in the USA

Flight experience and visas

Gaining flight
experience in america

All the information you need to work as a pilot in America and gain flight experience.


F1 Visa, CPT and OPT

In order to work in the USA as a pilot or flight instructor, an F1 visa is required. Hillsboro Aero Academy has been training pilots in the Northwest of the USA, in Oregon, since 1980. We train our pilots according to American law and the requirements of the Federal Aviation Administration FAA. Therefore, as our student, you can also take advantage of the so-called F1 visa.

F1 Visa

The F1 visa requires that the training must last at least 6.5 months and that students must complete at least 25% of our Pro Pilot course in order to obtain their licenses. Which usually means the FAA IFR and FAA CFI training. This allows you to work in the USA for up to 23.5 months following the flight training. The combination of our high quality flight training with a work permit makes Hillsboro Aero Academy the ideal school for future professional pilots.

CPT (Curricular Practical Training)

After our graduates have successfully completed their training and found a job, they can start their CPT (Curricular Practical Training). This allows them to legally work in the USA as a pilot and/or flight instructor. Whether our graduates apply to Hillsboro Aero Academy, other flight schools, or companies to become pilots, we are here to help. CPT is renewed every three months, with a maximum of 11½ months total.

OPT (Optional Practical Training)

Following the CPT, the work permit can be extended for another year. This can be done with the help of an OPT (Optional Practical Training). It is important to apply for the OPT at the US authorities in time.

We are happy to assist you with the application, but we have no influence on the processing time of the US authorities. After the successful approval of the OPT, you are allowed to work in the USA for another 12 months and then you have 30 days to leave the country.

Work part time

Working during pilot training

Another benefit of the F1 visa is the opportunity to work during training. Hillsboro Aero Academy offers you the opportunity to work up to 20 hours per week in different parts of the company. This work allows you to get a first insight into the working environment and structures of a flight school and can help with a later application as a flight instructor. However, it should be mentioned that this part-time job could slow down your own flight training.

Crucial advantage

Flight hours in the USA

The key advantage of training in the U.S. is the flight hours you can accumulate after flight training. The flight training for helicopters takes about 200 hours, the one for airplanes about 220 hours. During the CPT and OPT you will have the chance to collect enough flight hours to be able to work as a pilot in Europe. During this time, graduates can log between 800 and 1600 flying hours, depending on the opportunity and conditions.

On average, flight instructors who have worked with us in the past years have returned to Europe with about 1000 – 1500 flight hours.

Work after the training

Earn flight hours as a flight instructor

In principle, you can work as a pilot or flight instructor anywhere in the U.S. after completing your training. However, most pilots start their career as a flight instructor. There are two reasons for this: First, flight schools have a low minimum flight hour requirement compared to other companies, and second, as an instructor you perfect your knowledge and flying skills.

We, the Hillsboro Aero Academy, cannot employ all graduates. In order to provide high quality training, we hire only our best graduates. Other schools guarantee employment for all graduates, but we believe this is not realistic and creates false expectations. To increase your chances of employment at Hillsboro Aero Academy, you should conduct yourself in a professional and courteous manner throughout your training, and be consistent throughout your training.

We advise all of our Pilots to look for multiple companies to work for and apply early. In general, it is very important to make contacts and friendships with other pilots, as these can be immensely helpful in training and later in your career. Hillsboro graduates have a very good reputation in the USA, which is why we are regularly contacted by other companies looking for pilots. We will of course forward these job offers to you and our other students and graduates.

Free Webinars


We regularly host free webinars to provide information about pilot training and our collaborations, such as with ADAC Luftrettung. Whether you are interested in becoming a helicopter or airplane pilot, our webinars provide comprehensive information on the various training opportunities.

The webinars are held on various dates. If you are interested in attending a webinar, simply contact us and we will let you know. In addition, we hold several face-to-face information events each year in Germany and Europe, and present ourselves at Aero Friedrichshafen. Please contact us for information about upcoming events.



Visa requirements

In order to be allowed to do pilot training in the USA as a foreigner, you must first apply for a visa.

Depending on what the purpose of the training is, you must apply for either an M1 or an F1 visa. Both visas can be applied for helicopter pilot training and airplane pilot training.

The M1 visa is useful for those who do not plan to work in the United States. The M1 visa is a student-only visa. However, if you plan to work as a pilot after your training, you must apply for the F1 visa.

Below we explain the differences so that you know what is the right solution for you.

