Are you a foreign pilot planning to obtain FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) ATP (Airline Transport Pilot) Certification, feeling overwhelmed by the volume of information available online? If this sounds like you, then this article should be beneficial.
Gaining an FAA ATP validation in the United States is not a simple task. It involves physically traveling to the country for training and certification, a lot of hard work and concentration, time off from work, not to mention the cost of the course tuition.
Check out ATP.Academy’s upcoming ATP-CTP course schedules, and benefit from their Early Bird discounted prices.
Andrey Borisevich is an industry expert who knows this journey very well. A corporate and aerobatic pilot, Borisevich became one of the first Belarusian pilots to complete a round-the-world flight in 145 flying hours, over 30 flight days between August 18 and September 15, 2018.
Borisevich owns SkyEagle Aviation Academy, which has two facilities in Florida – one in Fort Lauderdale and the other in Orlando, where he also serves as chief instructor.
It is not every day that a skilled professional like Borisevich offers up advice and insider knowledge. Whether you’re a foreign pilot who is currently employed, a pilot seeking job opportunities in the United States, or simply wanting to obtain a certification that will open more doors for you, here’s everything you need to know about how to gain an FAA ATP in the United States as a foreign pilot.
What are the main advantages of obtaining an FAA ATP License for foreign pilots?
One of the biggest advantages of obtaining an FAA ATP license is the ability to fly American registered aircraft (those with registration numbers beginning with the letter N), not just within the United States but around the world.
Borisevich told AeroTime that even American registered aircraft based in Europe and operated for European customers can only be flown by a pilot with an FAA ATP license.
He revealed that pilots go to the United States to have their license FAA validated through the ATP.Academy program, before returning to their country base where they can be hired to fly American registered aircraft.
Another huge advantage of having an FAA ATP license is the opportunity to receive a higher wage.
Borisevich said: “Owners of American registered aircraft usually pay a little bit more. For example, one of my customers pays his private pilot with an FAA ATP license more than €7,000 per month. This is about twice the average salary that a captain in Europe gets right now.”
European citizen pilots with a European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) license would still not be able to fly American registered aircraft without an FAA ATP license due to an International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) limitation.
“If you can only fly an EASA registered aircraft, your average salary may be €2,000 to €3,500. With an FAA ATP license, you can be hired to fly an American registered aircraft and get a bigger salary,” Borisevich added.
FAA ATP-licensed pilots will also have more geographical base choices. American registered aircraft are not only mass market but can also fly around the world.
“You can be hired by major airlines, such as Emirates for example. Saudia also prefers FAA ATP licensed pilots. In general, many Middle Eastern companies are looking for pilots with an FAA ATP license. Although China is not currently an option, most Chinese airlines required an FAA ATP license before COVID,” Borisevich told AeroTime.
“Having a dual license, an FAA ATP in your right pocket, and an EASA license in your left pocket, will make you a universal pilot with great opportunities”.
What are the requirements for a foreign pilot who already has an EASA license or ICAO CPL but wants to obtain an FAA ATP?
In general, the following are the experience requirements needed for foreign pilots to obtain at FAA ATP: a minimum of 1,500 hours total time as a pilot that includes at least 500 hours of cross-country flight time, 100 hours of night flight time, 75 hours of instrument time and 50 hours of flight time in the class of airplane for the rating sought.
“For example, if you apply for ATP multi engine, you have to have 50 hours in a multi-engine aircraft” Borisevich said.
“But the biggest challenge, especially for first officers, is the requirement to have at least 250 hours of pilot-in-command flight time or Pilot-in-Command Under Supervision (PICUS). Based on our experience, we have observed that a majority of ICAO first officers do not meet this requirement. However, we have another solution for them.”
The ATP.Academy website provides the full aeronautical experience requirements for an FAA ATP license, including the required flying hours and whether it is cross-country or night flight, among other details.
Borisevich clarified that those eligible for an FAA ATP license in the United States can be a commercial pilot or hold an ATP (Airline Transport Pilot) certificate.
“This is important to note because some pilots from Europe or other countries do not have an ATP certificate, but they have a CPL (Commercial Pilot License),” he said. “If they have a CPL and all the required hours mentioned above, then they qualify to obtain an FAA ATP license directly.”
Eligibility requirements for obtaining an FAA ATP license directly without intermediate licenses, such as age, language, and instrument rating requirement, can be reviewed on the ATP.Academy” website.
What are the steps to get an FAA ATPL certificate?
ATP.Academy lists the following steps to obtaining an FAA ATPL certificate on its website.
2. Apply for an M1 US Visa. ATP.Academy offers US Visa assistance for foreign students.
3. Request a letter of verification. The verification can take up to 90 days so it’s important not to leave this step to the last minute
4. Obtain TSA (Transportation Security Admission) permission and fingerprints – once you receive your US Visa, immediately apply for a TSA approval.
5. Complete the ATP-CTP program. It is a mandatory prerequisite in order to take the ATP written exam. It includes 30 hours of ground school and 10 hours of simulation training.
