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PHOTOS COURTESY OF Tracey Taylor Wilcock & Unsplash

As COVID-19 wanes and the pilot shortage in the US comes roaring back, there is now an unprecedented opportunity for experienced foreign pilots to apply for permanent residence in the US without obtaining a job offer or labour certification.

“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 JeanFrancois Harvey, Global Managing Partner of leading business immigration law firm Harvey Law Group.

To qualify for the programme, applicants must meet the following criteria: i) they will undertake an endeavour that has both substantial merit and national importance; ii) they are well positioned to advance the proposed endeavour; iii) it would be beneficial to the US to waive the requirement of a job offer, and thus the labour certification.

“The growing demand for pilots in the US has made it potentially easier for foreign pilots to meet criteria i) and iii). In other words, so long as an applicant can demonstrate that he/ she has the skills, experience and education that the US needs to address its pilot shortage problem, the applicant likely qualifies for a green card without securing a job offer,” says Harvey.

To paint a picture of the pilot shortage situation in the US, reports predict that there will be a shortage of over 12,000 pilots 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. Furthermore, the Federal Aviation Administration predicts that the US will need to recruit 87 new airline pilots every day for the next 20 years to meet the growing demand.

Whilst 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. In the last five months alone, Delta Airlines cancelled nearly 100 flights and American Airlines cancelled over 300 flights due to a shortage of pilots.

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 entice new pilots, commercial airlines are not only offering newly hired pilots up to US$150,000 in signing bonuses, but some airlines are also providing a 30% to 40% raise in salary to their commercial pilots this year.

A number of factors are contributing to the pilot shortage situation in the US. Initially, it started with restrictive hiring practices, but the situation snowballed as the industry found it difficult to replace their ageing pilot workforce in view of the profession’s increasingly strict experience requirement.

In this particular climate, foreign pilots may find it easier to qualify for permanent residence in the US via the EB-2 National Interest Waiver programme.

“Over the past two months, we have received a sharp increase in queries from foreign pilots looking to move to the US. We encourage those interested in the EB2 National Interest Waiver programme to speak to one of our lawyers as soon as possible as this prime opportunity hinges on the prevailing shortage,” Harvey states. A petition under the EB-2 National Interest Waiver programme typically takes about 8 to 10 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 US and receive a green card to reside permanently in the country upon arrival.

If you are an experienced pilot and would like further advice on the EB-2 National Interest Waiver programme, contact Jean-Francois Harvey at www.harveylawcorporation.com/contact for more information.

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