Aliens and Non-U.S. Citizens Seeking Flight Training

AOPA has compiled easy to understand information concerning TSA’s Alien Flight Student Program (AFSP).  Below you will find information on applicability,  step by step guidance on submitting a request for flight training, and answers to frequently asked questions.  Information on this page applies to non-U.S. citizens who wish to conduct flight training in an aircraft weighing less than 12,500 (typically under a Category 3 training request).

For more information, contact AOPA’s Pilot Information Center at 1-800-USA-AOPA.  Any questions about the AFSP may also be directed to the AFSP Help Desk at 571/203-8470 or AFSP.Help@dhs.gov.  Please review TSA’s Help Desk guidelines before contacting the Help Desk.

Applicability

You must participate in the Alien Flight Student Program and undergo a security threat assessment if:

  • You are an alien; and
  • You are seeking flight training inside or outside the United States for U.S. airman certificate under 14 CFR. This rule applies to flight training that you could use toward a recreational, sport, or private pilot certificate; multiengine or instrument rating; or any initial U.S. airman certificate issued by FAA.
  • NOTE: Information on this page applies only to aliens training in aircraft with a maximum certificate takeoff weight of 12,500 pounds or less.  If you are training in an aircraft exceeding this weight read, TSA Background Checks for Training in Aircraft over 12,500.

Exemptions

As an alien, you are NOT required to participate in the AFSP and undergo a security threat assessment if:

  • You are seeking recurrent training, such as a flight review, instrument proficiency check, or flight training listed under 14 CFR 61.31; or
  • You are seeking ground training; or
  • You are participating in a discovery or demonstration flight for marketing purposes; or
  • The Department of Defense or U.S. Coast Guard (or a contractor with either) is providing your training.
  • You have been endorsed by the U.S. Department of Defense. Click here  for instructions if you have been endorsed by DoD.
  • These exemptions are further clarified at www.flightschoolcandidates.gov.

If this rule applies to you, follow the steps below before you begin flight training. Click on the steps for further information.

Verify that you have an appropriate visa.

The AFSP will deny flight training requests from candidates who are present in the U.S. illegally or who do not have an appropriate visa for flight training (fees paid for denied applications will not be refunded).Moreover, taking flight training without an appropriate visa could be a violation of your immigration status and could result in your arrest and removal from the United States.

Note: Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR) of the United States are not required to have a visa.

If you do not possess the correct visa, or if you have questions pertaining to your visa status or the appropriate visas for flight training, please contact your local Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services at 800/375-5283 or www.uscis.gov or the State Department Consular Affairs Office for assistance.

Notify the flight school that you want to begin taking flight training. 

You should notify the flight school in advance that you intend to start flight training because the flight school also needs to register online with TSA before you begin flight training. Additional information about flight school registration may be found here.

If the flight school is already registered with TSA, it might be useful to bring all required documents and information for the application to the flight school and register there, as you will have to include training details on your application. This will allow the flight school to upload required documents to TSA and also to make copies for the flight school”s record-keeping requirements.

Ensure that you have a valid email address.

AFSP will communicate with you primarily by email, so you should have a valid email address that you are able to check frequently.

Create a login account at TSA’s AFSP website.

Visit TSA’s AFSP website at and create login account by clicking on “Create New Student Account” and following the instructions.

Note: you do not need to create a new account if you already have one from the FTCCP; any user ID and password that was created for the FTCCP website will work on the AFSP website.

A user ID will be provided immediately after you submit the required information, and a password will be sent to you via email. Time may vary on receiving the password – possibly 24-48 hours. Follow the email instructions, including changing your password.

You can learn more about creating and managing your account by going online.

Apply for training on TSA’s AFSP website

Log into the TSA page and continue the application process. The TSA Application Guide describes the information you will be required to submit, including background information, passport and visa information, and training details. Follow these guidelines to ensure your uploaded documents are legible.

Upon completion of the application, you will be prompted to click on the “validate and submit” icon. If any errors appear in the application, you will be instructed to make any necessary corrections or complete any missing information.

After making any changes, click on “submit application.” For the application to proceed further, you must select “I agree” or “I disagree” after reviewing important information regarding your application.

Your training request status will be available on the AFSP candidate home page. Each training request you have entered into the system will be listed in the Current Flight Training Applications section of the AFSP home page after login. You can find descriptions of each status type online.

