The process of obtaining a FAA certificate based on your foreign license is fairly easy and it can be done in 2-6 weeks.
When applying for a U.S. pilot certificate/rating on the basis of a foreign license you must submit a request of Verification of Authenticity of his/her license to the FAA’s Airmen Certification Branch (AFS-760) http://registry.faa.gov.
You can download the application here: Verification of Authenticity
Print the form and contact Mr. Luca Fausti: firstname.lastname@example.org for instructions about how to fill it up.
Once the Airmen’s Certification branch has verified the authenticity and the validity of the foreign pilot license and medical certificate with the foreign civil aviation authority, a “verification of authenticity” letter will be issued to the designated Flight Standard District Office and a copy sent to the applicant.
After your arrival in the United States we will guide you through the process. A FAA Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE), will interview you to determine if your English level is sufficient to fly in the US. You will have to present your foreign license, medical certificate, and passport along with your “verification of authenticity” letter you will receive from the FAA. This process currently costs at around $50. You will be issued a temporary airman certificate, which will later be replaced by an FAA Private Certificate based on a foreign license. The certificate will not be valid until a bi-annual flight review has been completed by a Certified Flight Instructor. The process can take a minimum of one hour of flight and ground instruction and can take several hours depending on your skills and how you adapt to the “American” flying environment.
Remember that your FAA certificate will be based on your foreign license and that all limitation will apply such as night flying. Also, your foreign license must be valid along with the foreign medical certificate in order for the FAA Certificate to be valid.
If you are planning in obtaining a FAA Instrument Rating and/or a FAA Commercial Certificate, the “verification of authenticity” letter must be valid and not expired. The FAA usually issues them with a six (6) months validity. You will not be able to take a Check Ride with an expired letter and it will be your responsibility to make sure that you have a current and valid one in your possession during your training.