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Old 17th Jun 2010, 20:01   #1 (permalink)
 
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: FL, USA
Posts: 1,466
M1 Visa or no Visa and SEVIS approved schools in the USA

Despite all the replies given here by a lot of knowledgeable people including SoCal and myself there is still a lot of confusion about the M1 visa and which schools can accept non US students.

* For all training that leads to the issuance of a certificate or rating a M1 visa is required.
Regardless if it is more or less then 18hrs/week. That's a stubborn myth.

* Only SEVIS approved schools can issue the I-20 which is the application form for the visa. Schools DO NOT issue visa, the US embassy/consulate does

As a foreigner (= not a US citizen or Green Card holder) you can only train at a SEVIS approved school.
Here is a link to a list of SEVIS approved schools by state.
Not only aviation you can find all schools here that can accept foreign students. If the flight school you intend to use is not listed here ask them if they have a different business name. If not do not go there regardless of what the school might claim.

No SEVIS approval no foreign students, it's that simple.
International Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)
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Old 18th Jun 2010, 20:58   #2 (permalink)
 
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Thank you both for clearing that up, and replying to my earlier thread.

Prophead
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Old 20th Jun 2010, 16:40   #3 (permalink)
 
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Training of less than 18 hours per week will not qualify for a M1 visa. You must undertake a full time course of study.

Not all training requires TSA approval. Excluding larger airplanes, only the initial FAA certificate, initial instrument rating and initial multiengine certificate require TSA approval. This approval is required for any training conducted toward one of these events anywhere in the world.

For example, a FAA certified private pilot (ASEL) traveling to the US on holiday, who wishes to add a seaplane rating, would require neither a visa or TSA approval.
A certified commercial pilot traveling to the US to train for a flight instructor certificate would require a visa but not TSA approval. A student pilot travelling to the US to get a private pilots certificate would require both visa and TSA approval.
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Old 20th Jun 2010, 23:16   #4 (permalink)
 
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I probably didn't state that clearly enough. You are absolutely right that trying to dodge the rules by saying 'I'm going to do less than 18 hours per week' won't work. If your course of training could be completed as a full time course of study, then you can reasonably expect to do so, and would need a visa regardless. However, if your training is less than 18 hours in total then it would have to be incidental and that seaplane rating or night training (for a UK PPL) would be good examples. Attendance at a full time course of study is mandatory for visa issuance, and failure to attend would leave you out of status.

Imagine if you will, the second week of your month long holiday. You got your seaplane training in Florida the first weekend, and now you're touring around the US having a great time. You find yourself staying overnight in Arizona, and while driving to the hotel get stopped at an immigration checkpoint. (This happened to me a few years ago). Try explaining to the officer why you are registered as a full time student at a school in Florida and a week after entering the country you're a thousand miles away.

I don't mean to suggest you can get away without a visa when you should have one, only to state that when you don't need one you shouldn't have one and are similarly in danger of falling out of status.

And don't trust flight schools. Ever.
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Old 27th Jun 2010, 02:53   #5 (permalink)
 
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Does anyone have any official documentation?

B2N2

Not to be rude or anything, but do you have any official documentation that supports what you claim? Especially in regards to training for less than 18 hours / week under the visa waiver program? Many people, including myself, have been trying to get "official" paperwork from UCIS, but this whole problem seems to fall under the "gray" area of visa laws. No body wants to release any official paperwork stating the limits of the law clearly.

Like I said, if you have something, I would surely appreciate you sharing it with everyone! We need facts on this, not opinions on how one might perceive the law.
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Old 27th Jun 2010, 15:00   #6 (permalink)
 
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: FL, USA
Posts: 1,466
Quote:
Not to be rude or anything
No offense taken Japanam, you have a very legitimate, interesting and difficult question.

My original post was mainly intended for people interested in doing a non stop full time course of training, be it PPL, Instrument rating, Commercial or a zero-Hero career training package.
It was meant for their benefit; as in can I train at XYZ school? Yes you can or no you can't save yourself the trouble and look up schools on the SEVIS website kind of post.

I am not a Visa attorney, far from it; I've just worked with foreign students for the last 8 years.