Note: you may cancel a training request that is in the Draft status by going to Step 7 of the request, clicking on the Edit link for that request, and clicking the “Delete Training Request” button.

Wait for the flight school to acknowledge your training request.

The flight school must acknowledge your training request before your application proceeds further. TSA will send the flight school an email requesting confirmation of your training request after it has been submitted.

Pay the nonrefundable $130 processing fee per instructions emailed to you.

Once the flight school confirms your request, you will be e-mailed instructions to pay the $130 processing fee by credit card on TSA’s website. Click here for guidance and information regarding the processing fee payment.

Look for a “Preliminary Approval” email from TSA.

Upon receiving payment, TSA will email both you and the flight school an email with the subject “Preliminary Approval.” THIS DOES NOT GRANT YOU PERMISSION TO RECEIVE TRAINING. This email simply confirms that TSA has received the application and fee, but they still need to receive your fingerprints. If you do not receive the preliminary decision within 7 business days, contact the TSA Help Desk at AFSP.Help@dhs.gov.

If the decision is NOT favorable, you will be provided details regarding any information that may be missing from your request. If your request was returned because of insufficient information, you will receive an email notification. You may return to the AFSP website, select the training request for which you received the email notification, and review the information for its accuracy and completeness. Make any changes needed, and resubmit your training request. On resubmission, the flight training provider does not need to validate your request again, and you do not have to pay another $130 USD processing fee.

If the decision is favorable, see the next step.

Submit fingerprints to TSA per the instructions emailed to you.

If the preliminary decision is favorable and a successful payment has been verified, you will receive an email from AFSP with the subject “Fingerprint Instructions.”  Although you may receive a notification from pay.gov for successful payment, your training request will not be processed by AFSP until the payment is verified by TSA and you have been sent the “Fingerprint Instructions” email. Do NOT submit fingerprints prior to paying for your training request and receiving the official AFSP fingerprinting instructions. This will result in the invalidation of your fingerprints and the cancellation of your associated training request(s). The fingerprints will not be applied to any current or future training request. You and the provider will receive an email notifying you that the fingerprints are invalid, the training request(s) is/are canceled, and what steps need to be taken to resolve the problem to complete processing through the AFSP.

If you have previously submitted fingerprints and received confirmation of fingerprint receipt for a prior AFSP training request (i.e. you are applying for additional flight training), you are not required to resubmit fingerprints. TSA will use the fingerprints already on file for you, if possible. Fingerprints will continue to be transferred to new flight training requests only if you use the same account (pin) number that was used for the initial flight training request.

A list of domestic and international fingerprinting location is available online.  Your fingerprints must be collected by or under the supervision of one of the following:

  • A U.S., federal, state or local law enforcement agency
  • U.S. government personnel at a U.S. embassy or consulate that possesses appropriate fingerprint collection equipment and personnel certified to capture fingerprints.
  • Another entity approved by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or TSA, including airports that possess appropriate fingerprint collection equipment and personnel certified to capture fingerprints.

The prints can be taken either electronically or by the provided forms.  If you need a form, contact the Clearinghouse at (703) 797-2550. Be sure to bring the following items to the fingerprinting appointment: a copy of the Fingerprint Instructions email; passport, residential alien card, or U.S. driver”s license (if resident alien); if required by fingerprint collection location, 2 fingerprint cards and a pre-paid shipping envelope; fees as required by fingerprint collector. After they are completed, the prints are sent back to AAAE”s Clearinghouse (an address is provided on the fingerprinting forms), who then forwards a copy to TSA. 

Visit TSA's Fingerprint process FAQs, and Instructions to Fingerprint Collector for additional guidance on the fingerprint process.

Wait for TSA to notify you and the flight school of its decision.

There are several factors that affect the amount of time between training request submission and response. As a category 3 candidate (training in aircraft less than 12,500 lbs.), TSA will make a final determination as to your eligibility to receive flight training and will notify you and the flight school of its decision.

Once you have received TSA approval, START FLIGHT TRAINING!

Once you have permission to train, you have 180 days to begin training and 365 days to complete the approved training. Both of these time periods start from the day you receive approval. For example, if you begin flight training 30 days after you have been approved, you now have 335 days to finish. If you do not finish, a new training request must be submitted.

