In light of the great US pilot shortage, an unprecedented opportunity is now available for experienced foreign pilots to obtain a green hard for themselves and their dependant family members. This new program, entitled the EB-2 National Interest Waiver for Pilots, seeks to address the pilot shortage in the US following COVID-19.

To qualify for the programme, these experience pilot applicants must meet as least 3 of the following criteria:

  • At least 10 years of experience as a pilot.
  • Valid FAA, IATA, ICAO, EASA or CASA licensure.
  • Evidence of salary in the top 70% of pilots in country of employment at some point in last 5 years.
  • Proof of membership in pilot professional association(s).
  • Recognition of achievements in the aviation industry from peers, government entities, professional or business organizations.
  • Other comparable evidence (anything that makes your training and/or experience special or noteworthy, including management and/or training duties) *
  • Minimum of 5000 hours as PIC or Sr. Officer.

Essentially, the applicant need demonstrate that he/ she has the skills, experience, and education that the US needs to address its pilot shortage problem to likely qualify for a green card without requiring to first secure a job offer.

An application under the programme typically takes about 8 to 10 months for USCIS to process upon receipt of the application, or within 45-days should the applicant opt for a premium processing option. Upon being approved, the applicant and his family will be able to obtain an Immigrant Visa to enter the US and receive a green card to reside permanently in the country upon arrival. This program also provides a pathway to US citizenship after 5 years of residency in the US.

"Numerous reports indicate that there will be a severe deficit of pilots in the US by 2023. As the demand for professional pilots continues to rise, foreign pilots holding the appropriate background may now apply for a green card for themselves and their families through the EB-2 National Interest Waiver programme," according to Jean-Francois Harvey, Global Managing Partner of leading business immigration law firm Harvey Law Group.

The news of the pilot shortage in the US may come as a surprise to some people, as the US is arguably the world's largest aviation market and major US airlines pay competitive salaries to keep their pilots. To provide some context for this new programme, it is helpful to note that the US has experienced several factors contributing to the lack of pilot availability domestically such as restrictive hiring practices and a difficulty to replace the ageing pilot workforce. While several reports highlight the forecasts and its ensuing impact on the US over the next few years, the lack of pilot availability can be felt today. By simple example, certain commercial airlines are not only offering newly hired pilots up to USD150,000 in signing bonuses, but some are also providing 30% to 40% raise in salaries to their commercial pilots.

As such, it is no surprise that HLG has experienced a continuous stream of queries from foreign pilots looking to move to the US. We encourage those interested in the EB2 National Interest Waiver for Pilots to speak with one of our lawyers as soon as possible as this prime opportunity hinges on the prevailing shortage.

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