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Who here is a foreigner working as a pilot in the USA?

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Old 10th Sep 2011, 08:15
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Who here is a foreigner working as a pilot in the USA?

I am a New Zealand citizen hoping to work in the states one day as an instructor or for a regional airline.

I know that the question of wether or not a foreigner can get a visa to work as a pilot in the U.S has been asked many times, and the general consensus seems to be that you can't, however I have read a few posts in various threads that would suggest otherwise.

So my question is, who here, as a non U.S citizen or non green card holder, has been able to secure a pilot job in the U.S? If so, how did you go about it? I'd like to hear about your experience, was it difficult? was it worth it etc..

Thanks
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Old 13th Sep 2011, 11:22
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What fascinates me is just WHY people continue to enquire about working in the US.
Get this straight.. the US has the worst T&Cs in the civilized world. Most pilots here would give their 1st born male child for the opportunity to earn the salaries and have the benefits offered to their colleagues in Europe.
I was interested to see a comment in the BizJet threads regarding holiday entitlement offered to GAMA crews.. complaining that it's 'only' 20 days... I was offered a PIC position flying a Part 135/Part 91 jet recently where the holiday entitlement was 6 days per annum. A very large US based international company that I left one year ago offered 10 days vacation per annum for the first 6 years of employment.. their UK operation offers 35 days on joining !
There's an underlying fear here in the US that's only just below the surface of every employee.. that of losing your job. Unlike in Europe you'll have very little support... The bosses hold all the cards and most will 'downsize' a workforce in a heartbeat if it means an extra $10 on the profits of the annual balance sheet. They talk a lot about the importance of 'loyalty' but the loyalty is a one way street as far as they're concerned. I've been lucky but I've seen several colleagues with families discarded without a moments hesitation on the whim of a CEO.
Don't get me wrong, America has some great and positive aspects to it but the employment market is not one of them.
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Old 13th Sep 2011, 20:25
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Yes, we are a "workers paradise"!
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Old 27th Sep 2011, 08:04
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SoCal, there is always the chance to be lucky at the greencard lottery, right? That should one enable to work in the USA if you really want to.

By the way, europe isn't all that great either for pilots. And pay is quite often substantially lower, especially if you consider that in many european countries that sum of tax, social security costs and mandatory medical insurance approaches over 55% of your salary.
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Old 27th Sep 2011, 15:50
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I am an American - working as a regional FO in the States, flying the EMB-145 (at a 'respected' 'Regional' carrier). I can tell you - as soon as my hours are appropriate, I am out of the States.

Baggage Handlers, Ticket Agents, Fuelers, Sky Caps, all make more money than me... I really do enjoy going to work in the morning - but the compensation is insulting. The problem is how unprofitable US carriers are. You will hear union pilots say its management, management says its the union pilots, but its ticket prices. They are too low, and with the onboard service as poor as it is, it is a race to the bottom, the traveling public has no brand loyalty, and will gladly choose Airline X over Airline Y - even with 3 or 4 connections to save 5 dollars on a return ticket.

I often read horror stories on PPRuNe, about Qatar, Emirates, Cathay, Etihad, etc, but have talked to pilots at theses carriers, and they say its not bad, and a world better than the flying in the States (with the exception of FedEx, Southwest, and a few others) I am even considering moving to China to be a contract pilot just to get a livable wage.

Cheers, and Good Luck!

p.s. one of my buddys at my carrier is from South Africa, he did all his training over there, and was able to get a job here, when his parents moved here. So it is possible!
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Old 28th Sep 2011, 10:10
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What about getting a job up in remote parts of Alaska? I'm another kiwi thats interested in flying up there.
Remote places are harder to find not due to lack of qualified pilots, but to lack of interest in it.
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Old 3rd Oct 2011, 14:56
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What about getting a job up in remote parts of Alaska? I'm another kiwi thats interested in flying up there.

Remote places are harder to find not due to lack of qualified pilots, but to lack of interest in it.
You still have the same visa issues.
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Old 4th Oct 2011, 02:13
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Plus, getting a job in Alaska usually involves having significant Alaska time.
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Old 9th Oct 2011, 02:40
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I am an American - working as a regional FO in the States, flying the EMB-145 (at a 'respected' 'Regional' carrier).

Let me tell you guys in here that are looking to go to a US regional airline and see statements like this... There are NO respected regional airlines in the US.
Regional pilots in the US seem to think if they make 2$ USD more then another regional airline they are at a "respected" regional airline... When any airline pays any pilot less then 30K USD you are not being respected, you are being exploited.
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Old 13th Oct 2011, 22:46
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Talking

The whole visa issue is such a needle in a hay stack unless you have immediate family sponsorship in the US. So many organisations just will not go through with the complicated process of applying for a visa.. But its not impossible.. I myself am in a similar situation... The US immigration needs such an overhaul and the good guys with great intentions to come to this fine country are the ones who pay for it.. Yes, things are not what they used to be but it is still a good place to be.. So even though there is alot of truth said here about the grass not being greener on the other side, if you want to make it work, you can do it. Im still trying and hoping that I can !
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Old 14th Oct 2011, 09:51
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I have an American family and they are either planning to move to Europe or have already moved here.
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Old 29th Oct 2011, 22:55
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Unless you are totally obsessed with living in the United States, I would recommend against a flying job here. We pilots truly do have the worst pay and working conditions in the civilized world. First year pilots at most entry level airline jobs qualify for welfare, and at some carriers you will qualify for several years.

Unlike most civilized countries there is no law for companies to require paid vacation time. Most airlines will offer it, but it will takes years to get beyond two weeks of vacation annually. Many people in other industries in the U.S. are lucky to get one week of paid vacation annually.

