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TSA gives flight schools more time to start foreign students' training

Flight schools that train security-vetted foreign nationals have been granted more time to begin some students’ training under a temporary exemption announced by the Transportation Security Administration.

Photo by Mike Fizer.

The exemption, which will be in effect until September 1, gives U.S. flight schools 365 days to initiate training of alien flight students who have been approved following a TSA security threat assessment if the candidate’s information and fees were submitted on or between December 1, 2019, and September 1, 2020, according to a recent Federal Register notice.

Before the exemption, a foreign student’s flight training had to start within 180 days to ensure that a valid security threat assessment was in force throughout the training.

The TSA said the continuing coronavirus pandemic had created “significant restrictions” on commercial activity and personal movement, making it “impracticable” for many students to begin training within 180 days.

“During the COVID-19 crisis, it is vital to move cargo expeditiously through the supply chain, and to ensure that medical supplies and home goods reach healthcare centers and consumers,” the notice said. “Aviation facilities and aircraft are an integral part of the supply chain and must continue operations throughout the public health emergency and after. Workers who support air transportation of cargo and passengers, including flight instructors, are considered by the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) as essential.”

The TSA estimated that the exemption would spare more than 2,100 U.S. businesses the loss of “significant revenue,” and give 4,500 flight training applicants who meet the requirements “needed flexibility” to train.

The agency cited a flight training industry estimate that one-third of all U.S. flight training “is conducted for aliens, many of whom are lawful permanent residents, or students participating in the student visitor exchange program,” who can encounter delays including the closures of fingerprint collection locations and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices.

Fight schools must continue to follow TSA notification requirements during the period of the exemption.

The TSA said it would continue to vet the group of applicants who train under the exemption’s provisions.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, COVID19, Training and Safety

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