I will try and explain why your question is so difficult to answer
The M1 visa is NOT a flight training specific visa, hence the gray area's.
It is originally intended to be a student visa for vocational or non-academic studies.

Quote:
The M1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa for international students who wish to pursue a course of study that is not principally academic in nature at an established vocational or other recognized nonacademic institution such as a post secondary vocational or business school
Source: M1 Visa - Easily Apply Online - Study in Vocational Institutions in the US

After the events of 9-11 it was decided that flight students required a visa.
I assume that the quickest way to do this was to "house" flight students under a more or less convenient visa umbrella, the non-academic or M1 visa.
So this is a common misconception that the M1 ONLY applies to flight training, it doesn't.
Hence the confusion that comes with it;
Example: If attend English language school one day a week during a recreational visit to the USA you do not qualify or need an M1 visa.
However, if attending language school is the PRIMARY reason for coming to the USA it is assumed that you do a full course of training and you need a visa.

Quote:
Requirements for the M1 Visa

To qualify for a student visa, you must prove that:

A. You have successfully completed a course of study normally required for enrollment

B. You have been accepted for a full course of study by a vocational institution approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The institution must send you a Form I-20M-N, certificate of eligibility for nonimmigrant (M1) student status for vocational students

C. You are sufficiently proficient in English to pursue the intended course of study, or the school you intend to attend has made special arrangements to teach you the English language

D. You have sufficient funds to cover the first year of study, and access to sufficient funds to cover subsequent years

E. You have a permanent residence in your home country, which you do not intend to abandon

F. You intend to depart the U.S. upon completion of the course of study. You may establish this by presenting evidence of economic, social and/or family ties in your homeland sufficient to induce you to leave the U.S. upon completion of studies

G. Your proposed education in the U.S. would be useful in your homeland, and therefore induce you to leave the U.S. upon completion of studies
I'm sorry it will be a lot of "cut and paste":

Quote:

Update to Archived Story - TSA Clarifies Rules on Visa Permitted for Alien Pilots in Training

For information regarding flight training for non-U.S. citizens, please refer to the TSA Alien Flight Student Program at www.flightschoolcandidates.gov.

There is an extensive FAQ section to reference program regulations and requirements, as well as contact information for any further questions.

TSA Clarifies Rules on Visa Permitted for Alien Pilots in Training
March 28, 2005 - The Transportation Security Administration this week clarified its position with regard to the status of aliens permitted to receive flight training in the United States. In response to issues raised by NAFI executive director Rusty Sachs and government relations specialist Doug Macnair during a visit to TSA in January, TSA attorney Monty Thompson provided guidelines to determine the permitted visa status for alien pilots seeking flight training.

On Friday, April 12, 2002, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued an Interim rule through the Federal Register (Vol. 67, No.71) proposing to amend 8 CFR Parts 214 and 248. This amendment requires a change of status from any non-immigrant visitor visa (B-1 or B-2) to a student visa (F-1 of M-1) prior to pursuing a course of study.

Here is the order of logic on how the INS code relates to the flight-training rule:

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.

A change of status to M-1 or F-1 is permitted once the candidate has entered the US, only if the candidate applies prior to enrolling in and attending a flight-training course.

Only FAA Certificated Part 141 and/or 142 schools approved and participating in SEVIS program are authorized to issue an I-20 form to a prospective student upon enrollment into a course; the prospective student must request the change of status and receive the subsequent Student Visa.

FAA Part 61 schools and independent flight instructors MAY train a foreign national, if that alien is (a) a Legal Permanent Resident or in a work status (H-type visa) with extended stay privileges or (b) a refugee in Asylum status with appropriate DHS documentation.

FAA Part 61 schools and independent flight instructors MAY train a foreign national on an F-1 (academic visa) provided that the student is enrolled and attending the college or university as shown on the F-1 and the student has notified SEVIS of the additional training being received at a non-SEVIS approved school.

NOTE: All prospective foreign national (alien) flight training candidates must register and submit information to the TSA's Alien Flight Student Program (AFSP), regardless of Visa status.
Source: Update to Archived Story - TSA Clarifies Rules on Visa Permitted for Alien Pilots in Training
Now who needs TSA approval?
Quote:
Who must participate in the Alien Flight Student Program?

