DBF 2024

International Teams

Letter of Invitation

International teams may need a letter of invitation to obtain a visa so that they can come to the United States. As you go through the competition process, each team will receive notification by e-mail that indicate completion of that step as well as what steps are forthcoming. This may be used as needed.

With the understanding that visa processing times vary greatly by country, AIAA will furnish visa invitation letters to teams that have submitted a proposal and intend to also submit a final design report and go to the DBF Flyoff. Teams that need a letter of invitation to apply for U.S. visas should fill out a visa letter request form that will be generated instantly and emailed to the team leader. This form is completely online, and the information you submit will be used to create your visa letter. AIAA cannot assist with nor guarantee speedy visa processing times after a letter is returned to you, and has no influence over U.S. consulate visa processing times. AIAA will also not issue any emergency or expedited visa requests, because these requests are almost never approved.

One letter of invitation will be automatically prepared based on information you submit. When completing the letter request form, please only include the names of the team members traveling to the United States who will need visas. Please also write each traveler’s legal name as it appears in their passports. Failure to provide full legal names can result in delays processing your visa. The person receiving the visa letter will be responsible for distributing copies of that letter to teammates.


Non-US citizens traveling to the competition from abroad may be required to obtain a visa to enter the country. Visas are handled by the US Department of State. Neither AIAA nor any corporate sponsor have influence in any way on whether a person receives a visa to enter the USA.

AIAA will provide letters of invitation to teams that are invited to the flyoff that may be used in filing for a visa. Also, AIAA will take calls from the Department of State or any embassy that calls to validate whether a person is participating in the competition.

AIAA will validate team information and provide information about the competition only. No one involved with the competition will provide reference for any individual, nor will they act as a sponsor in any way. The competition is an event over a weekend. While there are prizes, the event is considered personal activity. Therefore persons coming for the competition could qualify for a tourist visa.

Certain countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), meaning that passport holders from those countries do not need visas to enter the United States for a less than 90-day period. Travelers must have a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval prior to travel and meet all the requirements explained on the VWP website. If you possess a passport from a country that is NOT in the Visa Waiver Program, you will still need to go through the normal process to obtain a U.S. visa.

Under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, travelers in the following categories mist obtain a visa prior to traveling to the United States as they are no longer eligible to travel under the VWP:

  • Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen after 1 March 2011.
  • Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Iraq, Syria, or Sudan.

Information about obtaining a visa to the USA can be found at the US Department of State website.

Shipping to the U.S.

Each team is responsible for getting their aircraft to the flyoff. One option that some teams choose is to ship their plane ahead of the competition via UPS, DHL, or some other shipping service. This has a few particular items that need to be considered.

First item to note is that a physical address must be entered for final delivery. This address must also have someone there who can sign for the package(s). Most shipping companies will not hold a package at a warehouse for the sender. Second item is that the package will need to clear customs in order to be delivered. Clearing customs will most likely require that the aforementioned person at the delivery location provide a Power of Attorney (POA) document and provide information about the business or person occupying the delivery address.

A commercial invoice must be prepared. This invoice must be provided with the package, and most likely must be available from the outside of the package and in multiple copies.

While the choice of shipping is at the discretion of the team, sample information and instruction can be found on the UPS website.

From that site there are instructions for Import/Export (see More International Tools). The Country Regulations box will provide details on SHIPPING FROM Country 1 to Country 2 (for the DBF, Country 2 will be the United States). Clicking Select All and then Show Regulations will provide all pertinent information, specifically if using UPS.

Again, UPS is just being noted as an example. The shipping company used is at the complete discretion of the team.