A1, A2 and A3: Visas for Diplomats, Embassy Officials, Employees and their dependents
What is an A visa?
If you are travelling to the United States as a representative of a foreign country and in the capacity of a diplomat such as an ambassador, you can apply for an A1 visa. However, you must not only be appointed as an ambassador of your country, you must be appointed specifically as an ambassador to the United States.
If you are an ambassador of your country but you are assigned to a country other than the United States, and you want to enter the United States to go on vacation, you must apply for a B1 or B2 visa. The A1 visa is available only for those in active employment and duty as a diplomat or ambassador to the United States.
A1, A2, & A3 visas are sub-classifications of what is commonly called a “diplomatic” visa.
Who are qualified for an A visa?
Generally, all employees of a foreign government who are representing their national government and who come to the United States to engage only in official duties and activities for their government are qualified to apply for an A visa.
- All heads of state that are recognized by the United States are qualified for an A1 visa.
- All ambassadors and consuls of foreign countries with diplomatic ties to the United States can qualify for an A1 visa.
- Government ministers or cabinet members coming for official functions qualify for an A1 visa.
- The full-time officials and employees of foreign governments working in an embassy or consular office in the United States qualify for A2 visa.
- The members of the immediate family of diplomats, consuls and embassy officials and full-time employees are qualified for a derivative A1 or A2 visa depending on the visa of their principal.
- The members of the immediate household of the diplomat, official or employee, even if they are not related by blood or affinity are qualified for an A-3 visa. This includes personal assistants and domestic workers such as caregivers, nannies, governesses, tutors, cooks, valets.
Government officials (other than ambassadors and consuls) who will travel to the United States to perform government functions for ninety days or less can be issued A1 visas but their visas will be marked “TDY” or for ‘temporary duty’.
What must be the purpose of the visit or stay of a person applying for an A visa?
The purpose of the diplomats’ visit to the United States must be to represent their country in official activities for their government. The duties of the office or position of the visa applicant must be of a governmental nature or character. Thus, if an applicant’s duties are commercial in nature, then they must obtain another visa.
So, if you are a mayor in your hometown and you wish to go to the United States to attend a lecture, you can apply for a B visa. You are ineligible for an A1 or A2 visa. Even if, as a mayor of your hometown, you were invited by a mayor of a city in the United States to strengthen political, trade, and other ties, you will not qualify for an A1 or A2 visa even when you are travelling in an official capacity.
What are the benefits of an A1 visa?
Once you are issued an A1 or A2 visa, your spouse and your children, members of your immediate family, will also be issued an A1 or A2 visa. Members of your household staff will be issued A3 visas.
All who hold A1, A2 and A3 visas are qualified for diplomatic immunity – this means that they cannot be charged or convicted of crimes in the United States.
What documents do I need to apply for an A1 or A2 visa?
You need what is called a Diplomatic Note. This is a document issued by the foreign affairs department or state department of your government to the government of the United States. It includes your full name, your date of birth, your position and title and the place of assignment, the purpose of your travel and an explanation of your duties. It will also state the date you intend to travel to the US and an estimate of the length of your stay or tour of duty in the US. It will also list the names, dates of birth and your relationships to the members of your immediate family or household who will join you.
What supporting documents may be required?
You must bring supporting documents just in case the consular officer requires them from you: your birth certificate, marriage or divorce certificate, adoption decrees for your child, proof of income such as bank statements of certificates from your internal revenue service showing the amount of taxes you’ve paid. You may also be required to submit a letter or certificate from your employer to show that you have a reason to go back to your home country after your tour of duty in the US has ended. You may be required to present a certificate showing that there are no pending criminal or civil cases against you or outstanding warrants of arrest against you. You may be required to show your travel itinerary or the accommodations in the US that you have prepared for.
What is the procedure for applying for the A1 or A2 visa?
- You must pay the visa application fee (this is usually waived for A1 visas).
- You will be issued a receipt which you must keep for your records.
- Note the receipt number as this is very important.
- You must obtain a Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application Form (also called a DS-160).
- You must fill this up.
- You must submit it.
- You must save and print a copy of the confirmation email after you submitted it.
- You must schedule an appointment to visit the US Embassy or consular office nearest you for your visa interview (A1 and A2 visa applicants who are embassy or consular officials and employees do not usually need to be interviewed, but their immediate family and members of their household are required to appear for interview).
- You must appear at the US Embassy on the scheduled appointment.
- You must present the following documents during your interview:
- Your passport (where the visa will be printed)
- The receipt number of your visa application fee.
- The barcode number from the DS-160 form you submitted.
Applying for an A1, A2 or A3 visa can be done personally by you, the applicant. However, this visa classification is quite technical. You may not speak English as your native language and you may have difficulty filling out the forms and understanding the requirements. You may need assistance in filling out forms, in gathering vital documents and having these translated into English. The lawyers of Lluis Law can help you with your visa application. Call them for an assessment and a consultation today.