Joined: May 08, 2005 Posts: 1078 Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Posted: Tue May 17, 2005 12:52 pm Post subject: Training in the USA - Maybe Not Much Longer
Copy of a letter sent out recently.
I am contacting you concerning a decision that is forthcoming from the Department of State that may have an adverse impact upon your flight training of foreign students. Helicopter Association International (HAI) has learned that a State Department announcement is expected shortly that will remove all flight training schools from the Exchange Visitor Program. This program has brought hundreds of thousands of students, including many thousands of pilot trainees, to the United States on J-1 visas since 1961.
An announcement is expected soon in the Federal Register, and HAI is concerned over the economic impact this change in policy will have upon HAI members that conduct flight training of foreign students. Our database indicates that you conduct flight training at your facility, and a few moments of your time is needed to help HAI gather information to complete a statistical analysis of how extensive the effects of this policy change will be upon helicopter flight training facilities. (Short questionnaire available at: http://www.rotor.com/0516survey.htm)
Many helicopter flight training programs depend upon the J-1 visa program for a substantial portion of their flight training business. In addition, aircraft manufacturers and numerous small businesses in the vicinity of flight schools cater to the needs of foreign flight students and their families. Even if your company does not bring students to the United States on J-1 visas, HAI believes that a dangerous precedent is underway and that the future of flight training of any foreign students could be in jeopardy.
Unlike the conventional student visa (M-1), the J-1 visa allows its holder to remain in the United States for a total period of two years during which time he or she completes approximately one year of formal training followed by one year of practical work experience as a flight instructor. This additional year makes it possible for the trainee to return home to his or her country with enough flight experience to be employable in the local aviation industry.
The United States has been a leader in aviation training for many decades, and changes to our immigration policy with regard to foreign flight training are likely to cause a substantial reduction in the number of foreign students trained in the U.S. Further, as the number of foreign flight students declines, there is concern that many flight schools will be forced to close their doors.
HAI does not believe that there is additional risk to our national security if pilot trainees continue to come to the US on J-1 visas, because a terrorist who is unable to obtain a J-1 visa due to the abolition of the program would simply apply for an M-1 visa.
This policy change is being driven by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Foreign flight training students already undergo extensive security checks by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and are not able to even begin flight training without receiving a full security clearance.
Your answers to the following questions will help HAI to assess the severity of this situation and to bring this issue before Members of Congress. Thank you for your cooperation in this regard. The results of this survey will be posted shortly on HAI's website, www.rotor.com, and updates on the status of this issue will be communicated to the flight training community.
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