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U.K citizen training in U.S/Canada...

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As a U.K national, I hope to begin my training on a professional pilot program at the back end of next year, (Probably at Vortex MI or perhaps Volar FL). As a result, I will end up with a FAA (i.e US) CPL licence - which is totally fine so long as I remain in the U.S.


My question is, what happens when my visa runs out and I have to return to the U.K?

Is my only option to get a conversion to CAA(UK) licence in the U.K (very expensive and time consuming)?


What are the "real" compatibilities of the two licences - I have read that some U.K/Eurpoean operators are fine with just giving FAA(US) approved pilots a check ride before offering employment – is there any truth to this?


I understand that HAI Florida does an FAA(US)/CAA(UK) combined scheme but when factoring in living costs it is ever so slightly out of my budget range. So I will almost certainly be looking at a FAA only licence, with all associated Instrument and Instructor ratings to boot.


Here is some more information on my situation to better assist you in your answers, should you wish to help me out:


• I am a U.K citizen. 23yrs of age.

• I will be training in either U.S or Canada.

• I have absolutely no problems travelling anywhere in the world to work or train.

• I would love to stay in U.S/Canada indefinitely but am having difficulty finding information on job specifics when it comes to U.S companies employing U.K pilots - I mean, do they offer any help with naturalization?


Am I going to be doomed to leave the U.S every 2 years or so to renew my visa because of my U.K citizenship? More to the point, am I doomed to only work and reside in the U.K?! (The weather sucks in case you haven't noticed)


Surely there must be someone from the U.K/Europe who has contemplated these questions and found some answers?


Any help given would be greatly appreciated. I look forward to hearing all of your opinions on this subject.


PS: I apologise if I have inadvertently gone over old ground - I assure you I did a full search of the forum before posting. If there is information I have missed in a thread I would appreciate it if your could post a link.

Edited by MrGlass
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Its too late (time for bed) for me to help you out much, but here is a little hint.


Where you have used JAA in your message, you actually mean FAA!


JAA stands for Joint Aviation Authority, which is the 'European'-wide aviation authority. The CAA is the UKs Civil Aviation Authority, who issue licences under the JAA umberella.


The FAA is the Federal Aviation Authority, and as we all know the American's are the only ones in the world who use the word 'Federal' so that must be American.


You can go ahead and click on 'Edit' next to your post and make those changes to your message....


I'm sure there are lots out there who have good advice, if not I'll post a reply to your questions later!



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I also live in the uk and will start my training next march although i have 70 hours already . I am limited to a j1 accredited school and have not made my final (school ) decision yet . Once you start training you have 2 years before you have to leave the usa . I would think in that time you would have logged a sufficent amount of hours which would give you alot more options . This is the route i will be taking .

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Im pretty sure that the 2 year visa is a one time deal, so use it wisely. I know of people that came over on some other kind of visa to get their private, then went home and got the J1 for another 2 full years. That way you will get a bit more time out here.


As a UK citizen, US green card holder, I can tell you that there are many hoops to jump through if you wish to stay out here permanently. You mention the british weather being bad, that's a good thing! We rarely fly over 2-3000 feet above the surface in the training world, so we are not as handicapped by the weather as our fixed wing bretheren. PM me if you need more info

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Ok, so the crafty thing to do is get your private pilot licence whilst on an extended "holiday" to the U.S so that you don't use up any time of your precious J1 visa.


Next return the the U.S on the J1 2yr visa to complete outstanding CPL and Instrument/Instructor ratings.


Once trained up, I should have approx 1+yr still left on my visa with which to find an instrutor job (or any other job for that matter) with which to build hours and earn money which could then be used to get a CAA conversion IF required.



Question for: "dangerouslyclosetoavolcano":


How did you get your green card status? From my research it seems nigh on impossible even though I have a BA (Hons) + loads of A-Levels + Loads of GCSEs + Loads of other useful qualifications. U.K citizens aren't even allowed to enter the greencard lottery any more!!!!


