After the tragic events of 9/11, the US government decided that any non-US Citizen (i.e. an alien) would require TSA clearance to start flight school in the USA. The TSA clearance adds a bunch of expensive hoops for all non-US Citizens (like me) who want to learn flying in the USA.

Here’s what you need to do to qualify:

  • First start a candidate application at https://www.flightschoolcandidates.gov/ 
  • Upload scanned copies of your passport (required), US driver’s licence (required) and green card or visa (as applicable to your immigration status).
  • Finalise the flight school that you’re going to attend.
  • Start a new training request with the name of the flight school that you’re going to attend. This results in the web site sending an email to the flight school.
  • Once the flight school approves, the TSA checks the uploaded documentation and, if it is acceptable to them, sends you a request to pay the processing fee (which is currently $130).
  • Once the fee is paid (it can only be paid online) the TSA will send you fingerprinting instructions.
  • On receipt of the fingerprinting instructions, work with an authorised fingerprinting provider in your area to get the fingerprints and have them send it to the TSA. The fingerprints typically cost about $99.
  • On approval of the fingerprints, the TSA will send out an email to your flight school approving your candidature and allowing you to start your flight training. It is illegal for the flight school to commence your flight training until the TSA approval is received by them.

So, here’s the kicker… the fingerprints normally take any where between 10 days to 30 days to get approved. I got my fingerprinting done on Tuesday, September 28th. Now, I have to wait until my approval comes through. Hopefully, it’s some time this week so I can actually get started this coming weekend on my training.

As one of my colleagues put it, this is like a child waiting for Christmas to open all those delectable gifts that are under the Christmas tree!