I’ve recently completed the TSA alien student process which is required to start a private pilot’s licence training. This article explains how the process works for someone already living in the US. You have permission from the TSA to have a introductory flight lesson with some instructors before you need to sign up for this program. I hope to be able to clarify how the process works and what to expect. This is for information purposes only. I make no claims on its accuracy.
After you’ve selected your instructor or a flight school, ask him/her if they joined TSA’s alien flight school program. If not, they will have to do it. It took TSA one day to add my flight instructor to the system.
After that you need to:
- Create your account with the TSA at https://www.flightschoolcandidates.gov/.
- Fill in your details such as passport information, VISA information and make sure you attach scanned images of both the passport and the VISA. This will make the process go faster. If you don’t have a scanner, try CamScanner for the iPhone. I used it and they accepted it.
- Find your instructor/flight school on the list. The Course ID# is usually PPASEL if you’re enrolling in a private pilot licence course for land (not sea) airplanes. You have to write down the plane make/model. I don’t think the TSA will care if you switch from a Cessna 172N to a 172SP or a Piper Warrior during your training, but switching planes during training is not a good idea anyway.
- Submit the request. The button may be hard to find, but after you click on “Save Record”, click “Home” and then you’ll find a submit button on the table where your CFI is listed.
- Wait for the TSA to look at it. It may take a few days. In my case it took 1 day. You’ll get an email asking you to pay the application, which is $130 at the time of writing. Go back to the website and click on the button to submit payment.
- After you’ve paid, the TSA will send you an email with instructions. The email I received had bogus instructions and I discovered that after I’ve called a local flight school.
- Go to https://www.natacs.aero/afsp/find_location.asp and find a location nearby (this can be quite hard).
- Click on the link on the right (city name) and click “AFSP Enrollment”.
- Fill in the form with the exact data you gave the TSA. Any mistake will cost you. “AFSP Training Request #” can be found on the last email you received from the TSA under “Training Request ID#”. At the time of writing, the cost for handling the fingerprints is $99.
- Call the collection center and schedule an appointment to take fingerprints.
- Bring the passport, VISA, TSA email and AFSP form with you to the appointment. If everything looks good, they will mail the fingerprints to the appropriate place.
- Wait for an email from the TSA saying you can start training.
- When you get an approval, call/email your CFI and tell him you’re ready to fly! You’ll need to give him/her copies of your passport and VISA and you’ll need to take some pictures.
Flight clubs are not eligible to join the program. The only person who can join the program as an instruction provider is a flight instructor or a flight school (part 141, I think).
I’ve been told that the TSA will visit flight schools and ask questions about this. I believe the FAA will never verify if you’ve joined the TSA alien flight student program. It’s hard to understand what this process accomplishes, though. One tends to believe that it’s another security theater. IMHO this money could be better spent on a 1.5h flight lesson.
If you wish to pursue an IR or multi-engine rating, you will have to go through this process and expenditure again, unless you become an US citizen in the mean time.