Foreign Pilot/Instructor Conversion to US FAA Pilot/CFI

Obtaining a US FAA pilot certificate (license) and a Flight Instructor Certificate, when you hold a foreign pilot and instructor licenses is possible. The following procedures are applicable to all foreign pilots, except for our friends from Canada. For Canadian pilots and instructors, the process is much simpler. Read here – Canada TCCA to FAA pilot / flight instructor conversion.

Converting your Foreign Pilot’s License to FAA

If you hold a foreign ATP or Commercial Pilot license, then follow these steps –

  1. Go to FAA’s website and complete the process for obtaining a US FAA Private Pilot. There is no written or practical exam required for this. And there is no fee either. Here is a link to the FAA’s page. There are additional instructions for EASA guys and some other countries that require an additional fee to be paid to their respective Governmental Aviation Agencies. Once this step is completed, you should get your FAA Private Pilot (Foreign Based) in the mail. Your foreign pilot privileges and limitations will all be applicable on the US FAA Private. – FAR 61.75
  2. The next step is to come to the United States and obtain a US FAA Commercial and Instrument Rating. All of your foreign flight times and flight training are creditable, however, you will need to take 2 written exams and 2 practical exams. It does not matter whether you take the commercial or the instrument rating ahead of the other.
  3. At this time you should hold an FAA Commercial Pilot, with instrument rating, and a foreign-based Private Pilot. This qualifies you to move ahead with the Flight Instructor certification.

Converting your foreign Flight Instructor License to the US FAA Flight Instructor -CFI

There is no conversion process in place for converting or obtaining a US FAA Flight Instructor Certificate based on a foreign flight instructor license. You will need to follow the instructions laid down in FAR 61 Subpart H.

CFI Academy specializes in training Flight Instructor applicants. You can read about our CFI course here.

Foreign ATP holders

If you hold a foreign ATP, then you may qualify for the FAA ATP directly. You don’t have to go through the Commercial and Instrument Rating process as described above. However, you will, in this case, go to a Flight Training Provider that offers and provides an ATP CTP program. The cost of going through this path is usually more than the process described above. If there is a need for you to hold a US FAA ATP, then definitely go this route. Otherwise, if the goal is to get a US CFI certificate, then the above-described method is much easier and more cost-effective.

If you need further clarification about this topic, please write down your comment below and we will be happy to assist.

Foreign pilot conversion

Post Date: July 25, 2018


  • Saadeq says:

    Hi there
    How can I convert my Canadian Flight Instructor Rating to an FAA flight instructor rating?

    • Prince Singh says:

      Hello Saadeq. Unfortunately, there is no “conversion” process in place for flight instructor certificate conversion between US and Canada. In fact, I have not come across any cross acceptance of flight instructors trained in other countries.
      However, the good news is that there is no minimum training time required to get FAA flight instructor certificate. Just a couple of written exams and a practical test. Contact me directly if you need further details.

  • Dan T says:

    Hi Prince,
    How tough is it for foreign (non-US citizens) to find employment and get a work visa in the US? I am from Japan and already have a FAA CPL. I am considering continuing to CFI in Canada due to easier immigration in the future. Thanks for your insight!

    • Prince Singh says:

      Hi Dan. Obviously there is a big demand for CFIs and pilots in the US, so there are many employers who’d be glad to take you on as a flight instructor. But, you mention that you are looking to immigrate to Canada and use your CFI there. Just know that you would need a Canadian CFI license to do so. CFI (FAA) would not work in Canada and there is no provision for conversion/issuance based on US certification. Pilot certificates, yes, but CFI certs, no.
      Wish you all the best.

  • Chris D. says:


    First of all, great article! Very informing.

    I am in the situation that I need to convert my EASA licenses to FAA.

    I am a CPL holder, SEP(L) MEP(L) with IR rating and FI(A). I even have the ATPL credit (all 13 exams passed at my local CAA). I also hold a Multi Crew Cooperation Certificate and a Jet Orientation Course + Advanced Upset Recovery training all according to EASA standards.
    Which means in European terms that I have a Frozen Airline Transport Pilot License which will become unfrozen when I will reach the 1500 hour mark and meet other hours requirements.

    From the article I understand that the maximum I can obtain is a PPL with SEP/MEP privileges ?

    Is there no way I can be credited at least to a CPL license with IR privileges?
    And for FI I need to do the entire course again?

    It is highly discouraging….

    I would like to come state side at least as an FI(A) and get employed at a flight school until reaching the right seat of an airliner.

    In my situation what would you recommend?

    Thank you!

    • Prince Singh says:

      Hi Chris. US and Canada have a MOU where their pilot certificates are easily “interchangeable”. There is no such MOU in place for US and EU, or any other country/region for that matter. Once you have a FAA Private based on your foreign license, you can take commercial and IR written tests (a breeze really compared to what you have gone through in Europe to pass the writtens), and then practical tests with FAA DPE. It is not that bad really, especially when all the aeronautical experience (flight hours) gets credited. Could be done in a couple of weeks. I’d say about 10-20 hours of flight training here would do. FI(A) is a complete course, but then again, should be easy for you as you must already have most the knowledge and skill already. We have helped many, and can help you as well if needed. All the best.

      • Chris D. says:

        Thank you for your response, Prince Singh! I appreciate it!

        It is really good to heave a more clear view of how things stand. Hopefully this CoVid-19 thing will pass fast and we can all get back at achieving our goals.

        Wishing you all the best and keep in touch!

  • Finbarr O’Sullivan says:

    Hi Prince,
    I hold an FAA ATP and EASA fATPL with Flight Instructors rating and Instrument FI (A) IRI.
    I’m current on the Eclipse Jet, what would be the quickest route to getting CFI, CFII and MEI?
    Many thanks Finbarr

  • Marc says:

    Hi I’m a pilot on boeing 737 in Europe. All my licenses are easa. I want to move to USA. What should I convert.

  • Cassidy Miler says:

    Our friend is looking to convert EASA to FAA. Currently a flight instructor in Scotland who just passes multi engine and instrument rating. Can you tell me if your school helps with obtaining the visa necessary to attend your school? If so, is it just an M-1 visa or is it possible to get an F-1 visa?
    I understand it’s about a 2-3 month process with a couple of written and a couple of practical tests – He currently has close to 1,000 hours of flying. He was hoping to be able to stay on somewhere in the US to get a job in order to achieve the remaining 500 hours.
    Can you tell me the approximate cost of this conversion process?
    Thank you so much

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