I understand that applying for green card status requires a lot of work on both the applicant and employers side. Can you tell me more of how you came to be an escapee of the U.K?



Finally, does anybody else have knowledge in this field? Surely there must be other Europeans who have piondered this question?


Any help is greatly appreciated!

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As for the green card lottery forget it even if you could apply . I have been doing the green card lottery for the last 11 years and no luck . Also i should point out that there is a capped hours limit on getting the j1 visas . You must have less than 110 hours total time i think to apply for the j1 visas .

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Whirlydude, you are correct. U.K citizens are now exempt (WHY!??!) from the U.S Green Card Lottery and even if they weren’t it would be ridiculous to consider this anything more than what is really is: a lottery. Nice if it happens, but I’m not counting on it.


I have delved into the U.S immigration service’s website to find the following visa explanations:


“What is an H1B visa?

The H1B visa program is the primary method for bringing in professional level foreign employees to the USA. The H1B visa enables US employers to hire foreign professionals for a specified period of time. The H1B program allows workers in specialty occupations to work in the US for up to a total of six (6) years. One of the things that makes this visa so desirable is that, unlike many other non-immigrant visa categories, it is a "dual intent" visa. This means that a visa will not be denied simply because a person has intentions to become a permanent resident. The assumption is that if for some reason the permanent residency petition is denied, the person would still have the intention to return home.

Aside from documenting that the position offered is in a specialty occupation and that the employee has the appropriate credentials for the job, the employer needs to verify that the H1B visa worker is being paid the prevailing wage for the work being performed and that employment of a foreign worker is not harming conditions for US workers.

H1B Visa Qualifying occupation categories are jobs in the fields of computer science, health care, university teaching, engineering, law, accounting, financial analysis, management consulting, architecture and scientific research positions.”


Excellent if a U.K citizen can find a U.S company willing to petition for one of these visas. Do you people think “Helicopter Pilot” would fall under the category “Engineering” – it could…couldn’t it? Does anyone have any experience of this visa type?


The other more common visa is the J1: (taken from HAI website):


“Participants in the Exchange Visitor Program are allowed to gain practical experience as flight instructors in the United States upon completion of their training, for a total period of 24 months. This is critically important to career-oriented overseas students.

When you return to your home country you will find that it is much easier to convert your pilot certificates if you have been able to accumulate significant flight experience. Ideally you should strive to obtain an ATP rating, (minimum 1200 hours) before attempting to convert. Many countries are protective of their own flight training industry and therefore make it difficult to obtain a local certificate solely on the basis of overseas training. Having extra experience is the best way to overcome that obstacle.

It is illegal for a foreign national to attend a full-time course of training in the United States on a tourist visa. A full-time student at a flight school must be on a M-1 Student Visa (sometimes called a I-20 visa because this is the number of the application form), or on a J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa. HAI is approved to bring students to the United States on either of these visas. The most important difference between the two programs is that on the M-1 visa the student is allowed only a very short period of practical training (one week for every month of training) and therefore it is far less desirable compared to the J-1 for career oriented students. “



So, hypothetically, couldn’t somebody (i.e. – me), come to the U.S on a J1 visa and get trained up to CPL level inside, say, a year – then spend the other remaining year of the J1 working in the U.S. THEN, before the J1 finishes, find a company that would sponsor them to work in the U.S under the M1 visa for up to 6 years – in which time you can attempt to become naturalized to the U.S through sponsorship of your employer.


Sound viable?

Feel free to rip my theory to pieces, constructive criticism is the only way to waterproof this crackpot plan of mine!!


Thanks for your help and opinions.

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Mr. Glass,


OK, here are a few answers to some of the points raised. Most of it will sound pretty disheartening, I’m afraid.


M1 Visa – As mentioned, some people do their PPL on the M1, thus leaving more time to work on the J1 visa. It’s a viable option, but really, the months you save on the J1 are not that critical. Let’s say it takes you 3 months on your M1 visa to get your licence. Then 3 months of working on the J1 will get you about 100-150 more hours. Add the costs of an extra airfare over etc..etc...I figured it wasn’t worth it.