6. Pass the ATP ME written test – the written test includes 125 questions and students are given four hours to pass it. The minimum score is 70%.
7. Take your exam (checkride) in a real plane or simulator with an examiner.
When pilots finish the ATP-CTP program they will receive a certificate that is valid for a lifetime.
“You only need to complete this course once,” Borisevich said. “With this certificate, you are then able to take the written test. That test is valid for five years. Then you can take a checkride on a multi-engine aircraft.
“In our academy we use Beechcraft Duchess (BE76). Seven to 10 hours of training is usually enough, if you are proficient in flying light twin piston aircraft, and you can do the checkride with an examiner.
He continued: “When you pass this checkride, you will have your FAA ATPL license in your pocket on the same day.”
A more detailed step-by-step guide is available on the ATP.Academy website, and this procedure is also discussed in depth on Borisevich’s YouTube channel:
NB: if you want to apply for FAA ATP Single Engine (only), you don’t need to take all of those steps – there is a different procedure that ATP.Academy can provide on request.
How much should you prepare for in order to get an FAA ATPL?
Personal situations like age, experience, a pause in career, and personal abilities, are some of the factors that can lead to varying costs for each person.
Here are approximate estimates of how much a standard student in standard conditions could spend in the process of gaining an FAA ATP license from ATP.Academy.
- ATP-CTP course – $3,999
- Written test ATP ME – $175
- 10 hours of ME training on BE76 – $4,400
- checkride and aircraft rental + $2,000
ATP with Type-rating A320 (initial): $3,999 (ATP-CTP) + $175 Written test ATP ME + $15,000 (A320 Initial + checkride) = $19,174
ATP with Type-rating A320 (reduced, if you have A320 in ICAO license): $3,999 (ATP-CTP) + $175 Written test ATP ME + $8,500 (A320 Reduced + checkride) = $12,674
Pilots who require an M-1 US visa will also need to factor in an additional $500 processing fee for I-20 form issuance.
The ATP.Academy offers housing provision for stay-in students, and discount partnerships with accommodation providers.
“It’s not huge but it costs about three times cheaper than a hotel,” Borisevich said. “The rate is approximately $350.00 a week. We also have partnerships with Extended Stay America and Holiday Inn that enable our students to have a discounted rate of 10-15%.”
After getting an FAA ATPL, what is the next step?
According to Borisevich the next steps after FAA ATPL are based on individual goals.
He added that students can be classified into three categories.
The first consists of those who are already employed and required by their respective companies to gain an FAA ATP license.
The second is usually pilots from the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, who plan to get an FAA ATP license to open up more options in their careers.
“For example, a pilot from Brazil or South Africa converts their license to an FAA ATP,” Borisevich explained. “They can start sending resumes to airlines around the world, saying they have a Brazilian or South African license and an FAA ATP license too.
“It gives them much more advantage to be hired because having an FAA ATP license is an edge they have against other candidates.
“We have a lot of pilots who finished our FAA ATP conversion course who were invited by Emirates for an interview. Some pass the interview, some fail. But the important thing is they get invited to an interview, which is the first big step.”
The third category of students are pilots who have already immigrated to the United States or who are planning to.
Borisevich said that he is frequently asked if an FAA ATP license allows one to immigrate to the United States.
“And the answer is no,” he revealed. “The license itself will not help in the immigration process. What it can do is help you find an employer who may probably help you. I don’t want to say it is easy. It’s really difficult to find a sponsor, but it is possible.”
Borisevich noted that in April 2022 the United States government began to allow pilots with vast experience to immigrate to the United States with an EB-2 national interest waiver visa. This, he said, is a huge improvement in the immigration process for pilots.
“I know dozens of cases like this approved since April 2022,” he said. “I personally know a pilot who was granted his green card and who is already flying in the United States. And again, you cannot be employed in the US without an FAA ATP license.
“So you can apply to immigrate first, then apply for an FAA ATP license conversion with us, or vice versa. This will really improve your immigration case and chances of getting a green card.”
What are the advantages of getting an ATP-CTP course from ATP.Academy?
Borisevich cited his academy’s competitive rates as the first advantage.
“We have a summer special for our ATP-CTP course: $3,799.00. It is probably the lowest available because our competitors usually charge $4,500-$4,600. I heard that some even charge as high as $5,000-$5,500, so our rate of $3,799.00 is probably one of the lowest prices available in the market right now.”
He also revealed that ATP.Academy courses are usually sold out a month ahead due to the low rates and advised prospective students to book classes at least one to two months in advance.
A second advantage is that students who enroll in the ATP-CTP course at APT.Academy can finish earlier, with Borisevich stating that his academy has compressed the ATP-CTP course into five days instead of the usual eight or nine.
The ATP-CTP course is the first step pilots need to take before advancing to the practical type rating, checkride and multi-engine stage.
“With us, it is possible to start the course on Monday and finish it on Friday,” Borisevich said. “And the following Monday you can take your written test on a computer.”
He added: “During the day, we have ground school, and at night we have simulator sessions. This can be challenging for some students, but they definitely appreciate it, and it is perfect for foreign pilots who are on a tight and short schedule.”