Persons seeking flight training must submit a request if they are not citizens or nationals of the U.S. and:

* They wish to receive flight training in the U.S. or its territories, regardless of whether training will lead to an FAA certificate or type rating; and/or
* They wish to receive flight training from an FAA-certificated facility, provider, or instructor that could lead to an FAA rating whether in the U.S. or abroad.
Source: https://www.flightschoolcandidates.g...e=c&section=FQ

Quote:
Category 3 Clarification - For flight training in the operation of aircraft with a maximum certificated takeoff weight of 12,500 lbs. or less, Candidates must obtain AFSP approval for the following three training events:

* Initial airman's certificate, including a private, recreational, or sport pilot certificate.
-- If a private and/or commercial license is the candidate's initial FAA license, it is considered an initial airman's certificate and is not exempt.
* Instrument Rating (IR)
* Multi-Engine Rating (MEL)


Each of these three events requires a separate training request.

All other training events on aircraft with MTOW of 12,500 lbs. or less are exempt from AFSP regulations, including Commercial Pilot License (CPL), Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL), and Certified Flight Instructor (CFI). These events are exempt only if the candidate holds an FAA stand-alone pilot certificate
Quote:
Ultralight Aircraft - Flight training in the operation of airships, balloons, and gliders are exempted from the TSA security threat assessment.
Quote:
Demonstration and familiarization flights - Demonstration flights for marketing purposes, and familiarization flights (also called "intro" or "discovery" flights) are also exempted from the TSA security threat assessment.
So this is all about TSA approval and threat assesment, what about the visa?

Quote:
What happens if I take flight training without having the proper visa?

AFSP may cancel an applicant's flight training request if AFSP becomes aware the candidate is intending to take flight training without the appropriate immigration status. If you have questions about a cancelled request, you may call AFSP at (571) 227-4544.

NOTE: Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) of the United States do not require a visa.
So the appropriate Immigration status for flight training is holding a visa, in most cases an M1.

Every website I've seen mentions specifically a "full time course of training".
It now depends on the definition of a full course vs a part time course.
From the US Immigration website:
Quote:
If you wish to pursue full-time academic or vocational studies in the United States you may be eligible for one of two nonimmigrant student categories the “F” category is for academic students and “M” is for vocational students
and:
Quote:
If you would like to study as a full-time student in the United States, you will need a student visa. There are two nonimmigrant visa categories for persons wishing to study in the United States. These visas are commonly known as the F and M visas.

You may enter in the F-1 or M-1 visa category provided you meet the following criteria:

* You must be enrolled in an "academic" educational program, a language-training program, or a vocational program
* Your school must be approved by USCIS
* You must be enrolled as a full-time student at the institution
* You must be proficient in English or be enrolled in courses leading to English proficiency
* You must have sufficient funds available for self-support during the entire proposed course of study
* You must maintain a residence abroad which he/she has no intention of giving up.
This leads you to believe that you only qualify for an M1 visa for flight training if you pursue it full time.
We are getting closer and closer:

Quote:
F-1 Student Visa Eligibility Requirements: An applicant for a United States student visa must come to the United States to pursue an academic program in an institution recognized by the United States government. The foreign citizen must have a valid educational purpose for coming to the United States and be a full time student. It is not possible to be a part-time student on an F-1 Visa. The student can stay in the United States for as long as he/she is enrolled in school. The F-1 student visa is normally issued at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the student’s home country.
Source: https://www.usimmigrationsupport.org...dent-visa.html

And finally for the M1 visa:

Quote:
M1 Student Visa Requirements
You cannot enter as an M1 to just study "generally"; your program must have a goal and you must be involved in a "full course of study". A full course of study means study in a community or junior college, with at least 12 semester or quarter hours. It must be in a school where anyone attending for at least 12 semester or quarter hours is charged full tuition, or considered full-time. The only exception is where you need a smaller course-load to complete your course of study. It can also mean study at a post secondary vocational or business school which grants Associate or other degrees. Alternatively, if a school can demonstrate that its credits are, or have been, accepted unconditionally by at least 3 institutions of higher learning it can qualify. If that is not possible, study in a vocational or nonacademic curriculum, certified by a DSO to require at least 18 hours of weekly attendance or at least 22 clock hours a week (if most of your studies are in a shop or lab). If that is not possible, the last option is study in a vocational or nonacademic high school curriculum which is certified by a DSO to require class attendance for not less than the minimum required for normal progress towards graduation.
Source: M1 Student Visa - M1 Visa Immigration

