Is there anything preventing a non-resident American citizen from taking and obtaining a Canadian helicopter pilot license which could be converted to an American PPL helicopter certificate?

The reason I'm considering this is the current exchange rate is essentially a 25% discount off the listed Canadian price. Sure I have to drive a bit farther, but auto gas is cheap.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure who edited the question, but it is not asking what I want to know now. I'm not asking about the Conversion. I'm asking about the ability to get the license in the first place. There is documentation on Canadian citizens converting to an FAA certificate I'm asking about the ability of an American non-resident getting the Canadian License. In Canada its called a license. In the US a certificate. $\endgroup$ Apr 8, 2017 at 4:37
  • $\begingroup$ Just to clarify, you mean a US citizen who's not resident in Canada, rather than a US citizen who's not resident in the US, right? (From the answer, it seems ti doesn't make a differenc, but it's good to make the question nice and clear so that people who find it in the future can tell what it's about.) $\endgroup$ Apr 8, 2017 at 9:24
  • $\begingroup$ That is correct. Not resident in Canada. I wanted to be clear that I don't have a work or other visa. Just a tourist which doesn't require a visa from the US if the stay is under a certain amount of time. $\endgroup$ Apr 8, 2017 at 17:28

2 Answers 2


In the US it is a license as well, that's why they abbreviate it PPL and CPL.

Canada appears to have no restrictions on flight training of non-Canadians other than proving your own with something like a passport, because your citizenship is shown on your license. See this Transport Canada page as a starting point.

If you need to reside in Canada during your training and you expect to take longer than 6 months, you will need to obtain a Student Visa to remain in the country legally. You could also use a Tourist Visa, neither of which would all you to work.

If you are planning on returning to the US when you are not training, then the Visa would not be required.

Converting a Canadian pilot license to a US pilot license is governed by AC 61.135a.. It doesn't look very complicated, but it will take time and you must take one or more knowledge tests as well as schedule an appointment at your local FSDO for the final approval.

Note also that while you don't have to surrender your Canadian license when you convert to a US license, if you do not that means that you must stay current based on both the US and Canadian rules.

I suggest you very carefully study the requirements and do the full math. Once you get started on one path it won't be easy to switch to the other if you then realize it was a mistake.

Interesting question, BTW. It was fun researching the answer. :)

  • $\begingroup$ Do you have a link to the visa requirement? and yes will be running several sets of numbers since the closest American school is an hour away and estimates $25k for a PPL. while the closest Canadian school is about 2:15 away so I'll be figuring in nexus costs and border bridge tolls. $\endgroup$ Apr 8, 2017 at 21:39
  • $\begingroup$ The Canadian immigration web site has it. If you think your training will take less than six months, then you won't need a student visa or a tourist visa. But if it's going to be more than that you need one or the other, as far as I can see. $\endgroup$ Apr 9, 2017 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ FWIW, I don't see how the cost of training will be so much lower that it comes out less when including cost of lodging, transportation, etc. I think it will be MORE expensive. ATAC estimates C$14k to C$35k for a PPL in between 12 and 25 weeks + all your ancillary costs. Then you have the costs of converting. I'm seeing schools in the US quote $14k for PPL. $\endgroup$ Apr 9, 2017 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ I don't plan on staying in Canada. I live 15km from a border crossing. I also have a full-time job in the US. The PPL I'm interested in isn't plane its helicopter. I haven't decided on the commercial license. The current exchange rate is $1 cdn = 0.76 usd. $\endgroup$ Apr 9, 2017 at 15:57
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This is a total nitpick, but "In the US it is a license as well, that's why they abbreviate it PPL and CPL." is not correct. The FAA refers to Pilot Certificates almost exclusively, and only occasionally uses the term 'license'. The actual plastic has a 'certificate number' on it and nowhere uses the term 'license'. Pilots in the US refer to "PPL" because it's a convenient abbreviation taken from elsewhere, afaict. $\endgroup$
    – egid
    Apr 9, 2017 at 19:21

The my limited knowledge of immigration rules aside, something close to half of Canadian helicopter students are non Canadian so a quick phone call to the school you are considering should get some details on that side, the conversion commercial license conversion is just a matter of paperwork so the PPL shouldn't be an issue.

Detals of requred Id from The CAR's https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/civilaviation/regserv/cars/part4-standards-421-1086.htm

As for the cost there are some additional factors to address, first being at least in Canada most instructors will be hesitant to recommend all but the best 45 hour pilots for flight testing and some will say be prepared for up to 65 hours to meet the standard.

the second is the different training model in Canada vs the states, Canada tending to have much more experienced, and there for more experienced instructors, as well as things generally costing slightly more in Canada [parts, fuel etc.] leading to significantly higher flight costs ie. an example I found on the web

USD 332 p/h dual 277 p/h solo

Cad 540 p/h solo or dual [for insurance reasons I believe]

Cost difference aside, you get what you pay for and from talking to US trained pilots doing Canadian training, the average level of instruction is much higher.

In conclusion, Training in Canada, is likely to be the same or more than in the US, but will be higher quality [very important if you plan to do only 45 hours and not kill yourself afterwards] generally, if you can afford to fly a helicopter for fun the extra 20K or so for a commercial license is totally worth it. you can claim vocation training for tax, and your going to spend far more that that flying anyways, might as well improve your survival chances. If your concerned about the cost don't bother with a helicopter license. it's only going to get more expensive.

[Note: the op intends to convert to FAA than get FAA commercial this answer is not valid]

  • $\begingroup$ One thing to be careful of is your best price scenario. Its imaginary to the real world. That's not the price where I am. It may be a great price 2500 miles from me. It isn't incentive to quit the job funding this exploration. That's why I kept price strictly out of the question. $\endgroup$ May 29, 2018 at 19:26

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