Health care? Well the Obama health plan is designed to get more people health care coverage, but there is a lot of opposition to it and much of it will either be struck down by the courts, or legislated out of existence over the next few years. In other words there is no guarantee you will get health care coverage, and it will take up an ever increasing part of your paycheck if you do get it. Costs for health insurance are skyrocketing and employers are passing the costs on to employees. I have a pretty good deal, but I am paying out over $400 USD every month just for health care coverage for my family.

In short, if you want very long hours, little to no vacation, poor pay, and expensive health care, the United States is the place to be.

I am married to an EU citizen and we are out of the U.S.A. by next summer.

Best of luck to you.
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Old 30th Oct 2011, 00:44
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Now wait a minute, while the employment rate was rising I was renting an appartment looking for a home to buy. It was a pleasant experiance, I was surrounded by Eastern Indian families here on work visas mostly IT people. Despite the great company and food shared every day it got me thinking.

In the USA the media has the whole issue of undoccumented workers and lost jobs often in the headlines while high paying jobs were given out like candy to immigrants on visas who performed the same task's that were putting many educated people out of work.

It would not surprise me for a US carrier to get visas for many pilots especially during seasonal periods. They can pay you the same but it costs them less when they would like to layoff.
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Old 30th Oct 2011, 19:27
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But there's very little seasonal employment in the airline sector. They aren't going to spend 6-8 weeks training someone just to lay them off after a couple months.
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Old 31st Oct 2011, 12:32
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But there's very little seasonal employment in the airline sector. They aren't going to spend 6-8 weeks training someone just to lay them off after a couple months.
One of the most notable carriers that did seasonal employment was USA3000. While it was not officially seasonal, if you were fairly junior you would regularly get furloughed for the summer season. They are in the slow process of going out of business, with a goal of being totally done by fall of 2012.
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Old 31st Oct 2011, 12:36
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Currently in Australia, you may have heard what has just happened with Qantas Airways and the unions. The company locked out all of its staff, grounding the whole fleet. They forced the government's hand to intervene and terminate all industrial action; basically revoking the pilots (and ground staff and engineers) their right to strike.

Australia is heading down a bad path.

Luckily I am engaged to a beautiful US national who makes above average money, so I will be heading there very soon to live with her.

As good as the terms seem to be here for most in Australia, I really do envy the U.S. locations a pilot can fly to! Hundreds of cities compared to much fewer here. If after a few years I am fed up of being treated like a slave, I will then reconsider my options.

Until then, wish me luck!
Sad to hear Australian airline executives are following the path of the Frank Lorenzo.

Congrats on your engagement though! It will be nice to have a few options with regards to employment. I am an American and just got married to an EU national, so in theory that part of the world begins to open up for me after I get a JAA license.

Good Luck!
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Old 1st Nov 2011, 03:10
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And what would be one's options if you work as contractor outside of the US, but would like to base yourself in the US, as a foreigner?

Does buying property in the US allow you the right to live , not necessarily work?

I don't want to work in the US, but will happily pay taxes to live there??
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Old 1st Nov 2011, 04:37
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triple7nz,

I'm a foreigner that's been working as an instructor in California for the last 3 years. I started my path on J1 visa, where you start flight training, in my case IR, CPL, CFI and then work as instructor. Unfortunately, J1 for flight training programs no longer exists.

However, I am still doing what I am doing, now on an E2 visa. Don't think there is any luck for you there though. It's a "specialized skill" visa, in my case teaching towards JAA licenses. I already have my JAA fATPL and FI.

The school I am working still hires foreigners, though it mostly occurs internally (old students coming back as instructors). The latest thing seem to be F-visas. Not sure about the rights/limitations of these visas but I believe they all come on a FAA ATP training program where they train to CFI, CFII, MEI and then work as instructors in order to reach 1500 hrs. So perhaps applying to a school that has the same setup? You come here with the intention of getting an FAA ATP and will be able to work. Of course it's going to cost you, if you have a NZ license you'll probably have to get FAA IR, FAA CPL, CFI, CFII, MEI.

For the regional though, it's a dead end. Unless you get married or win the green card lottery. To end my story, I was engaged to an American girl and thought I had my life laid out in front of me, working as a pilot in the US, living in one of the best places on earth, San Diego. I was such a dreamer! Things changed for the worse when she suddenly passed away in a disease. Disregarding the emotional aspects (which were of course more important and saddening), I was back to square one with my E2 visa.

Now I just landed a job with a European lo-co so will be heading out of the US after 3,5 great years in SoCal. I have many American colleagues that just landed jobs with the regionals and comparing deals mine is better (salary, schedule, vacation), however the market is much bigger in the US and there are many more opportunities currently available so I can understand why people might be looking into US.
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Old 1st Nov 2011, 18:31
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An E2 is an Investment visa not a specialized skill visa. The E2 requires a substantial amount of capital to be invested into a business venture
Yeah that's right, my bad. They used the term "specialised skill" (JAA FI) in my application process I remember to hype it up. The flight school's investment in US economy is the basis they're allowed to issue a certain amount of E2's.
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Old 2nd Nov 2011, 01:09
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To get a E2 visa YOU yourself have to be a substantial investor in the business - not just an employee.
Those are the rules....
I can prove you I am here on an E2 and I can assure you I haven't invested a dollar into the US economy, except for regular income taxes. It's all been taken care of professionally by an immigration lawyer that my flight school is using and the application has been approved for me and many of my colleagues. Regardless what the regulations say...
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