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Knowing the lingo is key to attracting foreign studentsKnowing the lingo is key to attracting foreign students

What do SEVP, SEVIS, and aliens have to do with running a flight school? No, E.T. will not be phoning in, but with any luck and some careful planning, you could increase your student base significantly by implementing a training program that incorporates all three terms.

So much has changed since 9/11 that it’s no longer possible to hang out your sign and expect foreign students to come in. Before being able to tap the vast and growing potential of foreign students, or even evaluate your school’s ability to do so, you’ll need to educate yourself on the terms and processes.

Although the Internet has become invaluable for sharing information, getting trapped in link infinity is counterproductive and an all-too-common occurrence. In an effort to help you cut through all the mystery, rhetoric, and confusion, we will be doing the footwork for you. Here, then, are the terms that you need to be aware of to be able to attract foreign students, and why it’s important to consider doing so.

Alien—A resident or visiting non-citizen. It may seem too difficult or not worth the effort to train non-citizens, but the rewards can be numerous. Consider the following:

  • Foreign students bring in millions of dollars for the ability to learning to fly in the United States. The demand is there. Tap into it.
  • Some flight schools considered a typical mom-and-pop operation in California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida report that international students now outnumber American students.
  • One school recently announced a $14 million deal to train pilots for a foreign airline; this trend continues to increase.

SEVP—Student and Exchange Visitor Program. This is the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) program that continually tracks and monitors the movement of exchange visitors, international students, scholars, and their dependents entering the United States during the course of their stay.

Question: What does SEVP have to do with my flight instruction business?


  • As of Jan. 30, 2003, you are required to be approved and certified by SEVP in order to provide flight training to a foreign national and issue M or F visas.
  • An SEVP approved and certified school can include flight training providers that are Part 61, Part 141, or Part 142 as certificated by the FAA.
  • Going through the SEVP process requires a very specific adjudication procedure.
  • Unfortunately, being SEVP certified does not exempt your school from the TSA Alien Flight Training Rule requirements.

SEVIS—The Web-based database that the DHS uses to maintain the information collected by SEVP. As a requirement, schools and programs approved and certified by SEVP are provided with user codes and passwords to keep foreign student information updated in the SEVIS database.

Question: If I’m not very computer literate or just too overwhelmed with paperwork, will keeping up with SEVIS be too difficult or time consuming?


  • Reporting requirements are established by federal law and vary according to the type of visa the student has been issued.
  • In addition to easy-to-follow online training courses and slides, there are conferences and meetings held in your local areas.
  • All required information must be reported in SEVIS within 21 days of notification of the change or event. Like staff meetings or payables, reporting to SEVIS can be set up as a regular routine so that you maintain compliance and efficiency.

Become a part of the SEVP program, and you’ll open your school to a new world of possible students. The hurdles may seem high, but in this down economy, opportunities must be taken whenever possible.

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