In most countries one is required to obtain a glider pilot license (GPL) or certificate before acting as pilot of a glider. The requirements vary from country to country.
In many countries, licensing or certification is similar for gliders and powered aircraft. Training must be undertaken from a certified or certificated instructor, and a license or certificate is then issued by the government, limited to gliders only. The exception is when a pilot is flying under Ultralight (Ultralite) glider rules within the United States. The aviation knowledge and skill requirements for a glider are usually similar to those for a powered aircraft, taking into account the different requirements of the aircraft categories.
Most countries also require medical certificates for pilots, although in some countries "self-certification", i.e., a legal statement that one is fit to fly, is allowed for gliders. The United States does not require a medical certificate to operate a glider with a U.S. airman certificate. Canada also permits glider pilot license holders to self-certify, but requires regular medical examinations for gliding instructors.
In some countries, glider instruction and licensing are regulated by a national non-governmental organisation representing the gliding community. This is true in The Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Countries vary in their acceptance of pilot licenses from other countries to fly aircraft registered in the home country. Many permit pilots to fly on their home licenses for short periods, others insist on conversion to their license. Generally, a pilot may fly an aircraft registered in their home country with their home country's license or certificate, in any other country, subject to international conventions.