Another advantage of ATP.Academy, which Borisevich stressed is the most important, is that it can provide pilots with a student visa.
“Not all providers in the United States can help you with this. For European citizen pilots, this is not a problem because they can enter the United States with an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization), but for some, like for example, South American pilots, they need to have a visa to enter the United States. So this is something we can assist with.”
Borisevich said that ATP.Academy also provides more dedicated and personal customer support compared to bigger companies.
“Our academy has really good customer support, from helping with visas and accommodation, to providing recommendations for good food and car rental.”
The academy’s instructors are also extremely experienced.
“I am the chief instructor for the ATP-CTP program, and all of our instructors have about 30-40 years’ experience flying with different airlines,” Borisevich added.
Borisevich also said that networking is another ATP.Academy advantage.
“Our students and pilots come from varied backgrounds and regions. Connections are formed, experiences are shared. Some even find jobs and discover which companies are hiring just from casual conversations.”
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is getting more popular and becoming more commonplace in aviation. How does ATP.Academy use AI in its courses and training?
While the academy is in the beginning stages of using AI it has started the implementation.
“Most of the demonstration educational videos we use in our classes that I’m working on right now are created by AI,” Borisevich revealed. “We implement AI in creating qualification material, and I guess we will also implement AI in flight simulation for different situations, such as ATC communications.
“I have prototypes and videos, and it’s looking really good. I’m also personally working on a new startup to implement AI in different stages like airport operations and airline environments. There’s really a huge opportunity to implement AI in the aviation industry.”
What are common mistakes and misconceptions pilots have about gaining an FAA ATPL?
Having the right attitude is a good start to gaining an FAA ATPL.
“I’ve seen pilots come in with the wrong attitude, thinking that because they are already experienced, they don’t need to be taught, or that they can pass the check ride on the first day,” Borisevich said.
He stressed that it is crucial for pilots to understand that getting an FAA ATP license requires different rules than those they are used to, especially because they have to abide by standards and regulations of a different country.
“One other thing I would advise is to never underestimate the importance of the English language when you work in aviation,” Borisevich added. “Pilots who lack basic English may find it hard to pass the checkride.”
Borisevich shared that a common misconception held by those applying for an ATP-CTP is that ATP.Academy will help them pass the written test.
“We teach an FAA-approved program,” he said. “Passing the written test is the student’s responsibility, not ours.”
ATP.Academy lessons and topics are FAA-required, and are all published on the website.
- Day one is about high-altitude operations, aerodynamics and different stall upset recovery.
- Day two is about methodological methodological questions, and air carrier operations.
- Day three is about air carrier operations and low visibility, automation and navigation.
- And day four is about CRM (Crew Resource Management) and safety programs.
The academy cannot skip or add any topics, as per FAA regulations, and none of the above topics will teach students how to pass the test, Borisevich explained.
What should Australian and Canadian pilots know about getting FAA ATP Certification in the US?
The United States currently has great opportunities for pilots from Canada and Australia.
For Canadian pilots, the FAA and Transport Canada have a bilateral agreement allowing Canada and the United States to recognize pilot licenses from both countries.
“Because of this, Canadian pilots only need to undergo ATP-CTP course and pass the written test, they do not need to do the checkride,” Borisevich noted, adding: “I’m surprised that many Canadian pilots do not know about this opportunity.”
The ATP.Academy has a dedicated page explaining in detail how Canadian pilots can convert from TCCA (Transport Canada Civil Aviation) to FAA ATP.
For Australian pilots, the United States is currently offering the E-3 Specialty Occupation Workers from Australia, which allows them to legally work in the country.
“There’s an incredible number of Australian pilots moving to the United States to work for US airlines due to this visa,” Borisevich said.
Further details about the FAA ATP Certification Program for Australian pilots in Florida can be found on the ATP.Academy website.
Any advice for pilots currently deciding whether to make the leap and gain an FAA ATPL?
Borisevich advised pilots to be ready for hard work if they plan to obtain an FAA ATPL.
“Spending your whole day in a class and your evenings doing simulator training is not easy,” he said. “But the advantage is you can shorten the course and go home with an FAA ATP license in your pocket sooner.”
While he may have advised pilots to ready themselves for hard work, Borisevich added that they should also have fun.
“I can tell you from my experience the ATP-CTP course is a lot of fun. There’s no exam, you just need to pass the course. You sit in a class, listen to the lecture, watch the videos. You communicate with pilots from different countries, you create a lot of connections, share stories and useful information about flying in different regions.”
Part of the fun is learning how to fly a new aircraft in the evenings. “We usually use an Airbus A320 for our simulator training, and we have a lot of students who have never flown an Airbus before,” Borisevich said. “It’s like seeing big boys excited over a new toy, and we have a lot of positive feedback from the students.”
As the interview drew to a close, Borisevich reiterated the importance of hard work. “Hard work is really important. As far as I know, most pilots who achieve the FAA ATP level are usually hard workers.”
Check out ATP.Academy’s schedule and benefit from their Early Bird discounted prices.