. The remaining flying would be private and recreational, and as such is not problematic.

Here's where it gets tricky. The (AFSP authorized) flying school that has participated in my TSA/AFSP clearance (in full knowledge of my requirements) has now stated that it is not accredited to issue the I-20 form which enables me to get the M-1 visa. Unless there is some massive contradiction here, this implies that I must be able to do my flying on the visa waiver program. If not, they've led me up the garden path, wasted my $300 of AFSP fees and left me in a predicament. The school's CFI's solution of "just don't tell immigration you're here to fly" left me rather unimpressed.

I haven't been able to get a straight answer from any of the US gov depts that I have questioned so far, and each one passes me on to another dept, ad infinitum. I'll speak to the embassy on Mon, but with their phone line charging 1.20/min, I'm beginning to think it would be cheaper to fly in the UK!
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Old 22nd Feb 2008, 22:30   #5 (permalink)
 
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If its a licence being issued on the basis of your current UK/JAA PPL then you'll be doing a BFR - no need for TSA or visa. Go to the FSDO for the paperwork, then to the flying school for the BFR groundschool and check ride.

Ok, just re-read your message...

As its a full FAA-PPL you're after then I think you will need the visa as its probably still considered an initial licence...

On the TSA clearance front, speak with the TSA - it may be possible to get the clearance moved to another facility? (IO-540 or SoCal might have a better idea on this). You have to remember that not everyone flight trains on an M1 visa - for instance if you are working in the US on a H1 (or H4 as a dependent) then that also covers you for educational courses, but you still need the TSA clearance. The one thing you cannot do though is train after entry into the US on the VWP.
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Old 23rd Feb 2008, 06:31   #6 (permalink)
 
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Stout you have a PM, with a checklist for US training.

The easy mistake to make is to book with a Part 61 school; the TSA website does not warn that you need a Part 141 school to issue an I-20 which you need to get the Visa. I wasted a load of money with the TSA too, doing this.

There is a recent development, I believe, in that the TSA now advises the Immigration of TSA applications, and all of them now need a Visa. This is despite US LAW not requiring a Visa for training of < 18hrs/week. Maybe somebody can confirm this.

This kind of crap, plus the crude interrogation one gets by the Immigration "staff" when going to the USA, not only for the training trip itself but potentially for years afterwards when they see you once held a Visa, is why people spend thousands and thousands trying to do FAA checkrides here in Europe.... then you have to comply only with TSA stuff which is basically just fingerprints and scanning the passport. And TSA is not required for the CPL.

All ICAO training, in any reg aircraft, is allowed towards any FAA license/rating (not many people know that). Only the last few hours needs to be done with an FAA CFI/CFII, and of course the checkride needs to be done with an FAA examiner.
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Old 23rd Feb 2008, 07:00   #7 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
Thanks for the replies so far. I hold a UK PPL and various other flying quals but need an FAA PPL in order to do the recreational flying I'm planning (I do not have time to wait for the 'verification of authenticity of foreign license' process).
You do NOT have time for the verification of authenticity of foreign license process, but you do have time to go through the TSA and visa hoops, plus all the training (including night x-country, skills test etc) for an FAA standalone PPL?

When I did this to go to Florida for my initial training, getting an appointment at the embassy for a visa interview took six weeks!

I know what I'd do if I were in a hurry. Go to Gatwick, have the CAA issue the validation document, Fedex all the required documents in advance to the FDSO of my choice. Upon arrival, visit the FDSO, get paperwork issued, then get a BFR and off you go. I believe for a piggyback FAA PPL the only medical you need is a JAA medical to make your JAA PPL valid. It sounds like something that can be completed in less than a week, particularly if you present yourself at Gatwick in person, instead of doing things by mail. (And on a side note, contacttower recently flew into Gatwick in a light single for a CAA appointment. His story is in another thread.)
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Old 23rd Feb 2008, 08:30   #8 (permalink)
 
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BackPacker, I'm not sure your solution works. Reason being, that AFAIK the CAA (UK) respond to the query of another CAA (the FAA in this case) directly and will not give you the required docs. Otherwise this whole procedure would be a farce. I got caught up in this situation last year, albeit in Africa. Sorted it out in the end, but the CAA quote 10 working days for dealing with a request. They will, however, expedite if their reply is required for training!.

There may be two solutions here:

1) Speak with CAA and FAA and see how the verification process can be expedited, then get a piggyback FAA PPL

2) (SoCal or someone else correct me if this is wrong) Do all your training and the written test in Europe, then only do the checkride in the US. Contrary to JARland, under FAA rules YOU are PIC during the checkride, so technically this should not be considered 'training'. Again, don't take my word for this, but check.

I know one FAA CFII on the continent, you could get your sign-offs from him. PM me if details needed.

HTH
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Old 23rd Feb 2008, 13:19   #9 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IO540
There is a recent development, I believe, in that the TSA now advises the Immigration of TSA applications, and all of them now need a Visa. This is despite US LAW not requiring a Visa for training of < 18hrs/week. Maybe somebody can confirm this.
The M1 non-immigrant visa entitles its holders to enter the US on a temporary basis solely for the purpose of pursuing a full course of study at an established institution. The 'full course of study' is 22 clock-hours / week for lab-based practical studying and 18 clock-hours / wk for classroom based studying. Codified at 8 CFR 214.2(m)(9)(iii).

