View Full Version : Can I instruct in US without working papers

21st Sep 2015, 15:50

I'm in Canada and can travel to US without visa. I have my FAA CFII. Can I flight instruct pre-solo students in US as a freelancer?

Can I get paid for instruction? or if I am willing to flight instruct pro-bono, then can I do that... and should I expect to get harassed by the FAA (or another government institution) for flight instructing while not being a US Citizen or legally able to work there?

I know I can theoretically flight instruct in an N-registered airplane here in Canada. However I will not be able to solo people here in Canada.


22nd Sep 2015, 01:39
No. You can't work in the US without a suitable visa, green card, or citizenship.

22nd Sep 2015, 02:06
So even if it is for $0 I still can not do it? Is this the case?

Or only I can not take money but I can flight instruct?

I was able to find similar posts after I submitted my first question. However I was not able to find a clear answer on the "instructing for no money" case... So if someone knows please let me know.


22nd Sep 2015, 14:02
You can do what you like for free. Don't forget that your licence is at risk if your student makes a mistake that's attibutable to your instruction (or lack of it). What about accidents & incidents while you're instructing? How do you propose to cover that risk to yourself?

You won't make many friends amongst instructors trying to earn a living in the area.

22nd Sep 2015, 14:19
Thank you

The insurance aspect is something I need to figure out. Although I suspect this is the same issue for all freelancer instructors in US. They rent an airplane from the FBO and flight instruct in it. Somehow the insurance must be part of the rental.

About keeping friends with the local instructors. I am definitely not looking at doing this full time and not getting paid. So I'll at most have 2-3 students... I suspect even 1 will be more than enough. Additionally I intend to figure out a way as to how not to make it cheap for the student... i.e. they will get to pay the money for something else... either for their own improvement in the aviation area through additional courses or flying helicopters, or towards some charity fund... for example for collecting money so someone else can get their license completely for free (if their dad and mom don't make any money, etc.)

Risking the license is same when I get paid... I'm not intending to cut any corners and even the opposite... if I'm going to be spending my time to teach it then the student will definitely have to spend their time to learn. If I don't like them I'll just cut them which will be that much easier when they are not paying for my time anyway.

I really hope you are right that I can do whatever I want if I don't get paid.

26th Sep 2015, 04:48
You are going to be *very* unpopular. No professional pilot likes their livelyhood being cheapened by what you propose. Most FBO's already have instructors that have arrangements to use their aicraft.

And, no, insurance won't come with the aircraft rental. Especially not professional indemnity insurance or equivalent. Do you not understand the purpose of the FBO's insurance? It's to protect the *FBO* from renters! Not you.

26th Sep 2015, 05:59
Thanks. I'll talk with the FBOs and will be completely open of what I plan on doing. If they have any issues we'll either find a way around it or I'll most likely not do it.

I'll have to find insurance. How are all freelance instructors doing it?... it has to be doable

26th Sep 2015, 19:48
They pay for it. From being paid by their students. Or it's part of their employment/contractor package at the FBO - where the students pay for their instructor's services.

You really don't care how your proposed action cheapens our industry, do you?

26th Sep 2015, 19:55
Did you see where I'm saying I will be flying with one student at a time, and that this will be extremely part time occupation?

If you feel this is going to affect the industry then you are right - I don't care. But what I will care about will be my student... if I find one and if I can train him/her in a legal way

27th Sep 2015, 05:15
It affects every instructor trying to earn a living in the area unfortunate enough to have you lob in.

We now have a grasp of the quality of your character.

27th Sep 2015, 08:09
Once the word gets around, you'll be very unlikely to find anyone willing to allow you to hire an aeroplane.

What's your aim in this - hours building, or what? And why don't you get an instructing qualification which allows you to instruct in Canada anyway?

27th Sep 2015, 14:58
@Tinstaafl: I hope you realize that what you are syaing is like saying that there shouldn't be lottery becasue it will ruin the labor market. It's just rediculous. There will be one lucky dude or dudette and we'll be doing this for all the right reasons. I don't think you have grasped anything but that's irelevant to this thread.

@BEagle: I actuall did. I have my Canadian instructor's rating too. However in Canada you can't freelance. You have to get a job at a school and that most of the time means full time job or at least being availble a lot. I just can't have a full time instructor job with two kids and all the driving around that this entails. So unfortuantely my rating has now expired and I was not able to instruct in Canada. One of the things I can hopefuly do is to get enough hours in US as an instructor (I only have 50 now) and then I can become Class III instructor in Canada. When this happens you can actually freelance a little, although still much more restricted than in US.

