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Can foreign pilots / international students take up jobs with airlines in the US

Asked by: 10404 views , , , , , , ,
Commercial Pilot, FAA Regulations, Student Pilot

Hi there, I was planning to join a professional pilot program in the US and then pursue a career with an airline there in the US..I did ask few flight schools and they replied u need to be a US citizen or a green card holder to do this, but then I did see the career section of American Eagle and their criteria suggests you should be a US citizen or legally allowed to work in the US..so does this mean an airline can sponsor a foreigner to work with them..more over is it totally not possible??   Appreciate replies..   Cheers !

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3 Answers



  1. Ben on Jul 12, 2012

    Hello,
    I came from the UK, did flight training in the USA, got my ratings, got hired on with a 135 company and now work at American Eagle….the bad news for you is that I was LEGALLY able to do this because of my U.S Citizen wife and thus my lovely greencard.
    You CAN come over and train. You will need to find a school that offers an M1 or a J1 visa (M1 does not allow you to be paid to work at the end of your training whereas a J1 does…therefore get a J1 visa or you will be broke very quickly).
    So, you come over, train for 10-15 months, get all your ratings and then instruct at the same school on your J1 visa. If you do not find a way to legally stay in the US by the end of you visa (2yrs) then you must leave the US.
    When you go back home to the UK or wherever, you are faced with converting your licences to JAA (Very long-winded, very expensive). 
    American Eagle does not sponsor immigration applicants – that process is far too long, complicated and expensive for a company to do. The minimum they accept is a greencard holder. I guarantee that 99.9% of part 135 and 121 carriers will have the same policy.
    Having said that, I know that the deputy chief pilot at my flight shcool managed to get the school to sponsor her to immigrate, but that was only because she worked her tail off for something like 5yrs, was the deputy Chief Pilot and practically ran the school. No other people were sponsored out of 400+ instructors…alomost a unique situation and not something you can count on.
    If any school says “sure we’ll sponsor your immigration” I would have a very, very, very hard time believing them, they probably just want your money whilst you train. There just isn’t anything in it for them. It’s expensive and very time consuming and to be honest, there are many, many, many low time pilots out there who do not need sponsoring.
    If I were you and had absolutely no way of legally immgrating to the US I would still consider training here due to the low prices, but always have the long-term plan that you are going to return to your country after your 2 yrs are up and get your JAA licences.
    The good news with this plan is that you will be a well qualified individual with both US and JAA ratings. The bad news is the sheer cost and time it will take you to complete definitely more than $100,000USD and 2-3yrs total (including time-building in the US on your J1 licence).
    Probably not what you wanted to hear, but in the US it’s either a greencard or you simply aren’t qualified to work….akin to hiring an illegal immigrant.
    Find an nice US girl/guy and settle down. 
    Happy to answer more questions – our situations appear very similar and i’m always willing to help others.
    Your goal doesn’t terminate with this news. You just have to take the information, modify you plan to accomodate and soldier on. And probably save up some more money. Good luck!

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  2. DeepB on Jul 13, 2012

    Thanks Ben & Lucas..quite insightful….well in that case the plan is to build hours as an CFI, most of the good schools are providing that facility personally am looking at PEA, ATP, Aersosim..lets see how it works out seriously cost is the issue need a budget of $80 to $ 100 grand, and of course my age am 30 as of now so seriously investing age too..with some strong educational backround in engineering and some management degree.. but guess most of the good schools give F1 visa too so allows u to legally work as a CFI and break some bread though..
    So as of now option would be to return to greener pastures post gaining some flying hours conversion and live happily ever after..appreciate thoughts though 🙂
    Well personally am not looking at the JAA..I am personally biased to FAA 🙂
    Thanks..

    +3 Votes Thumb up 3 Votes Thumb down 0 Votes



  3. Sean Mendis on Apr 20, 2013

    Im a Pilot with 1500hrs on the A321, along with a frozen atpl. Im currently flying for Mihin Lanka in SriLanka and Im only 20yrs old. Will I have an opportunity to apply to american eagle or any other airline in US I mean will they hire me? And will they give me a work visa if they do?

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