International Pilot? Here’s How to Convert Your License to FAA Standard

Nov 17, 2023

FAA foreign license conversion is an important step for non-U.S. pilots. If you earned your pilot license abroad and want to pursue aviation — as in fly for fun, train, or work — in the U.S., you’ll want to pay close attention to the details in this post.

We’ll cover:

  • The who, why, and how of FAA license conversion
  • Key differences between international aviation and FAA regulations
  • Some other things international pilots should keep on their radars when considering flying in the U.S.

Why Convert to FAA Standard

There are countless reasons for converting your foreign pilot’s license to the FAA standard. Some of the most popular motivators are:

  • Global recognition. FAA certification has clout. Your FAA license will be honored in more places around the globe. This will make it easier for you when you hop between countries and want to take to the skies for career or recreation.
  • Training and endorsements. Foreign pilot license conversion by the FAA is required by flight programs. If you want to get advanced flight training or earn additional ratings in the U.S. — you’ll need to validate your original pilot certificate.
  • Seal of approval. The FAA is known for holding pilots to rigorous training standards. So, your converted license signifies that you have a certain level of knowledge and competency. It attests to your capacity for and dedication to safe and efficient flight operations.
  • Eligibility to fly domestic aircraft. U.S.-registered planes and helicopters can only be operated by pilots with an American license.
  • Career prospects. Speaking of jobs, FAA license verification will significantly broaden your professional horizons. You may discover more/better work opportunities or preferential consideration for certain roles with a U.S.-based pilot certification.
  • Proof of English skills. Pilots need a certain level of English proficiency to get their FAA licenses. As such, an FAA validation signifies that your language communication and comprehension are up to snuff.

How to Convert Your License to FAA Standard

The FAA Foreign License Conversion Process

Understanding the application process up front can make the whole affair much easier to deal with. It can reduce the amount of scrambling around you have to do and may even help you get your temporary or permanent FAA license sooner.

The details below are for your guidance only. You should check the FAA’s website before applying to convert your foreign license as the process, requirements, etc. may have changed since writing this post.

Requirements by Pilot License Type

The process isn’t the same for all pilot classes. Let’s quickly break it down.

  • Private pilots. The FAA doesn’t require any additional testing for those with a PPL. Your converted license will enable you to do everything you could do with your original certification.
  • Instrument Rating. You’ll have to pass a knowledge test first If you want to maintain the equivalent of your foreign-earned instrument rating. This test should be taken within 24 months prior to applying for your FAA license verification.
  • Commercial pilots and airline transport pilots. You can’t directly convert a CPL or ATP. The FAA will only allow you to get a PPL and then you’ll have to do additional training and a check ride, as well as meet any other requirements, before you can get an FAA-recognized CPL or ATP.

Basic Application Steps, Documentation & Requirements

The process is relatively simple. Some of the steps below will be required by everyone while others are context-dependent. Specifics may vary depending on factors like where you obtained your pilot license and the kind of license you’re converting.

  1. Medical exam. (Prerequisite) You must have a valid medical certificate (that satisfies the FAA’s criteria) to apply.
  2. Knowledge test. (Prerequisite) Complete any knowledge tests required for your license level or endorsements.
  3. Application. You’ll submit your application online via the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) system. Alternatively, you can apply by mail (form 8060-71). You have to attach a copy of your foreign pilot’s license, a copy of your medical certificate, and English translations of your license/medical certificate (if needed) to your application. The application is short and asks for info you should have readily available; if you have the accompanying documentation ready, it likely won’t take you too long to complete this step.
  4. Verification of foreign license. The FAA will then verify the authenticity and limitations of your license and confirm its eligibility for conversion. It does this by contacting the aviation authority in the country that issued your pilot license. The FAA will send you a verification letter when this is completed. This step usually takes 45-90 days.
  5. Meeting with an FAA representative. As part of the process, the FAA requires you to have an in-person meeting with a Flight Standards District Office inspector or Designated Pilot Examiner. This rep will review your application and any supporting documents for your ratings, confirm your English language skills, and verify your medical certificate. Your appointment will probably cost around $200-$300. You have 6 months from the issuance of your verification letter to complete your meeting with the FSDO inspector or DPE.
  6. FAA Certification. Assuming everything’s in order and your application is approved, a temporary license is issued almost immediately. A permanent license will arrive by mail, usually within a few weeks. Your temporary airman certificate enables you to PPL privileges.
  7. Additional flight training. Complete the training necessary to obtain your CPL or ATP. Take any knowledge test required. Do your check ride. Accrue more flight hours if needed. Apply for your U.S.-issued CPL/ATP.

Please note: Australia, Cyprus, Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom applicants need to submit additional paperwork to their country’s civil aviation authority before embarking on Step 1 above.

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Tips for Preparation & Submission

Set yourself up for success (with less stress!) with these expert recommendations.

  • Applying online streamlines the application process. It’s the FAA’s preferred method for you to apply.
  • Double-check everything you’re going to submit to make sure it’s accurate, complete, and what’s asked for. Errors and omissions can result in delays, application rejection, or failure to get approval for your FAA license.
  • The overall process can take several months — so plan ahead. This is especially true if you’re planning to come to the U.S. as an international flight school student.
  • After submitting your application, you can check with your country’s civil aviation authority to ensure it received and processed the verification request from the FAA.
  • You can also check your application status on the IACRA website
  • Flight schools deal with FAA foreign license conversions all the time. Don’t be afraid to contact a flight school — like Pureflight — for help.

More Advice for a Seamless Transition

If you’re coming to the U.S. as an international flight student, you might have lots of questions.

On top of all the “regular” details, you should be aware of some additional considerations and requirements. Namely, you may need to:

  • Cover more expenses, like meals, lodging, and transportation.
  • Find a place to stay because you’re away from home.
  • Get a visa to live and study here for a period of time.
  • Get TSA approval to attend a flight school.
  • Observe different aviation practices.
  • Adjust to cultural differences, like food, language, and customs.
  • Adjust to environmental differences, like the weather and geography.

If this sounds daunting — don’t worry! Pureflight’s here to assist you at every stage of the game. We’re pros at helping students from abroad to realize their dreams of attending a top-tier American flight school.

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FAA License Conversion, Just a Puddle Jump Away with Pureflight

Foreign pilot license conversion, FAA rules and requirements, gaining pilot rights in the US — it’s a lot to manage. But, it’s totally doable.

Getting FAA license verification for your international pilot’s certification is actually a fairly straightforward process. From there, you can start enjoying PPL privileges or continue your training to get your FAA-issued CPL or ATP.

Contact Pureflight today with any questions or to begin taking next steps.