J1 Visa – You must attend an accredited school, and your work experience must be at a place approved by that school. The time you spend on a J1 visa may not be accredited to any naturalization process. i.e. it doesn’t mean that after the J1 you only have 5 more years before you’re American!!!



Green Card (Lottery) – Yes, Brits are not eligible for this…this is reportedly down to the fact that there were too many Brits who won (gained green cards) before…so they try to diversify their demographics by disallowing them now.


As said, even if you do have the green card, the road is long and hard, before all the paper work is complete. You need to have an interim plan.


H1B Visa – This is a employer sponsored visa. It requires the employer to declare that ‘there is no suitable local’ for the job. This requires proof of a) labour shortage, B) advertising. It also carries quite a hefty payment too. Unfortunately, this is a very difficult route to go. First you need to convince a company that they need you and that you are worth paying all that money for and going through all the government paperwork for. Not likely. Not to mention the fact that there isn’t a shortage of US CFIs out there!


Even when you have finished your CFI stuff (J1 visa) you still aren’t very inviting. Through luck you might be able to find a company to sponsor your H1B, but it is unlikely.


So what are your options?!


Well, you come over to the US. Train on your J1…get a job instructing too. Work like mad to get your hours in. At the same time, you need to have your ear to the ground for jobs, watch the job adverts for jobs out of the US and UK and have your CV ready to go, the day your visa finishes. In the meantime, budget and save to do the JAA exams back in the UK, just in case you don’t get a job after your J1.


The bottom line is that after the J1, with only FAA (and practicably speaking even with JAA CPL), you are still going to find it difficult to get a job back in UK. You need luck to stay in US. Don’t count on it.


My best advice, is to accept that it will be a hard road... Most people make the mistake by believing that they’ll be flying SAR missions ‘in a couple of years!’ I doubt it….


Allocate the next 5-6 years of your life to living like a monk, moving from place to place, not having a social life, crappy holidays, crappy pay, being bottom of the pile, and your experience being essentially worthless etc….That way you won’t be disappointed.


Also, plan, plan, plan. What I mean is have Plan B and Plan C, as well as Plan A. Too many people get to the end of their J1 and find that they don’t have money to move, don’t know what the job market is like, haven’t a clue which schools do correspondence JAA courses, or don’t know where to find information for this or that….well that’s too late. Time flies in this industry (‘scuse the pun). Be prepared early.



Food for thought!




I am not trying to put people off at all. Just help people to know the full picture. Good luck.

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Hi Joker, thanks for the post. The downbeat message content is welcome as sugar-coating things helps nobody.


You posted:


"Allocate the next 5-6 years of your life to living like a monk, moving from place to place, not having a social life, crappy holidays, crappy pay, being bottom of the pile, and your experience being essentially worthless etc….That way you won’t be disappointed."


I'm ok with all the 'living like a scum' part. I have no illusions of flying corporate helios any time soon. But how do I work for the next 5-6 years in the U.S? Or did you mean 5-6 years including going back to the U.K and trying to convert. Am I going to be in the U.S for 2 years and then never able to return to work there if i don't become naturalized in time? HOW DO I GET IN AND STAY IN!


I have a budget of $53,000USD with which to go from zero to employable. Is this laughable or realisitic given the expense of living etc etc.


You also posted:


"At the same time, you need to have your ear to the ground for jobs, watch the job adverts for jobs out of the US and UK and have your CV ready to go, the day your visa finishes. In the meantime, budget and save to do the JAA exams back in the UK, just in case you don’t get a job after your J1."


Again, i'm good for all of this, I have NO ties and am more than willing to travel wherever the work takes me (Why else would I want to do this! alternative....desk job....no thanks). Which countries DO accept the FAA licences or is it a case of every country requires a conversion?


