Diplomats, officials or employees of embassies or consulates of foreign countries will need a type A diplomatic visa to travel to the United States.
Therefore, if you must travel to the United States as a diplomat or as a representative of a foreign government, you will need this visa. An example of this is the ambassadors, however you must take into account that this visa has several categories depending on the administrative position.
Our Los Angeles immigration lawyers from the office of Lluis Law firm have more than 50 years of combined experience advising people with any type of US visa.
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What is the Diplomatic type A Visa in 2024?
The A category is one of the types of American visas only available to diplomatic officials or administrative personnel of a foreign government who wish to enter the US to perform diplomatic or government services.
The type A diplomatic visa is classified into 3 categories: A1 visa, A2 visa and A3 visa. Each of these visas will be granted depending on the level of the diplomatic or government official.
Visa type A1
It is awarded to high-level officials of a foreign government either for temporary visit or permanent services. This includes:
- Head of state or government.
- Official who will travel to the US as an ambassador or consul.
- Government ministers or members of the administration who will travel for official activities.
- Representatives of the European Union (EU) and the African Union (AU).
- Immediate family members of the A1 visa holder.
Visa type A2
It is issued to mid-ranking officials working full time at an embassy or consulate in the United States. This includes:
- Full-time employees from another country who will be traveling for the purpose of working at a foreign embassy or consulate in the United States.
- Foreign military service members stationed on a military base in the US or assigned to a foreign consulate or embassy in the US.
- EU and AU representatives.
- Immediate relatives of the holders of the type A-2 visa diplomatic immunity.
Visa type A3
A3 visas are for domestic employers accompanying A1 and A2 visa holders. Applicants for the A3 visa must apply outside the United States.
Limitations of the Diplomatic A1 and A2 visa
The A1 and A2 visas have their limitations, among these:
- Local government officials representing any province, state or municipality will need a visitor visa and not an A visa.
- Government officials or administrative personnel may not perform any other activity or function that is not related to government matters. These should apply for an appropriate category such as:
Note: Only heads of state or government will be able to travel on an A1 visa regardless of their purpose of travel.
Who qualifies for a Diplomatic type A visa?
The following officials qualify for an A1 visa:
- US-recognized heads of state or government
- Ambassadors and consuls of foreign countries with diplomatic ties to the United States government.
- Foreign government ministers or members of the foreign government administration.
Note: Government officials (not diplomats) traveling to the US on government duties for 90 days or less receive A1 visas. The only difference is that the visas are marked as “TDY” or for “Temporary Duty”.
Those who qualify for an A2 visa are:
- Full-time officials and employees of a foreign government who work at an embassy or consular post in the US.
- Immediate relatives of diplomats and full-time employees of consuls and embassies.
For an A3 visa, the following people qualify:
- Relatives or staff living in the household of the diplomat, official or employee. Personal assistants and domestic workers are included, such as:
Purpose of visiting the US to apply for a type A Diplomatic visa
The purpose of the diplomat’s visit should be solely to represent his country in official activities. The duties of the position of the visa applicant must be of a governmental nature.
Therefore, if the applicant’s mission is commercial, then they must apply for another visa. Any authority from a foreign country who wishes to visit the US for a personal purpose must apply for a B2 tourist visa.
An example is a mayor or governor who wants to attend a conference in Los Angeles. These officials are not eligible for an A1 or A2 visa, even if invited by another US mayor.
What are the benefits of an A1 Diplomatic visa?
This visa grants its holders a series of benefits within the United States. These are some:
- Travel in and out of the United States for unlimited time, while the visa is in effect and valid.
- Holders won’t be charged, prosecuted, or tried in any court in the United States if they commit a crime. This is because they enjoy diplomatic immunity.
- Expedited processing of the requested visa without priority dates or waiting times.
- The spouse and children of the visa holder also receive an A1 or A2 visa. While staff members serving at you at home are given A3 visas.
- There are no age limits for companions of the visa holder, unlike the other types of visas for the USA. The only requirement is that the government that represents recognizes the relationship by marriage, blood or adoption of the relative.
Can the A1 Diplomatic visa be revoked?
The A1 visa can be revoked if the US government deems the A1 visa holder to be a danger to the country. For example if they:
- Conspire against the US government to overthrow it or damage its form of government.
- Plan to commit crimes.
- Participate in espionage activities or try to obtain classified information from the country.
- The Secretary of State determines that your presence affects the US government.
On the other hand, A-1 visa holders have certain restrictions within the United States:
- They do not have employment authorization, unlike other nonimmigrant visa holders.
- This is because their presence in the US is supposed to be for government purposes on behalf of their country and not to work in the US.
- They also cannot enroll in academic courses or programs (US student visa) since they could be distracted from the main purpose of the visit.
What documents do I need to apply for an A1 or A2 visa?
The documents required to apply for an A1 or A2 visa are the following:
- Valid passport.
- Travel itinerary.
- History of international travel made in the last five years, including to the United States.
- Data about their education and work resume.
- Diplomatic note issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
- Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application.
In addition to the DS-160 document, you will need to send additional documents to the US embassy or consulate or the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). These documents are:
- Valid diplomatic passport with a validity period greater than 6 months after your intended departure to the US.