(Incidentally there is an allowance for part-time courses for border commuting citizens/nationals of Canada/Mexico.)

Not only must the school be FAA Part 141 (or 142) but also SEVP-certificated. See http://www.ice.gov/sevis/map/approvedschoolsmap.htm (cf. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/ht....html#a_15_M_i)

As for that flight training, requiring TSA clearance, falling short of the M-1 'full-time' requirement, I cannot say.

-----

Edited to correct the hours/week requirement.

Last edited by selfin; 25th Feb 2008 at 02:44. Reason: Correcting the hours/week requirement
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Old 23rd Feb 2008, 19:59   #10 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
BackPacker, I'm not sure your solution works. Reason being, that AFAIK the CAA (UK) respond to the query of another CAA (the FAA in this case) directly and will not give you the required docs. Otherwise this whole procedure would be a farce. I got caught up in this situation last year, albeit in Africa. Sorted it out in the end, but the CAA quote 10 working days for dealing with a request. They will, however, expedite if their reply is required for training!
So the CAA validation process is 10 days minimum unless you are going for training. But that's the only more or less serious delay in the whole process that I can think of. Everything else, as far as I know, is smooth as clockwork. Fill in the form, attach copies, send to Oklahoma with the address of the FDSO you intend to use, show up at the FDSO for a final check and you get your FAA piggyback PPL issued right there and then:

http://www.faa.gov/licenses_certific..._verification/
http://www.caa.co.uk/default.aspx?ca...90&pageid=6273

Now for the standalone PPL. You are lucky, as the time to get an M-1 visa appointment at the US embassy in London, right now, seems to be three days instead of the six weeks that I experienced (in Amsterdam):

http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/wa...ondon&x=68&y=9

To this, you need to add an average of five days for visa processing, according to this:

http://www.usembassy.org.uk/cons_new...niv/index.html

Then you need to show up at the flight school, get TSA fingerprinting done and an FAA medical (that means hanging around for another day) and then you are going to have to train at least five hours, possibly more because of the NQ and do the skills test before you are let loose for your flying holiday.

It's your call of course, but if this is just for a flying holiday and not for something serious like trying to obtain an FAA PPL/IR, I still think the piggyback method is the most convenient even though you seem to be lucky and processing times of both a piggyback and standalone PPL seem to be about equal right now.

And let's not talk about the cost difference.
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Old 23rd Feb 2008, 20:38   #11 (permalink)
 
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Selfin

Quote:
The 'full course of study' is 18 clock-hours / week for lab-based practical studying and 22 clock-hours / wk for classroom based studying. Codified at 8 CFR 214.2(m)(9)(iii).
Do you have a URL for that? Lots and lots of people have looked for a reference to when exactly a Visa is required for flight training.
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Old 23rd Feb 2008, 23:17   #12 (permalink)
 
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So there is no legal way to train for the whole FAA PPL in an intensive course at a part-61-only flight school?
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Old 24th Feb 2008, 04:45   #13 (permalink)

 
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Cat amongst the pigeons !

Although I have heard it many times before, I still am yet to see it written in stone that an M1 visa is REQUIRED to conduct flight training on an ad-hoc basis (Part 61 for ex) under 18 hrs per week.

Sure, a valid visa IS required to enter the USA or if you qualify for the Visa Waiver program this is in leiu of a visa. You are then in the USA on a valid B2 visa (you are stamped in B2 in other words).

This is not advice by the way, just an observation. Ask any US Pt 141 school and they will tell you you need an M1 visa, no question, probably to cover their arse. However, legally in law as far as I can see you would not be breaking any rules if you carried out training, under 18 hrs per week, while in the USA on a holiday visa unless there is some INS place where it is specifically written that you require an M1 visa to fly. I have never seen this place. As far as 141 goes, there is no reason you cannot train under part 61 at a part 141 school, many people do it. Schools with visa approval must be part 141 schools but they can also conduct flight training under pt 61....but this probably goes back to this thorny visa issue, part 141 probably does require a visa as the training will be more than 18 hrs per week.

I have never held an M1 visa, though did hold a B1/B2 OCS visa when I did my flight training.
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Old 24th Feb 2008, 06:29   #14 (permalink)
 
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My view concurs with Englishal above.

Lot of people have looked into this. Now, they could ALL be wrong, I don't know.

Loads of Brits etc have trained at small Part 61 schools over many years, before things got tightened post 9/11 and you needed TSA+Visa. Now, to get the M1 you need an I-20 which can come only from a school in SEVIS and only Part 141 schools can be members...... but that should be the only reason Part 141 comes into it.

Moreover, it is entirely possible for a foreigner to sort out a training request on the TSA website for a Part 61 school (I did it myself) and only later discover that they cannot deliver the I-20. You lose the TSA fee, and a lot of time. I would have thought that if foreigners could not train at Part 61 schools, the TSA website would disallow this.