So to summarize:

* For flight training that leads to the issuance of a certificate you need a visa
* TSA threat assessment is required and TSA requires a visa
* Visa options are F1 (combined with academic studies), J1 and M1
* Minimum course load on an M1 visa is 18 hrs a week of ground school or flight training in our case
* If you do less then 18 hrs you are out of status and elligible for removal
* If your entire course of training is less then 18 hrs you need to do whatever is required for graduation eg a seaplane rating added to a FAA piggyback based on a foreign license without holding a full FAA certificate.

I think I've covered a lot, if you still have questions feel free.

Last edited by B2N2; 19th Nov 2010 at 15:49.
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Old 27th Jul 2010, 12:00   #7 (permalink)
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Scotland
Posts: 254
I'm trying to get all my planning for my paperwork done at the moment; the TSA verification programme has an entry for any US Visas held. I currently hold a C1/D1 Visa (for my day job) but will be getting an M1 for my flight training. Do I have to have the M1 before applying for TSA clearance or can I conduct both applications in parallel?

I hope having the C1/D1 doesn't muddy the waters at the TSA, it not having the required privileges to stay and conduct flight training.
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Old 28th Jul 2010, 23:12   #8 (permalink)
 
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My disclaimer:
Quote:
I am not a Visa attorney, far from it
I am pretty sure you can do TSA and the M1 at the same time.
The C1/D1 will not be an issue. It just identifies you as a visa holder and since they have a history on you it should be even easier.
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Old 29th Jul 2010, 09:15   #9 (permalink)
 
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I thought so - I've got in touch with them. I was just hoping somebody might know the answer beforehand to save me wading through officialdom.
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Old 7th Aug 2010, 05:26   #10 (permalink)
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Norway
Age: 28
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Great thread, thanks!


How do they define "academic"?

I got my CPL just before my norwegian school went bankrupt in feb. Now i want to go back to do ME, CFIs and hopefully get a F-1 so i can gain hours instructing. Since there might be some grey areas here and there, i am optimistic .
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Old 8th Aug 2010, 02:00   #11 (permalink)
 
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norgab,
you don't qualify for the aviation post-J1 F1 by any standards (although they may differ a bit between schools as I've researched). You can do academic, ie Associate degree and higher. If it's one of the aviation management at local community college and the school where you'd like to go is the practical flying provider for their programme, you could legally work part time during term and unlimited hours during vacations. You'd get some credit for FAA certs and ground you already have, but it'd not be cheap. You can do the OPT (which is the FT work 'internship' on F1 visa) after one academic year of study, even if the programme itself is two years.

The F1 which is a replacement for J1, then, the brokered deal likened the FAA ground to the academic (far-fetched, but it's reality now), so the students could still get the work visa after the ab-initio or PPL only students.

Clearer now?
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Old 8th Aug 2010, 14:05   #12 (permalink)
 
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VWP and Flight Training

Some of the members that have posted here seem to really know this topic well and by no means I am pretending here to make a significant contribution to this debate, but I just wanted to quote the ESTA website on this Warning message:

WARNING: If upon application for admission to the United States at a port of entry you are admitted under the Visa Waiver Program by a US Customs and Border Protection Officer, you may not accept unauthorized employment; or attend school; or represent the foreign information media during your visit under the program. You may not apply for: 1) a change of nonimmigrant status, 2) an extension of stay, or 3) adjustment of status to temporary or permanent resident, unless eligible under section 245(c)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Violation of these terms will subject you to REMOVAL.