  • F1 Visa

    Das F1 Visum ist für Vollzeitschüler:innen, die eine komplette Berufspilotenausbildung inkl. Fluglehrerausbildung absolvieren möchten. Diese können dann im Anschluss an die Ausbildung in Amerika als Pilot:in arbeiten um Flugerfahrung zu sammeln.

    Dieses Visum wird nur von wenigen Flugschulen angeboten, und deshalb können auch nur wenige andere Schulen die Möglichkeit bieten, bis zu 23,5 Monate in den USA zu arbeiten. Das Flugtraining in den USA bietet Pilot:innen viele Vorteile, darunter internationale Erfahrung, perfektionierte Englischkenntnisse und wertvolles Networking. Die Tätigkeit als Fluglehrer:in ermöglicht zusätzliche Flugstunden und persönliche Weiterentwicklung. Diese einzigartigen Aspekte des Trainings in den USA tragen dazu bei, die Karriereaussichten bei europäischen Airlines zu verbessern und nebenbei unvergessliche Erfahrungen zu machen.


    The F1 visa is for full-time students who want to complete a full commercial pilot training including flight instructor training. They can then work in America as a pilot to gain flight experience.

    This visa is only offered by very few flight schools in the US and not all can offer the opportunity to work for the full 23.5 months as we do. Flight training in the U.S. offers pilot many benefits, including international experience, perfected English skills and valuable networking. Serving as a flight instructor provides additional flight hours and personal development. These unique aspects of training in the U.S. help improve career prospects with international airlines and provide unforgettable experiences along the way.

  • M1 Visa

    The M-1 visa is ideal for pilots who want to complete a special course in the USA and do not intend to work as a pilot in America.

  • i-20 and F1 Visa

    In order to obtain an F1 visa, the flight school must first issue an i-20 document. This is necessary to apply for the F1 visa and to legally stay and train in America. The i-20 is initially issued for 18 months and can be easily extended if needed. The F1 visa in the passport is only necessary to enter the USA.

    Normally, the US Embassy issues an F1 visa for three or five years. If you stay longer in the USA, you can apply for a new visa and leave the country for that purpose. This is either possible in Europe, or you can go to Canada, where it takes about a week to get your new visa.


F1 Visa

Language skills

You don’t have to speak English perfectly, but you have to be able to communicate well. Because the training is completely in English, as are the radio communications and the exams. If you want to work as a flight instructor in the USA, then your English must be so good that you can explain and teach technical subjects. However, our experience shows us that there is usually rapid improvement in students language skills when they are here on site. We can also give you some tips on how to improve your English before the training starts.

Financial Proof

Du musst nachweisen, dass du dir die Ausbildung sowie die Lebenshaltungskosten in den USA finanziell leisten kannst. Dieser Nachweis kann durch ein Schreiben, eine Bürgschaftszusage deiner Bank, einen Kontoauszug o.ä. erbracht werden. In Einzelfällen kann auch eine Bürgschaft von Eltern oder Verwandten verwendet werden. Je nach Lehrgang müssen unterschiedliche Beträge nachgewiesen werden.


Although it is no longer mandatory to obtain insurance, we would still recommend it. Appropriate insurance should cover accidents, illness, repatriation of mortal remains, and medically necessary transportation to your home country. You can purchase this insurance from an American company, from an insurance company in your home country or directly from us.

Tip: It is often worthwhile to take out a so-called international student insurance, because it is much cheaper than other insurances.


Because the F1 visa is a student visa, you must have at least an equivalent to the U.S. high school diploma to qualify for this visa. Students who do not have this qualification can take an online placement test in English and Math.


M1 Visa

Language skills

It is not required that you speak perfect English, but good communication skills are important. All training, including radio communications and exams, is conducted in English.  However, students usually make rapid progress in the language when they are in the field. We can also give you some tips on how to improve your English before you start your training.

Financial Proof

You will need to prove that you can financially afford the training as well as the cost of living in the USA. This proof can be provided by a letter, a guarantee from your bank, a bank statement or similar. In individual cases, a guarantee from parents or relatives can also be used. Depending on the course, different amounts have to be proven.

Let's make your dream come true


We know that becoming a pilot requires many steps and considerations. Our team is ready to support you every step of the way, from your initial inquiry to the completion of your training.

I’m Phil and I assist our future students from Europe to achieve their dream. Contact me and we can discuss your situation together.

Phil Haupt, ADAC Helicopter Pilot & Airplane Professional Pilot – Languages: English, German

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