My aim in this is to flight instruct. I want to get someone to solo.

You are right that people will have trouble renting me an airplane when they hear what I'm trying to do. Especially that hearing what I'm trying to do has very little with what I'm actually trying to do, so people get the wrong idea. And unfortunatley in the last 15 years or so flying is becoming subordinate to fear, whit all the bad things that come from this - like Tinstaafl here grasping my cheracter from a bunch of posts withouth trying to consider any other points of view. So it will take some figuring out. I'll probably have to get an airplane myself somehow and do it that way... Or part-own an airpalne with someone, but then I'm afraid US gov may consider the student paying for the airplane to actually equate to the student paying to me.

Anyway, I now know it's technically doable, so the details will come up somehow.

Have fun flying everyone!

27th Sep 2015, 16:32
Au contraire. Your intent & comments very much speak of your character. You stated quite clearely that you don't care that what you intend to do adverserly affects instructors in the area, never mind its contribution to reducing T&Cs for our industry.

I suspect it is *you* that doesn't grasp the big picture.

27th Sep 2015, 16:58
;) ... you know best

Genghis the Engineer
27th Sep 2015, 21:36
I'm neither Canadian nor American, but I am a part time instructor with a good day job.

I've been able to get a small amount of regular instructing through a couple of schools where I live in England: as well as some freelancing: British rules are similar to Canadian - training for a licence or rating needs to be in a school, but some freelance training of existing licence holders for certain purposes is perfectly legal.

I got this instruction through getting to know the staff at the schools, and demonstrating that I could fly and instruct well, and be trusted. I do it because I enjoy it, students seem to get value from my instruction, and it's valuable experience that makes me a better pilot.

Beyond friends and fellow syndicate members, I don't do this for nothing. That is, frankly, immoral - people with much lower incomes than me are relying upon instruction for their main income - if I make it harder than it already is for them to get work, I'm absolutely not playing fair. So I charge the market rate (actually on aeroplanes I have particular skill, a bit above), and if I can take the work - well it was a level playing field. If they take work I could have done, but they need for their income in that level playing field - full power to their elbow.

I wouldn't go as far as punching you in the face, but I'd certainly criticise your attitude. If I can do this in England, it's possible for somebody with the right attributes to do it in Canada: if you don't have the right attributes in Canada, you probably don't have them in the USA either.


27th Sep 2015, 22:01
@ Genghis: I'll admit to the probability you are talking about in the last paragraph. That's always a question I have - am I good enough, am I going to be good enough to provide someone with the right stuff for flying safe and intelligently.

Probably many "real instructors" who see the "big picture" and have all the right attitudes never had this type of doubts but hey, here I am with my doubts and I'll hopefully see how it goes one day. I'm in no rush so when it happens it happens.

Genghis, I don't know what level playing field you are talking about. There are kids who are 18 and don't have any expenses, who are flight instructing and they don't have any other thing to worry about. How is this level playing field.

Additionally you don't know squad about me, but I can tell you that the aviation field is nothing close to level for me. I have to deal with issues that most of you will luckily never know exist.

So to finish this thread I'd like to tell anyone casting broad generalization or conducting pretend-analysis of a situation based on nothing but "big picture" and "experience" to just not sweat it... It doesn't work like that and never will. There are general cases, and then there are private cases, and if you want to discuss a private case you need to look into it and think about the things that are relevant for that case.

Of course highly intelligent people like the douche who commented before Genghis will have something to say here that is contrary to this, and that's fine.

Anyway, I may keep it to flying on my own buck and teaching my friends to control the airplane without calling it "flight training", and without single handedly demolishing "your" industry.

Have fun when you fly!

Genghis the Engineer
27th Sep 2015, 22:38
There are kids who are 18 and don't have any expenses, who are flight instructing and they don't have any other thing to worry about. How is this level playing field

Presumably they have hopes, dreams, and training debt.


27th Sep 2015, 22:58
Presumably they have hopes, dreams, and training debt.


That's true. I did'n phrase it well but you get my point. The field is never level and that is never an objective.

Many of the kids also have debts to their parents only.

