Foreign flight students get alternative to J-1 visa

September 17, 2008

In an effort to allow foreign flight school students to continue flight training in the United States, the Department of Homeland Security said that it will create a new visa category, M, to replace the J-1 visa, which is set to end in June 2010.

“AOPA has been pressing for an alternative to the current visa being phased out,” said Craig Spence, AOPA vice president of security. “As things currently stand, the M visa will have all of the characteristics of the J-1 visa, so our expectation is the transition should be seamless for students and flight schools.”

The new visa will be administered under the DHS instead of the State Department, which had been granting J-1 visas, and the Transportation Security Administration will conduct criminal history checks on all applicants before visa issuance.

Since 2006, only eight schools in the United States have had permission to train students with J-1 visas; however, the DHS has indicated that it will remove the cap and expand the program if needed.

AOPA will meet with industry leaders and government representatives again on Oct. 1 to iron out the details for the flight schools that can train foreign flight students.