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Visa program to continue for visiting flight students

After hearing from AOPA and other groups about how new regulations would stifle business, the Department of State has determined that flight schools will continue operating under current regulations for students visiting from other countries for flight training.

"This is a victory for flight schools and for all of general aviation," said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. "The Department of State recognizes that the existing requirements are adequate."

Accredited flight schools that participate in the J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor program will be able to accept international flight students under the current J-1 regulations and screening by the Transportation Security Administration. (See AOPA's Guide to TSA's Alien Flight Training/Citizenship Validation Rule.)

The proposed changes to the J-1 program would have reduced the duration of training from its current 24 months to 12 months; required trainees to earn a degree before beginning flight training; and required proof of English proficiency even though that is already a prerequisite for pilots.

AOPA met officials from the Department of State to speak on behalf of flight schools. The association also worked with the Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy, several flight schools, the Helicopter Association International, and the National Air Transportation Administration, to ensure the desired outcome.

June 21, 2007

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