Requirements for international students: Flying in the USA

Many foreign students want to fly in the United States. The country has beautiful scenery, great weather, and excellent flying schools. If you are a foreign student in the US and want to learn how to fly, this guide will help you understand what you need to do and how to do it.

Why Should You Learn to Fly in the USA?

There are many great reasons to learn to fly in the United States:

  • Top Flight Schools: The United States has some of the best flight schools in the world.
  • Diverse Weather Conditions: Training in a range of weather conditions gets you ready for all sorts of flying situations.
  • Beautiful Scenery: The United States offers stunning views from its beaches to its mountains.
  • Diverse Airports: Exposure to different airports allows you to adapt to various environments.

Requirements and Conditions

There are a few simple things you need to do before you can start flight training in the US:


  • To get a Private Pilot License (PPL), you need to be at least 17 years old.
  • Some training programs may have higher age requirements.

Proficiency in English

  • You must be able to read, write, speak, and understand English. This is essential for following flight instructions and communicating with air traffic control.

Medical Certificate

  • You must pass a medical examination conducted by an FAA-authorized aviation medical examiner. This ensures you are fit to fly.

Visa Requirements

If you are from outside the US, you will need a visa to study or train in the US:

  • M-1 Visa (Vocational Students): Required for most flight schools. This visa is for students enrolled in vocational or non-academic programs.
  • F-1 Visa (Academic Students): May be required for schools offering degree programs.

Steps for Applying

  1. Get accepted into a flight school that accepts international students.
  2. The school will issue you an I-20 form, which you will need for the visa application process.
  3. Schedule a visa interview at the US embassy or consulate in your home country.

TSA Approval

Before starting flight training, foreign students must get approval from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Here’s how:

Register with the TSA

  • Create an account on the TSA’s Alien Flight Student Program (AFSP) website.

Submit Required Documents

  • Provide copies of your passport, visa, and other identification.
  • Submit information about your flight school and the type of training you will receive.

Pay the Fee

  • Pay the TSA processing fee. This fee covers the security risk assessment.


  • You will need to be fingerprinted. The TSA will provide instructions on where and how to complete this.


  • Once the TSA reviews your application and documents, they will notify you and your flight school of approval. This process can take a few weeks, so apply early.

How to Pick a Flight School

Choosing the right flight school is crucial. Here are some tips to help you decide:


  • Consider the school’s location. Places like Florida and California offer more flyable days each year due to favorable weather.


  • Research the school’s reputation. Look for reviews, speak with current or former students, and learn about the school’s success rates.


  • Ensure the school has experienced and qualified instructors. Good instructors can significantly enhance your learning experience.

Facilities and Aircraft

  • Visit the school, if possible, to inspect the facilities and aircraft. Make sure they are modern and well-maintained.

Program Offerings

  • Check if the school offers the training you need, whether it’s for a Private Pilot License, Commercial Pilot License, or other advanced ratings.


  • Flight training can be expensive. Compare the costs at different schools and understand what’s included in the fees. Remember, the cheapest option isn’t always the best.

Student Support

  • Inquire about the support services the school offers. Do they help with job placement after training? Do they provide additional resources like study guides and tutoring?

Preparing for Training

After selecting a flight school and completing the necessary paperwork, it’s time to prepare for your training:

Study Materials

  • Acquire the textbooks and other study materials you need. Many schools provide recommended resource lists.

Health and Fitness

  • Stay fit and healthy. Physical and mental fitness is essential as flying can be demanding.

Financial Planning

  • Ensure you have sufficient funds to cover your training and living expenses. Plan ahead as flight training can be costly.


  • Arrange your accommodation before arriving. Some flight schools offer student housing options.

Adapting to a New Culture

  • Be prepared for cultural differences. Learning about American customs and practices can help you adjust more easily.

Beginning Your Training

With everything set, you can start your flight training:

Ground School

  • Begin with ground school to learn the theory behind flying, including aerodynamics, navigation, weather, and regulations.

Flight Training

  • Start hands-on flight training with an instructor. You will learn basic flight maneuvers, navigation, and aircraft handling.

Solo Flights

  • After sufficient training, you’ll be able to fly solo. This is a significant milestone in your training.

Cross-Country Flights

  • Learn to plan and execute longer flights, which are crucial for gaining experience.


  • The final step is the checkride, where an examiner assesses your knowledge and flying skills. Passing this test earns you your pilot’s license.


Flying in the US as a foreign student is an exciting journey filled with opportunities. By meeting the requirements, choosing the right flight school, and dedicating yourself to your studies, you can become a proficient pilot. Enjoy the process and make the most of your time in the US. Have fun flying!

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