So, so far, the suggested plan of action is thus:


[*] Take my $53,000 and get over to U.S on a J1 visa (2yr).

[*] Get trained - PPL, CPL, CFI, IR, IFI, External load, Mountain flying, + Type Ratings

[*] Spend as much time remaining on J1 working as an instructor & building hours any way possible.

[*] Look out for jobs anywhere in the world and take any opportunity that presents itself.

[*] Be prepared to convert FAA to Euro CAA and carry on looking for jobs to keep career going.


Sound good? Edit the list if you have ammendments or any comments.


Again thanks for the info, keep the answers coming!

Edited by MrGlass
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Mr. Glass,


Pretty much the plan you have stated in your last post is as good as any.


Flight Time: 187.3 hrs

Tutored Instruction: 53.2 hrs

Briefing Time: 18.6 hrs

Ground School 120 hrs

Simulator Time: 10 hrs

Total Flight $41415.8797

Total Pilot Supplies: $2384.1200003

Administration: $150 USD

Total Charges: $43949.9997


To help you and others, here is an extract from my expense record, accurate to the cent (as you can see)! This was ab-initio to CFII.


Remember though, this is purely based on the receipts from the school. It doesn't include accommodation, beer, transport, beer, etc...(and beer). Nor does it break down ppl, instrument, cpl etc..etc..


As for the mountain and the sling load, well, that's debatable. If you have cash to spare then OK, otherwise I would say, concentrate on having backup funds for the end of your J1 rather than spend on those courses.


The more of a buffer you have towards the end of you J1 the better. You'll feel a whole load more relaxed, and this will show in your flying. It's amazing how personal stressors (finance, family etc..) show through in a student's flying.


Staying in the US after a J1 is very difficult. So yes, you might be faced with filling 8-10 months, back in the UK whilst studying for JAA and looking around.


It's impossible to say, because I know some people who were lucky enough to work something out. All I'm saying is don't rule anything out.


As for which countries accept FAA / JAA etc... it's like this:


Most countries worth their salt are members of ICAO. ICAO stipulates basic standards for licenses, to enable a country to know what they are getting when a foreigner wants to fly there. Therefore for Private level certifications, the crossover is pretty simple. Usually just a validation from your home-country.


However, as you get to the professional licenses CPL / ATPL, each ICAO state is allowed to set their own parameters as well as the ICAO standards. Usually, this will include Air Law (relevant to their own country). Human performance seems to be trendy as well.


So yes, there is usually a conversion required, where ever you fly. Most of the time this includes a few exams and maybe a flight test. The JAA however (spearheaded by the British I suspect) have very strict conversion standards, almost amounting to the entire course! The reasons for this are not clear, but it’s the same for everyone...Ozzies, Canuks, Americans...they all have to do many exams to convert.


So if you get a job anywhere else in the world, the company will simply apply to the local government, you take your few exams and hey presto, you have a new license. Not so in the UK (or Europe). Hoops and hurdles are the order of the day there.


At ATPL level, there is still a hefty conversion to do...but it is possible to get some of that reduced by gaining multi time and IR time elsewhere.


I had no need to go back to the UK and so it didn't bother me that much not having the JAA...I'll get it later after I have other ATPLs, loads of multi and instrument time!



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All right, so... what you're trying to say is... I need to marry an all American girl.


Ladies... any offers? I need that visa!


I'm English and therefore have an English accent, need I say more.


I have found that Canada's visas are more lenient and their actual immigration laws are easier to meet. I already score more than enough points to warrant a "skilled worker" permanent immigration visa.


Does anybody know how abundant jobs are in Canada and which are the best schools - again, to go from 0 hours to employable?


Thanks again!

Edited by MrGlass
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  • 3 weeks later...

It has just sunken into my skull that my main school of choice (Vortex, MI) has only M1 visa accreditation. I have already emailed them to see if they have ever dealt with J1 visa applications so we will have to see.


