After getting my private pilot license in Guatemala I validated the license in the United States and got a FAA private pilot license. The process is just paperwork, although it does require a visit to a Flight Standards District Office (FSDO). Find more details about validating your license here.
The natural next step after your private pilot rating is to get your instrument rating. You could get your instrument rating and then validate your license again or get the FAA instrument rating. I decided to get the United States FAA instrument rating instead. This article is not about the instrument rating in general, but more focused on the process when adding an instrument rating on a FAA private pilot license based on a Guatemala private pilot license. For the instrument rating you will have to complete a certified ground school program (now many exist online), pass the written exam (http://www.catstest.com/), log the required hours and pass the instrument rating check ride. This page describes the administrative tasks to be allowed to actually do so.
Getting a FAA instrument rating based for a US private pilot certificate based on a foreign license
- TSA clearance
- FAA medical certificate
- License Validation Letter
Find more details below.
1. TSA clearance
After 9/11 the requirements for foreign students to receive flight training in the US or under US regulations have changed. If you are not a US resident you most likely have to complete this process. Even if you receive training outside the US, but under US regulations, you still require to get the clearance. Browse the Alien Flight Student Program website for this process and start by creating an account on the website. You need to have clearance before starting flight training. You can do ground school before though.
Next you will have to start a new training request. Note there is a cost ($130.00) associated to the training request. After your information has been validated, you will be required to provide fingerprints. The fingerprints can only be handled by authorized agencies. Here is a list of locations. The US embassy in Guatemala told me that they could not help me and the contact that was provided as local to Guatemala turned out to be a US-based person that was willing to visit Guatemala to take the prints there. Before paying the flight to someone else, I decided to go myself. Found a certified fingerprint collector in Miami and got my fingerprints taken there. The process costs $99.00. Just before leaving Guatemala, with my flight ticket booked already I was informed about an additional $60.00 cash only fee. I would recommend to ask the question before making any arrangements. After the fingerprints have been taken, expect 7 days for the TSA to receive them. It took just over 10 days from taking the fingerprints until I got notification that I could start my training.
After you are cleared, there are multiple steps involved. You chose the school/instructor that you are flying with. The school/instructor will have to be subscribed to the website. They have to run through a little training to do so. Then you request the training with them and they have to accept it. You will get notification about your training request.
2. FAA medical certificate
Before you book another trip to the US, check the FAA website to locate an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). There is a good chance of finding an AME in your country or city. In Guatemala there are 2 AMEs: MODESTO GARAY-MOYA MD – located at the DGAC offices and LILIAN I. RODAS MD – Zone 13.
3. License Validation Letter
This one is important. I actually didn’t thing of validating my license again. I thought it was validated. Now I realize that the validation has an expiry date. Not sure what the normal expiry is. Mine was sent out the 1st of June and expires the 31st of December of the same year or when the foreign license expires.
Check the process for verifying your license here.
– Request License Verification Letter via Email to firstname.lastname@example.org
– Attach the following documents:
–> Filled out form “Verification of Authenticity of Foreign License, Rating, and Medical Certificate”
–> Copy of Guatemalan license
–> Copy of Guatemalan medical certificate
– You will get a letter of verification in response
IACRA basically replaces the form that you had to fill out in the past for your check ride. This is now an electronic form but basically contains the same information.
After your successful check ride, the examiner will provide you with a temporary certificate with a 120 day validity. You should receive your plastic certificate before the end of the 120 days. Make sure to explain to your examiner your situation. This is not very common and your examiner might have to read up on the rules.
Even though I passed the full-fledged FAA instrument requirements, including ground training, written exam and check ride, the certificate with the instrument rating still states that it is only valid based on the Guatemalan private pilot license. Instrument rating is not a stand-alone license but only a rating on top of an existing license. For that same reason it doesn’t remove the dependency that exist on the license. The commercial license is a different story. So maybe in the future…. to be continued…
I went through almost exactly the same process, but I had a Czech license. Now I also have US private with instrument rating “US test passed”, and applying for commercial.
Verification Letter is required again! Regardless that I already have a US foreign-based private! But a commercial one should be standard. At least I hope so.
I was working on the commercial too. There is another layer of complexity with the visa questions. Since commercial pilot is a vocational training, you might have to apply for a student visa. Cant do training with ESTA. Please share your experience, will do the same once done. Good luck!