Getting an American Pilot Certificate Using a Canadian PPL

At one point I was in New Mexico and wanted to have a bit of flying there to see what it’s like. Of course, though, I couldn’t fly an American aircraft with just a Canadian PPL. Well I’ve done some research on the FAA website and come up with two options for getting my hands on an American PPL. One is a license and the other is a certificate, but you will have to decide which is better suited to your needs.

The first is called a “conversion”, and means that the States gives the holder of a Canadian PPL a full & unrestricted American PPL. It’s quite the process, though, and includes an extensive written test. In addition, all recency of experience requirements for the American PPL must be met before any flight is made using the converted license. Details can be found at

  1. Submit a Verification of Authenticity request form to the FAA
  2. Receive written notification acknowledging verification of the information
  3. Pass a written knowledge test with at least 70%
  4. Travel to an FSDO, present all documents, and obtain a converted license

The second, more friendly, option is termed a “certificate issued on the basis of a foreign license.” Specifically, the States trusts the Canadian license enough to allow a northern pilot to fly American planes - as long as that pilot meets all conditions required of them by their PPL. The process to get one of these is slightly less rigorous than for conversion. Details can be found at the FAA website.

  1. Mail or fax a Verification of Authenticity form to the FAA and wait 45-90 days
  2. Visit an FSDO and obtain a paper certificate
  3. Get a final certificate in the mail

So the long story is I am going to go for the latter option, the certificate. I’ve downloaded the form and just have to fax it in then wait for a response. I will update this article once I’ve reached that stage. Hopefully it’ll be spring by that time and I’ll be able to take my motorcycle for a ride across the border to pick up the paper copy!

UPDATE (March 16, 2011): I have received a letter from the States saying that my license has been verified by Transport Canada, and now I am waiting for a phone call to schedule a time to drive to the Albany NY FSDO to pick up the paper copy of my new certificate!

UPDATE (August 15, 2011): After several emails with a rep at the Albany FSDO, I was given an appointment today to come sign for the new certificate. The trip there was a nice 6 hour drive in good weather. There was one form that had to filled out with my personal information as well as my flying hours. Note that they (Americans) want the hours broken down differently than what is typically kept in a Canadian logbook. For example, their “solo” time is literally “solo” - no passengers are allowed for it to count. Anyhow, after everything was filled out exactly as required, I was handed a newly printed temporary certificate. I’ll post one more update when I get the final, credit-card-style license in the mail!