In the mean time - does anybody know what the US immigration office's policy is on issuing J1s? Is it ONLY accredited schools that get them or is there some room for evaluation and individual assessment?


I wish to take advantage of Vortex's affiliation with Air Logistics as a 'foot in the door' to a truly international employer. But on an M1 visa this is impossible as it does not allow for the holder to be employed during their time in the U.S.


A J1 is the only option for training AND subsequent employment. Any help would be appreciated.


If the rules are strict and there is no hope of me attending Vortex under a J1 visa then I obviously have to start looking for J1 schools. In a recent post 'i4ig' asked the same question:


Who are the J1 accredited schools? So far I've got:


HAI (Mucho expensive), Heliflight and Hillsborough.


Also, to further his questions (that nobody has answered) - does the rumour of J1 Visas being revoked for pilots have any basis in truth?


Please help me out here! (and i4ig).



Whilst writing this and researching other options before I post - I have had a thought:


Hypothetical Scenario:

Step 1) I train in the US on an M1 visa (wherever - Vortex for example)and get PPL, CPL, CFI, IR, IFI.

Step 2) Once complete (but probably before to give myself more breathing room) I simply apply for jobs like mad - including Vortex's Air Logistics affiliation job.

Step 3) I find an employer that likes me and offers to employ me on a standard H1B visa which lasts for 6 years. (Potentially more feasable with a big company - such as Air Logistics, they must have to deal with visas all the time).


Any employer in the U.S can apply for the H1B visa for an employee. All I have to do is outshine the competition and make them want to employ me. No problem.



This negates the absolute need to train at a J1 school. Yes I might get booted back to the U.K for a while if I'm slow to apply for jobs, but assuming(!) things run as above, this plan is plausible is it not?


Again, please give your views, negative or positive.


Thanks again!

Sorry for the long and ranting post.

Edited by MrGlass
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From what I have read from your posts, you want to become a U.S. Citizen, If I am correct on this, then there is a way you can become one with out all the INS BS. There is an organization here that will take you and even train you to fly helicopters, all you have to do is give them six years. And you will get Citizenship before that six years is up, One 12 month Combat tour will do it. On top of that they will pay you and provide a whole list of other bennies to go with it. Like the GI Bill for education or flight training if you can't get flight school for some reason. Go Army.

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Well, I know where Bin Laden is hiding out ...but apart from that morsel of info....I have nothing!


I think i4iq is right in saying that a J1 visa school is really my only option.


A J1 will allow me to work and therefore build my hours after completion of training. In that year or so of work I will have plenty of time to find an employer who is willing to employ me on a H1B visa. Even though the J1 has a 'return to country of origin' clause, this can be gotten around if I find someone willing to employ on a H1B - or I could always side-step to Canada for a while and try my chances there.


If I go for the M1 option, I will be putting faith in either my training school taking me on (again on a H1b visa) - of which there are NO guarantees; or in finding some other employer within the time span I reside in the U.S - it would be cutting it close and probably not a good idea.


As for the military option, I could not find any written evidence to suggest that Non-nationals can apply. Probably because they can't. I would be surprised if they could! - Anybody know about this? Can Non US citizens apply for the Army to become a helicopter pilot?



J1 the clever choice for me?

Opinions please.


Thanks again.

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My brother was in the US Marine Corp and then in an Army unit in Fort Bragg. He was a resident alien but not a Citizen when he began. Later he had to become a citizen in order to do the things he wanted to do.


Personally, I think the Army is a forlorn hope for you MrGlass.


Another option is to invest a million $US into a company to get an E visa. Whilst the company is running, you can stay for as long as you like. However, as soon as you roll it up, you have to leave.

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Oh yeah, I almost forgot about the spare $1,000,000 I have stashed away.


I'll just use it to get a JAA/FAA licence and every add-on rating under the sun from HAI Florida and spend the other $920,000 on alcohol and penny sweets.


Reality check.

I have $55,000 and that's it.

I think a weekend bar job may be in order whilst I train.


