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Foreign license conversion

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Hi all,


I'm newly arrived in the States and need to get my Australian CPL converted into an FAA license. Anyone out there been down a similar road?


In particular, is there a flight school you'd recommend? Currently tossing up between Midwest Helicopter (a local outfit) and taking time out to go with a big company like Bristow.




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A foreign licence verification is not the same as a licence conversion. You need to get your CASA licence verified, then you can convert it.


To be able to convert, you will have to meet all experience and training requirements for the FAA CPL, get a FAA medical, and pass the written- and flight test.

The medical is a lot quicker and cheaper to get than the Australian one. The FAA written is also really easy compared to the CASA exams, though you will need to know your stuff anyways for the oral portion of the flight test. The flight test should be very similar to a CASA CPL(H) flight test.


If you are a VFR pilot, you will most likely not have the required night- and IFR hours for the FAA CPL, so you might need to do a few hours in the states to get those requirements. The IFR hours do not necessarily have to be done in a helicopter.


If you are not a US citizen, you will need TSA security clearance before you can do any flight training in the US.

Edited by lelebebbel
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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks for the info guys. Yes, I think I need about 10 hours of little bits and pieces to meet the FAA requirements. I'm already part way down the path with TSA, but cannot go further without specifying which school I will train with, so I'd be keen for any recommendations on schools that are familiar with foreign license conversions and/or tailored training for special needs types like myself.




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  • 4 months later...

G’day all,


Thanks again for the tips and advice; I successfully passed my commercial check ride a few weeks ago. Thanks go out to Charlie, Tom and Doug at Midwest Helicopter. I thought it might be helpful to summarise the process for the benefit of any who might follow:


Step one: read lots.


Review the CFR 14, Part 61, especially section 51 (Logbooks – Time is logged a little differently over here, particularly the fact that you can receive instruction and log command time concurrently), 75 (Private pilot certificate issued on the basis of a foreign pilot license) and 121 through 133 (Commercial pilots - particularly the aeronautical experience required).

Read through the Alien Flight Student Program (AFSP) site: www.flightschoolcandidates.gov. The AFSP gets you approval to undertake flight training after a background check.


Step two: Foreign License Verification


If you do have a CASA (or any other ICAO nation) private license or higher, the FAA will issue you a private pilot certificate without any further flight training. The private certificate is an eligibility requirement for commercial (unlike Australia), and enables you to log command time while receiving instruction, which then enables you to tick two commercial experience boxes at the same time. Also, my reading of the AFSP site is that a TSA approval is only required if you are training for your initial airman certificate. Since getting your private this way requires no training and results in you receiving an initial FAA certificate, you shouldn’t need TSA approval for subsequent training and can save $130. However, I did not press to test on this and just got TSA approval anyway.


The 61.75 application process is covered at this link:


Note that Aussies will also need to submit form 452 to CASA Licensing and Registration so they can perform the arduous task of printing out your records and writing a verification letter to the FAA (for which they charge you $50, bless their cotton socks).


Step three: Commence your AFSP Flight Training Request (Unless you want to try the loophole above)


The major hassle here is finding a school that is part of the AFSP program. It is an administrative hassle for a school to participate, so many smaller ones don’t bother. The list of participating schools is a drop down box within the online application, so you need to start the application process to see the list. Note that the names listed are the legal business names, which may differ from the name they publicly trade as. Some schools also advertise their ability to participate in AFSP on their websites, and the larger ones make a particular point of assisting you through the process.


Once you have chosen a school, both you and the school will have to hold hands through the process as you do your bit, they do theirs (including take a photo of you, at which point you may need to be physically at the school; everything up to this point you can conceivably do before arriving in country), you get fingerprinted (a new and interesting experience for me), and if all goes well the TSA waves its wand over you and you can commence training. Flash to bang took roughly a month once initial teething problems with the school’s status were sorted out.


Step four: Complete the commercial theory exam.


You can do your own study for this if you’re confident, or your school should be able to provide tailored ground training if you want it. Either way, you still need a sign off from an instructor that you are ready for the exam. Get the ASA exam prep book; it has 90% or more of the questions you’ll get in the actual exam almost verbatim. Key areas to focus on are the instrument flying theory, and the US regulations. Note that the airspace is a little different over here, and therefore the maps are different too. It is one exam for everything and it is not open book, but overall it is a lot less painful than the CASA series of seven.


Step five: Flight training for Commercial.


Refer to CFR 14, Part 61.129. The hours you need to do will vary depending on what you have already, but all of your foreign hours count. For most Aussies the instrument and night flying will be where you need to fill the gaps. Remember that the instrument and the night flying in command can be done concurrently if you have the FAA private license. The manoeuvres taught here are largely the same, although there’s a little more emphasis on 180 degree autos and vortex ring state recovery. [Note: with reference to lelebebbel's post below, the CFR has been amended recently and now specifically requires that the instrument aeronautical experience be in a helicopter or simulator. Plank time doesn't count].


Step six: Commercial flight test.


From what I saw and have been told, like Australia, these can vary from testing officer to testing officer but the theme is the same: General quizzing beforehand, plan a nav, do part of it, then go through the various general flying.


Last point: Aviation medical.


Your CASA (or any ICAO) medical is valid in the US, as stated in 61.75, but there is a gray area on whether you need an FAA medical to exercise the privileges of a commercial certificate. It's only $70-80, so you may as well just get one rather than push the point.



Well that turned out to be a long post, but hopefully somebody finds it useful. Now it's on to CFI training.




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