Alien training/citizenship validation rule hits everyone today

December 20, 2004

Alien training/citizenship validation rule hits everyone today
AOPA continues advocacy to lessen impact

Starting today, any non-U.S. citizen who is beginning training for a new certificate or rating in any size powered aircraft must be cleared by the Transportation Security Administration, including those who have previously held pilot certificates. This alien flight training rule applies even to resident aliens with a "green card."

And the rule also applies to U.S. citizens as well. That's because flight instructors and flight schools are required to check a student's citizenship before providing training for any new certificate or rating.

"We expect that the TSA will soon announce some changes that AOPA advocated that will make this rule less intrusive," said Andy Cebula, AOPA senior vice president of Government and Technical Affairs. "We also pushed very hard for TSA to treat resident aliens the same as citizens, but TSA refuses to budge on that issue."

Despite the fact that resident aliens have been investigated and fingerprinted by U.S. immigration services, TSA doesn't have confidence that the process has weeded out potential terrorists.

"Neither do some members of Congress," said Cebula. "We understand that many AOPA members are resident aliens and have been loyal to this country for years. But Congress and the Department of Homeland Security are adamant about treating all non-U.S. citizens the same way when it comes to flight training."

This lack of confidence can be attributed, in part, to the fiasco that ensued when six months after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) sent student visa approval forms for terrorists Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi to the Florida flight school where they had trained. The INS was reorganized and absorbed into the Department of Homeland Security and renamed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in 2003.

For flight instructors, the rule means that they are required to check the citizenship of any student applying for training for a new certificate or rating. AOPA had successfully lobbied to get recurrent training and proficiency checks excluded from the rule.

AOPA was also successful in obtaining an exemption to the rule for U.S. citizens that allows instructors to make a simple logbook entry to show that they have checked citizenship, rather than having to maintain copies of the student's proof-of-citizenship papers for five years.

Flight instructors and flight schools training non-U.S. citizens have to be approved by the TSA. Training providers can register online with the TSA. All flight instructors must also complete initial security awareness training by January 18, 2005, regardless whether they are training foreign nationals or not.

Non-U.S. citizens taking any type of flight training for a new or additional certificate or rating in a powered aircraft, regardless of size, (gliders, balloons, and airships are exempt) must get TSA approval and pay a $130 application fee. They also have to submit their fingerprints and a photo to TSA. Flight training providers have to verify with TSA that the student has been approved for training.

Complete details of who the TSA's Alien Flight Training / Citizenship Validation Rule applies to and how to comply with the rule are available in AOPA's online guide.

December 20, 2004