Speaking of money. Do students have to have to pay for helicopter insurance or does the school cover this?

If so, how much does it cost?


I think the military option is out of the window.

J1 all the way.

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Mr Glass - the hard truth is you are stuffed. You can't stay after the J1 for more than 6 months without getting banned from returning, and you wont find people to get you any other type of visa unless you also happen to be able to trade bonds in New York. You could marry someone american, but I would suggest you leave that to fate rather than the matchmaking skills of someone who also wants your money!!

My sugestion would be to take your money and train in a country where you have a chance of emigrating - New Zealand, Austrailia or Canada for example.

In the last 3 years I have found it very frustrating that perfectly decent pilots from all over the world cannot fly in each others countries - heres to a "world Licence" - maybe the WAA - or does that sound like a wrestling organisation???!!

Good Luck in Oz,



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So if I train on a J1 within, say 10 months, are you saying that in the 14 remaining months I would not be able to find an employer to take me on under a H1B visa? There is absolutely no chance of this?


Wouldn't it still be a wise move to train on a J1, get employed as a flight instructor for the remainder of the J1 in the US and also spend that time searching for that "first job" with which to switch over to a H1B?


Or do emplyers in the US not want to bother with H1B visas at all?


For info, I do have other skills:


BA Hons Degree in Eng Lit.

4 A-Levels: Eng, Psychology, Music Tech, Contemp Music.

Teaching English as a Foreign Language Certificate.

Experience of teachin both in the U.K and worldwide.


Thoughts please.

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A few things; A J1 visa is an exchange visitor visa, meant for people to be able to study in the US and then go back. Immigration is very strict on this and when you enter the country they'll ask you a lot of trick question s about it. If they have any suspision they just send you back. In other words getting the visa att the embassy doesn't mean you're in. It's a very nice system but don't try to abuse it.


The other thing; why would you want to live in the US, you don't know the US and it's not what you see on Tele. I've been there and I'm very glad to be back in the UK/Europe.


And with $55.000 you'll have a problem. You can't even do PPL/CPL/IR/CFI/CFII with that. Living is expensive and don't forget you need a car etc.


Appartment $500-700 pm

Electricity $80-100 pm

Water $50 (Titusville) pm

Phone $100

Car $2500 (real minimum)

Insurance $1000 pa (maybe even more becasue you're young)

Gas/petrol $100 pm (isn't cheap anymore)

Food/Drinks etc. $125


Initially you also have to pay deposits for the appartment, electricity, water, phone.


Most guys I know spend about $85.000 for what you want.


When you're able to finish, don't expect anyone to be waiting for you because you're a helicopter pilot/instructor. If you get a job, you'll be making very little money. Most jobs also not get you the most hours when you average 40-50 a month you are very lucky.


It's not just gettting a Visa doing some studying and partying and be the hot shot pilot.....


I can give you a whole list of people, all unemployed helicopter pilots.


This might sound very negative but it the truth. Iworked in the US and then got a job back in the UK but out of my class I'm about the only one.

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  • 4 weeks later...

hi there,


Just found this forum and so glad we did....


My husband is considering this route.. AFTER initially considering the E2 visa (referred to above...) Basically that visa is designed for buying a biz in US ... the E2 is granted for 2 years typically although it can be for 5 years.. (people are selling up completely in order to fund the purchase of a biz).. We have heard of brits who have done this only to return in less than a year with no money, nowhere to live and their dreams shattered. We are now exploring the possibility of hub attending a flight training course.... btw I think its very valid advice that one should have plan B, C, D etc, etc..... I am a Speech Therapist and will be hoping to either take my Masters over there or gain employment. I think the other thing to mention is that I have a distant relative who attended one of the flight schools and is very happy... He has been offered jobs in US and Bahrain... so it all seems to be going very well for him.


I would be interested to know of the failure rates... Does anyone have any info on this?


We have also been searching all morning trying to find a flight school around the Tampa area of Florida... any ideas?



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