Have your photo taken by the flight school when you arrive for the first day of flight training.

The flight school will be required to upload this photo – not one copied from your passport or other identification – to TSA’s website or have it faxed to TSA at 571/227-4532 or 571/227-4534. See AOPA’s guidance to flight training providers for further instructions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What applicant category do I qualify for?

Aliens seeking flight training in an aircraft with a MTOW of 12,500 pounds or less qualify as a Category 3 candidate. A brief explanation of the four categories:

Category 1 - Candidates who seek flight training in the operation of aircraft with a maximum certificated takeoff weight (MTOW) greater than 12,500 pounds, but who do not fall into Category 2.

Category 2 - Candidates who seek flight training in the operation of aircraft with a maximum certificated takeoff weight (MTOW) greater than 12,500 pounds, and who: Are employed by a foreign air carrier that operates under 14 CFR part 1546;  Have unescorted access authority to a secured area of an airport under U.S.C 44936(a)(1)(A)(ii),49 CFR 1542.229;  Are a flight crew member who has successfully completed a criminal history records check in accordance with 49 CFR 1544.230; or Hold an airman's certificate that is recognized by the FAA or appropriate US military agency, with a type rating for a multi-engine aircraft that has a certificated takeoff weight of 12,500 pounds or more.

Category 3 - Candidates who seek flight training in the operation of aircraft with a maximum certificated takeoff weight of 12,500 pounds or less for the following training events:

  • Initial airman's certificate, including a private, recreational, or sport pilot certificate.
    • If a private and/or commercial license is the candidate's initial FAA license, it is considered an initial airman's certificate and is not exempt.
  • Instrument Rating (IR)
  • Multi-Engine Rating (MEL)

Each of these training events requires a separate training request. Note: Category 3 Rotorcraft Requirements - Candidates who seek flight training in the operation of rotorcraft with a maximum certificated takeoff weight of 12,500 pounds or less are subject to the above Category 3 clarification. Candidates must obtain approval for the initial license, instrument rating or multi-engine rating if the pilot does not hold a fixed-wing equivalent.

Category 4 - Candidates who seek recurrent training in the operation of aircraft with a maximum certificated takeoff weight (MTOW) greater than 12,500 pounds, and are current and qualified on the aircraft for which they are requesting training. These training requests are submitted by the flight training providers.

Am I required to resubmit fingerprints for taking additional flight training?

No.  If done correctly the first time, additional flight training does not require resubmitting additional fingerprints. However, you must use the same account (pin) number that you used for your initial flight training request in order for this exemption to apply.

If I transfer to a different flight school, do I have to go through this entire process again?

Yes.  However, you should not need to submit fingerprints. You will have to pay the $130 processing fee again.  If you are training with an independent flight instructor who does not work for a flight school and want to fly with another independent flight instructor, you will need to file an additional training request.

I am pursuing a U.S. pilot certificate based on my foreign license. Am I required to comply with the TSA rule?

TSA has clarified that getting a U.S. certificate based on a foreign license ( reference FAR 61.75) does not apply to the requirements of the rule.  However, if you choose to apply for a “stand-alone” FAA pilot certificate no longer based on your foreign license, you must comply with this rule. The TSA views this as receiving an initial FAA pilot certificate and qualifies under the TSA definition of flight training.

Can an alien candidate register without a passport?

You are generally required to have a passport, but there are some people with very special circumstances who cannot obtain a passport. TSA will handle these situations on a case-by-case basis.  Contact AOPA’s Pilot Information Center at 1-800-USA-AOPA or the TSA Help Desk for further guidance.

I am pursuing a U.S. pilot certificate at a flight school located outside the United States. Do I need to comply with this rule?

Yes. The rule applies to the issuance of a U.S. airman certificate at any flight school located in or outside the United States that is providing flight training under 14 CFR.

I was approved by the Department of Justice (DOJ) Flight Training Candidate Checks Program (FTCCP); do I have to go through the TSA background check?

The AFSP (Alien Flight Student Program) requires candidates to submit a request for each instance of flight training. Although some candidates have received final approval in the past through the DOJ's Flight Training Candidate Checks Program (FTCCP), they must submit a request for approval of new training through the AFSP Web site.

Please note that any user ID and password that was created for the FTCCP Web site will work on the AFSP Web site; you do not need to create a new account if you already have one from the FTCCP.