For those of us that thought they could get additional ratings under VWP...
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Old 8th Aug 2010, 17:41   #13 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
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.
Thanks for the heads up. I'm in the process of getting a visa to the US to get a 737 initial TR (Category 1) and was thinking I could get a B-1 B-2 visa and get away with it.
Now i know better. Very useful thread this is
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Old 16th Aug 2010, 15:48   #14 (permalink)
 
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Good point So Cal Thanks for reminding us of that.
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Old 7th Sep 2010, 18:05   #15 (permalink)
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: UK
Posts: 39
Thanks for the long post B2N2, but I am still a bit confused on a few points even after a few hours browsing/searching the forum
Quote:
* For flight training that leads to the issuance of a certificate you need a visa
* TSA threat assessment is required and TSA requires a visa
Am I right in understanding that if you are getting a certificate you must have a visa even if you don't need TSA (if you're within the exemptions of category3)?

Quote:
* If your entire course of training is less then 18 hrs you need to do whatever is required for graduation eg a seaplane rating added to a FAA piggyback based on a foreign license without holding a full FAA certificate.
No TSA here, but visa?

---
My personal case:
I hold a JAA ATPL/IR(H) meeting the requirements of §61.153(d)(3) to get an FAA ATP.
I only need a checkride, however it may be useful to do a few dual hours to "get ready" for the test.

So basically I will be in the US for a few weeks, do 4-5 dual hours, take the practical test and head back home.
Primary reason for my stay won't be the flights but holidays, I intend to spend 4-5 days flying in the middle of a 3-4 weeks vacation.

TSA assessment?
I think I need it because even though I have an FAA PPL(H), it's been issued under §61.75 and isn't a "stand-alone pilot certificate" and thus doesn't count in the exemptions, right?

Visa?
That's where I'm really confused.
If required the most pertinent seems to be the M-1, but full course? full-time student?
Quote:
This leads you to believe that you only qualify for an M1 visa for flight training if you pursue it full time.
Agree with that, so what about me?
Unless I call my dual hours "hours building" and the test a test (ie not training)

Cheers
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Old 8th Sep 2010, 14:18   #16 (permalink)
 
Join Date: Dec 2001
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G, you already hold an ICAO ATP(H)
Your skills will not markedly improve by douing an FAA ATP (H) check ride,
The ATP (fixed wing or rotorcraft) is experience based and no sign off is required from a CFI for the initial check ride.
You don't need TSA threat asessment either for the same reason.
You are moving sideways if you will from JAA ATP to FAA ATP, you do not become more or less of a threat.
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Old 8th Sep 2010, 17:02   #17 (permalink)
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: UK
Posts: 39
I agree with what you say about the TSA assessment, however the AFSP website says
All other training events (other than initial certificate, IR or MEL) on aircraft with MTOW of 12,500 lbs. or less are exempt from AFSP regulations, including Commercial Pilot License (CPL), Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL), and Certified Flight Instructor (CFI). These events are exempt only if the candidate holds an FAA stand-alone pilot certificate.
But it's not a big deal anyway, and I will contact them to argue my case.

The main hassle is the visa.
Quote:
no sign off is required from a CFI for the initial check ride
Shall I understand that I don't need a visa because no training is formally required?
So basically if I fly with an instructor without him signing anything, it would be no different than me flying with him just as a "refresher" or as some instruction on the type (since I already hold an FAA PPL).

Thanks
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Old 8th Sep 2010, 17:08   #18 (permalink)
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: UK
Posts: 39
I just realized...

TSA applies to training events.
If in my case we consider that no formal training is required, then the TSA assessment becomes irrelevant?
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Old 8th Sep 2010, 18:14   #19 (permalink)
 
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: FL, USA
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Yes, unless you fail on your first attempt.
You now need training from an Authorized Instructor in the deficient area's and you require a sign off from the Instructor.
This requires a visa.
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Old 9th Sep 2010, 12:32   #20 (permalink)
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: UK
Posts: 39
What was said is a bit of a technicality : if no CFI has to sign you off, are the hours flown considered to be "training"?

If the answer is no, then no visa, no TSA.

As far as the TSA is concerned I agree with you, a 61.75 certificate doesn't count. The argument here is about the training.
The AFSP is very clear that it is intended for "Persons seeking flight training", that you "must not commence training" before assessment and that it applies to training events.
What if there's no training to be started...

Same for the visa.
At the moment I am allowed to go to any flight school and do dual hours to familiarize myself on a type I may choose to rent...
Is a "stand-alone" checkride a training event? Very unlikely...

Technicality or interpretation, I'll seek official advice anyway
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