There is now an unprecedented opportunity for experienced South African pilots to apply for permanent residence (Green Card) in the U.S. under the EB-2 Program without obtaining a job offer.
Reports predict that there will be severe shortage of pilots in the U.S. by 2023 and the country will need a total of 65,000 new pilots in the next 10 years to meet the demand for air travel.
As the demand for professional pilots continues to rise, South African pilots holding the appropriate background may now apply for a Green Card for themselves and their families through the EB-2 National Interest Waiver Program. The growing demand for pilots in the U.S. has made it potentially easier for South African pilots to meet the criteria. In other words, as long as an applicant can demonstrate that he/she has the skills, experience, and education the U.S. needs to address its pilot shortage problem, the applicant likely qualifies for a Green Card under this program.
The news of the commercial and corporate pilot shortage in the U.S. may come as a surprise to South Africans, as the U.S. is arguably the world’s largest aviation market and major U.S. airlines pay competitive salaries to keep their pilots.
Factors to U.S. Pilot Shortage
There are various factors are contributing to the pilot shortage situation in the country. At first, it started with restrictive hiring practices, but the situation expanded as the industry found it difficult to replace their ageing pilot workforce in view of the profession’s gradually stricter experience requirement.
When U.S. flying pilots are asked on the choice of career change, the most important factor is lifestyle changes from the pandemic. After spending most of their life in the sky, many are looking for a more fulfilling lifestyle personally – or with their family.
Another factor is the drone technology and challenging trends from eVTOL companies that promise consumers pilotless airplanes.
Are You Qualified for U.S. EB-2 National Interest Waiver Program?
In this particular shortage, South African pilots may find it easier to qualify for permanent residence in the U.S. via the EB-2 National Interest Waiver Program.
Over the past few months, HLG has received a sharp increase in queries from South African pilots looking to move to the U.S. via this program. We encourage those interested to speak to one of our immigration lawyers as soon as possible as this prime opportunity hinges on the prevailing shortage.
A petition under the EB-2 National Interest Waiver program typically takes about 8-12 months to process. Upon being approved for the petition, the applicant and his family will be able to obtain an Immigrant Visa to enter the U.S. and receive a Green Card to reside permanently in the country upon arrival.
Qualifying pilots are required to meet 3 of the following criteria fits:
- At least 10 years of experience as a pilot.
- Valid FAA, IATA or ICAO 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.
The advantages to obtaining a Green Card for pilots are applicable to the individual, as well as their family. Applicant’s dependents such as spouse and children under 21 can be included within the application, allowing them to live, work, and study in the U.S.
The Green Card creates a pathway to U.S. citizenship after 5 years of residence in the U.S.
How HLG Can Assist South African Pilots
If you are a skilled pilot and would like further guidelines on the EB-2 National Interest Waiver program, please download our EB-2 NIW One Pager and contact HLG South Africa office at +27 087 109 0725.