- Passport-type photograph according to visa requirements.
- Diplomatic note issued by the government of the foreign country you represent.
- Confirmation receipt of form DS-160.
What documents do I need to apply for an A3 visa?
To apply for an A3 visa you will need to submit the following documents:
- Valid passport.
- Copy of your employment contract.
- Know your temporary worker protection rights before your interview with the US embassy or consulate.
You must not allow your employer to keep your passport, contract or personal property for any reason, this may affect your eligibility.
During the interview at the US embassy or consulate, you will need to include:
- The completed DS-160 form.
- Gather the required documents for A visa applicants:
- Identification document.
- Diplomatic note.
- Have the employment contract of the employer.
After the interview for the A3 visa
After your visa interview, the consular officer will determine if you qualify for a visa based on your purpose of travel. You must show that you meet all the requirements of US law to receive an A-3 visa.
Fingerprints will be taken without ink as part of this process, usually during the interview. If an additional administrative process is required, the official will inform you of the steps to follow.
We recommend to consider the following indications:
- It is not guaranteed that a visa will be granted. Do not make travel plans or buy tickets until your visa is approved.
- A visa applicants who qualify to travel to the US will be granted visas marked “TDY” (Temporary Duty).
- A visa is valid until its expiration date, unless canceled or revoked. If you have a valid visa in your expired passport, do not remove your visa from that passport. You can continue to use your valid visa in your expired passport along with a new valid passport.
What is the application procedure for the A visa for immediate relatives?
The application procedures for an A visa for immediate relatives will be the same as for a principal applicant. Immediate relatives are defined as:
- Unmarried sons and daughters who are members of your household.
- An immediate family member can also be a person who lives in your household on a regular basis who is not a member of another household.
- However, the government that sends that person must recognize the member as an immediate family member.
In addition to the spouse and/or unmarried sons and daughters, any other relatives by marriage, adoption, or blood may also qualify as immediate family members.
“De facto partners” (unmarried couples) can receive category A visas if the country of origin provides reciprocal treatment to domestic partners of government officials or diplomats.
If a family member does not qualify as an immediate family, they may qualify for a B-2 tourist visa. All B-2 visa applicants will be required to pay application fees.
If you need help applying for this type of visa, the lawyers at Lluis Law will guide you at every step. We are specialists in type A visas and in procedures for American residence by family petition.
As we have seen above, personal employees, domestic workers, assistants, or servants of A-1 or A-2 visa holders can receive an A-3 visa as long as they meet the requirements in 9 FAM 402.3-9.
- The application process requires the applicant to attend an interview at the US embassy or consulate. A written contract must be provided to the consular officer.
- The employer must provide proof that the applicant will receive the minimum wage and obtain working conditions in accordance with US law.
- You must prove that you will perform all contracted job duties.
If the employer is not the principal officer or the principal officer does not have the diplomatic rank of minister or higher, the employer must demonstrate that they have sufficient funds to pay the minimum wage and their working conditions.
What is the procedure to apply for the A1 or A2 visa?
The procedure to apply for an A1 or A2 visa is quite simple, but it varies depending on the embassy or consulate where it is processed. These steps are:
- If you are already inside the US and entered with some type of visa, you can submit the A-1 visa application to USCIS. If you are outside the US, you must apply at the US embassy or consulate in your home country.
- Pay the visa application fee. Those who apply for A1 visas are exempt from this payment.
- Request and complete Form DS-160.
- Submit it for processing.
- After the application is made, USCIS sends a receipt that must be kept on file. The receipt contains a number that is very important as it will be required later.
How long does the processing of an A-1 visa take?
The processing time for an A-1 visa is usually short. There are cases in which the response to the visa application is immediate, even the same day of applying.
After the US Embassy or consulate official stamps the applicant’s passport, the visa will be issued.
Validity of the A-1 visa
The US embassy can approve an A-1 visa for the time required for the diplomatic mission. Although there are also cases in which it is approved for an indefinite period of time.
If the time is indefinite, the holder of the A1 visa can remain in US territory indefinitely. Note that this will not be the same as having a permanent residence (Green Card). You will need to fulfill your obligations as an A-1 visa holder.
If the validity of the visa is about to expire, it is possible to apply for a visa extension to the Department of State. As long as the reasons why the stay needs to be extended are explained.
Differences between A and G Visas
It is important to know the differences between an A type diplomatic visa and G visas since both share common aspects. These differences are:
- G visas are issued to diplomatic and government officials or any other employee who works for an international organization approved by the US government.
- G visas have four classifications and cover various international employees and types of organizations.
- If you are an employee of an international non-governmental organization you need a G visa. On the other hand, if you represent the government of your country, an A visa is required.
- In case of being part of the military personnel, the appropriate visa is the G.
- In the scenario where the United States does not recognize the government of the country the applicant represents, they must apply for a G visa.
- If the applicant’s country of origin does not belong to the international organization where they work, they need a G visa.
In case you or a family member has questions about the application for a type A diplomatic visa, the immigration lawyers in Los Angeles of the Lluis Law firm will be happy to help you.
The firm focuses on efficiency and quality at the service of our clients who seek to process any type of visa.
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