Another thing is training outside the USA. Theoretically, this is subject to TSA also, and indeed various instructors in Europe are on the TSA website pulldown menu. These are not Part 61/141 - the concept is meaningless outside the USA.

In years past, you popped on a plane, went to Florida on a holiday, and walked into a school, and got your training done. No questions asked. The 18hrs/wk threshold has "always" been there so presumably everybody was relying on that to avoid the Visa, but one would rarely fly more than 18hrs/week anyway - it's hard enough work to do 2hrs/day 6 days/week which is only 12hrs/week. Even with ground school (another grey area - does this count?) you would not reach 18hrs/week. So if anybody checked, you would be in the clear without a Visa, and I believe this is still the case today.

What we have however is U.S. Immigration employing dumb underpaid untrained officials who can barely read and write and nobody wants to be the one who signs the papers for the next hijacker, so they write their own rules. And most of the school don't understand the rules, don't want to understand the rules, TBH many of them can barely string an email together, so they just say you need an M1 and that's it. The staff at the US Embassy isn't much more literate and the more times you ask them the more different answers you get.

That's how much FAA training works. With everybody inventing their own rules, it's never been an especially transparent process. I could point you to one hilarious website in Europe....
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Old 24th Feb 2008, 15:39   #15 (permalink)
 
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IO540, 8 CFR 214.2(m)(9)(iii) is available here.
Note text in bold as correction to earlier post. Incidenally, "...if the dominant part of the course of study..." answers your query about mixed instruction types.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 8 CFR 214.2(m)
Students in established vocational or other recognized nonacademic institutions, other than in language training programs
(9) Full course of study. Successful completion of the course of study must lead to the attainment of a specific educational or vocational objective. A full course of study as required by section 101(a)(15)(M)(i) of the Act means
(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 work; or
Notwithstanding the core definition of the M visa (located at Sec. 101(15)(M) of INA) requiring a 'full time course of study,' there is no regulation requiring a flight school candidate who wishs to undertake a part-time course of study (viz, fewer than the hours required above) to obtain a vocational student visa (M-1). There is also no certification regulation requiring schools to offer a full-time course.

Aliens wanting to attend school on a part-time basis can enter the US with a B-1/B-2 visa if their school attendance is 'incidental' to a primary pleasure purpose. See Special Report from OIG, May 2002.
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Old 24th Feb 2008, 20:49   #16 (permalink)
 
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Last 2 posts - very interesting and thank you for the detail.
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Old 25th Feb 2008, 01:45   #17 (permalink)
 
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SoCall App,

Can you confirm those proposals have yet to be implimented?

Quote:
Originally Posted by SoCal App / nafi
NO flight training under Category 1, 2, or 3 (49 CFR 1552.3) should be conducted for ANY alien who has entered the U.S. in B-1 or B-2 (visitor's) status. It is a violation of the status under which the non-immigrant visitor entered the U.S.
Why does OIG (in above report) acknowledge the possibility for part-time studying (incidental to purpose of trip) under B1/B2 status?

How can an alien be required to seek admission under M-1 status when the Part 141 SEVP-certificated school is not required to offer a full-time course? And, if a very strict interpretation of the B class of visa is taken (Sec. 101(a)(15)(B) of INA), the OIG is wrong - no studying may take place whatsoever under B1/B2 status. Does this not create a catch 22 situation for part-time courses/students?

Part 141 schools entertaining alien students (admitted in M-1 status) are on the whole administering Part 61 training to them - such as your telephone calls will reveal.
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Old 25th Feb 2008, 08:08   #18 (permalink)
 
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Very good work guys, keep it coming. This should be written up into a definitive summary one day.

What a mess, eh?
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Old 25th Feb 2008, 10:13   #19 (permalink)

 
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whatsoever under B1/B2 status. Does this not create a catch 22 situation for part-time courses/students?
It creates a massive can of worms. For example I may go to the USA to do a company training course, software / equipment supplier training course - something previously allowed under a B1 visa. However, if NO training can be undertaken under B1 or B2 then I'd require an M1 for each and every instance (as opposed to a 10 year multi entry B1/B2)!
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Old 26th Feb 2008, 11:00   #20 (permalink)
 
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Once again, thank you very much chaps and to those who have sent PMs. This is very useful stuff, although perhaps is not leading towards the conclusion I hoped. I have written to the embassy to get the latest info in writing from the horse's mouth. I'll let you know what they say.

I suspect that they will tell me that an M-1 visa is mandatory for the flying I wished to do. I am rather put out by the fact that the school I was dealing with is on the AFSP approved list despite being Part 61 and not SEVP accredited. Moreover, the school knew my circumstances and assisted with my AFSP clearance. As far as I can see, this setup absolutely guarantees that students who apply to some AFSP approved schools will be wasting their time and money as there is no possibility of being issued an M-1 visa for attendance at that school. The fact that the school was complicit in this state of affairs (probably through ignorance) leaves me very annoyed.

I will absolutely not take any chances regarding improper visa status as I hope to graduate from military to airline pilot at some point in the future. Being banned from the USA would not be a good start.
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