Clearing Up the Confusion Regarding NIW Visas for Commercial Pilots

In early 2022, news hit the aviation world that foreign pilots could qualify for the United States National Interest Waivers. That information prompted hundreds of thousands of commercial pilots to petition for waivers, spending large amounts of money on legal fees and hoping their time and financial expenses would pay off. But many of these cases were rejected. What’s the truth behind NIW visas and commercial pilots? We explain the difference between successful and rejected petitions here.

The Need for Pilots in the US

A critical pilot shortage began around the COVID pandemic, causing substantial problems at airports around the country. Due to the fallout of this issue, some pilots were able to push through National Interest Waivers, giving others in the aviation industry hope that their pilot license could qualify them for an NIW, as well.

Immigration lawyers filed petitions for these individuals, and many self-petitioned. Yet, although the pilot shortage remains a problem in the US, only a handful were approved. What made the selected waivers stand out from the rest?

Commercial Piloting Versus National Interest Flying

A review of the successful cases showed that the pilots who received a waiver unfailingly went beyond the commercial piloting goal. They had plans in place that showed their intent and ability to offer other contributions to the country. Examples of these over-and-above pilot goals included:

●     Advanced education and experience that could be used for instructing other pilots

●     Skills and experience in ensuring safety before, during, and after flights

●     Knowledge and experience in testing new and existing aircraft carrier designs

New pilots who filed petitions with the intent of solely flying commercial aircraft, by and large, did not qualify for National Interest Waivers. Some of these petitions are in appeals at the Administrative Appeals Office. However, those that have already been adjudicated after an appeal continue to side with the rejection, as flying as a commercial pilot is not a matter of national interest.

Commercial pilots benefit the employer and passengers, but unless an individual can demonstrate how they will meaningfully reduce the pilot shortage in the US with their proposed endeavor, one additional pilot isn’t enough to make a national impact.

Instead, commercial pilots should attempt to enter the US via a visa that requires the employer to go through the labor certification process. H-1B visas and similar documents are specifically designed to address shortages of skilled workers in qualified fields, such as aviation and commercial flying.

Once you are in the US under these work visas, you may apply for an employment-based green card.

What’s Next?

Filing a National Interest Waiver is challenging. Even with the right goals, you must submit enough evidence to show that your experience and abilities align with the nation’s interests. Working with a legal team skilled in filing successful waivers, like those of us at Visa2US, is crucial.

Commercial pilots may or may not be eligible for the NIW program and the green card that often follows. If this is your goal, contact our professionals at Visa2US to find out how we can help you meet the specific criteria to obtain a waiver or determine if you’d be better off on another visa path, such as the H-1B.

The rumor that commercial pilots will automatically qualify for a National Interest Waiver has proven to be false over the past year. Rather than wasting your valuable resources trying to qualify for a commercial pilot NIW on your own, let Visa2US point you in the direction that is most likely to land you a visa that lets you take your piloting profession to the air in the United States.

Skip the research part for your immigration application.

Simply answer questions we prepared for you and the completed forms are ready!

H-1B Visa

H-1B Visa

H-1B visa is used by businesses and organizations in the United States to employ foreign nationals with the preferred qualifications, knowledge, and expertise in a role.

I-485 Adjustment of Status

I-485 Adjustment of Status

Submit a form I-485 application to apply for lawful permanent resident status.

National Interest Waiver (NIW)

National Interest Waiver (NIW)

An applicant must either hold an advanced degree or have an exceptional ability in their field that would substantially benefit the U.S. to be qualified.