And large % only dream to fly corporate or airliners, which are legit dreams but don't have much to do with elevating the flight instructing "industry".

One of the few students I got had 35+ hours and his instructor had not shown him the AIM... Why care when he only wants to make more hours so getting that student to an exham quicker is contrary to the instructor's interest.

There are many f-ed up flight instructors, and just because they charge doesn't make them any good for the flight instructing profession. Flying hours alone are not a reliable gauge either.

28th Sep 2015, 00:22
Ah! So someone's possible incompetence or lack of care is enough reason for you to attempt to pull the rug out from under every other instructor in the area?

Damn near *all* of us were in your shoes once, so spare us the pity mongering. Hurting other's occupations to advance your own experience is difficult to justify.

28th Sep 2015, 02:08
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Bye now

Genghis the Engineer
28th Sep 2015, 15:50
Denker is a well known reference and has been for many years.

For good or bad (sometimes both) this sort of poor behaviour usually does get picked up by the community and people get weeded out. I know of an FI in the UK recently whose contract was quietly terminated when it was found that he was rather excessively bigging up his status and achievements. Less impressively, somebody who used to post regularly here once failed to get an instructors job because they were considered "unsafe". Specifically they had oversped a rotor when a 30hr PPL - once they had CPL/FI an several tens of times the hours I tend to think that it was just a learning point but, no, several schools turned them down for instructing jobs.

Anybody with any record of "dodgy" behaviour won't last long anywhere near their home patch, and quite possibly further afield as well.

So mitirino will either adjust attitude, or be quietly forced out by the community. The risk, really, is of the damage they cause on the way.


28th Sep 2015, 16:01
My understanding, gained by personal research ten years ago, is that as a non citizen visiting on a tourist visa, not only could I not work, I could not investigate business/investment opportunities, nor could I even do voluntary charity work such as help out in a soup kitchen.

Basically, if your activities could be construed at any level as doing what otherwise might be paid work for a legitimate local (citizen, green card or correct visa), then you are in breach of your tourist visa conditions.

But then who takes legal or immigration advice from a pilot's website?

28th Sep 2015, 16:03
So even if it is for $0 I still can not do it? Is this the case?

When USCIS and the SEVIS began the study of the implications of the F-1 visa in aviation and OPT, to supersede the J-1 visa, the US government determined that the "logging of flight time to gain experience" (A rough quote) constituted remuneration/work. I will need to see whether I have this document to provide the actual quote.

Additionally, you do not have to be paid money to be covered by working laws, immigration laws and labour laws, and this is true in many countries not just the USA.

28th Sep 2015, 16:04
So mitirino will either adjust attitude, or be quietly forced out by the community. The risk, really, is of the damage they cause on the way.

I'll have to adjust I guess. It's not only the community that weeds out but flying itself.

28th Sep 2015, 16:06
Additionally, you do not have to be paid money to be covered by working laws, immigration laws and labour laws,

That's what I was afraid of... that the definition of "work" is not only when done for money. I'll have to speak with a lawyer. Thank you very much!

28th Sep 2015, 16:10
But then who takes legal or immigration advice from a pilot's website?

I do.

If enough people bring up legitimately looking statements like yours, which statements say "No", then I won't even try talking to a lawyer.

If everyone says "yes", then I'd check with the lawyer first.


28th Sep 2015, 18:07
Interesting discussion. But one thing I'm confuzzed about -

You said I just can't have a full time instructor job with two kids and all the driving around that this entails.

Won't it take a lot longer to drive from Toronto to the USA, link up with flight schools, link up with students etc, etc, than it would take to work locally?

I'm not so sure the comment about volunteering was correct. Just look at the number of international volunteers at Oshkosh each year as an example.

28th Sep 2015, 18:19
Won't it take a lot longer to drive from Toronto to the USA, link up with flight schools, link up with students etc, etc,

I was thinking to do this once a week... Saturday. It's a long drive, yes... just did it the other day - 2.5h. But if it's once a week on a weekend I'll survive it.

I'll check with an immigration lawyer and update everyone here.

28th Sep 2015, 20:12
As an interesting fact - not a single flight instructor at KIAG and no FBO to rent an airplane for flight instruction.

So technically if I figure out how to fly there I won't be pulling the rug under anyone with higher order dreams and hopes than mine. And all the people who see no curves in the straight roads can keep driving (and flying) straight.