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In this article we explain what a visa type A is, the procedures necessary to obtain it and its benefits. This visa is classified into categories (A1, A2, A3) and is suitable for diplomats, embassy officials, employees and their staff.

If you travel to the United States as a representative of a foreign country and as a diplomat, you need this visa. An ambassador, for example, needs an A1 visa to enter the U.S. However, you must not only have the position of ambassador, but have been specifically designated as ambassador fo the United States.

On the other hand, if you are an ambassador but you are assigned to a country other than the United States, you must apply for another visa to enter. Ambassadors wishing to enter the US for vacation must apply for a B1 / B2 tourist visa . Since the A1 visa is available only to diplomats or ambassadors active in the United States.

To process any type of US visa, the best immigration lawyers in Los Angeles from Lluis Law can help you. We have more than 40 years of legal practice serving immigrants who seeking how to get the Green Card (Permanent Residence).

What is a visa type A?

As mentioned previously this type of visas for the USA are only available to diplomatic officials accredited to visit the country. That is, all the officials of a foreign government who come to the United States to provide diplomatic services.

Type A visas are classified into three categories: A1, A2 and A3. Each is awarded depending on the level of the government or diplomatic official.

A1 Visa

It is granted to high-level officials of a foreign government either for temporary visit or permanent services.

A2 visa

It is issued to mid-ranking officials who work full time at an embassy or consulate in the United States. It includes civilian diplomatic officials and their immediate families.

A3 Visa

This visa is basically for domestic employers accompanying A1 and A2 visa holders.

a1, a2 and a3 visa for diplomats

Who qualifies for a visa type A?

For a U.S. A1 visa, the following officials qualify:

  • Heads of state recognized by the United States.
  • Ambassadors and consuls of foreign countries with diplomatic ties to the United States.
  • Foreign government ministers or cabinet members attending official functions in the U.S.

* Government officials (non-diplomats) who travel to the United States in government functions for 90 days or less, receive A1 visas. The only difference is that the visas are marked “TDY” or “temporary service”.

For an A2 visa qualify:

  • Officials and full-time employees of foreign governments who work at an embassy or consular office in the United States.
  • Members of the immediate family of diplomats, consuls and embassy officials and full-time employees. They can receive a derived A1 or A2 visa, depending on the case.

For an A3 visa, the following people qualify:

  • Relatives or staff living in the immediate home of the diplomat, official or employee. It includes personal assistants and domestic workers such as caregivers, babysitters, governesses, tutors, cooks, valets and more.

Purpose of visiting the US to apply for a visa type A

It is clear that the purpose of the diplomat’s visit should be 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 of a commercial nature, then he must apply for another visa.

Any authority from a foreign country that wants to visit the United States for a personal purpose must apply for a B2 tourist visa. For example, 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 U.S. mayor.

What are the benefits of an A1 visa?

visa type A benefits

This visa grants its holders a series of privileges within the United States. These are some of the most important ones:

  • Travel in and out of the United States for an unlimited time, as long as the visa is valid.
  • Not be charged, prosecuted, or tried by any court in the United States if you 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 at their service at home receive A3 visas.
  • Immediate relatives benefited from this visa include unmarried couples and others who live in their house. There are no age limits for accompanying visa holders, unlike other types of visa for the USA. The only requirement is that the government it represents recognizes the bond by marriage, blood, or adoption of the relative.

Can the A1 visa be revoked?

If the United States government discovers that the A1 visa holder is a danger to the country, yes. For example:

  • Conspire against the U.S. government to overthrow it or damage its form of government.
  • You plan to commit crimes, participate in espionage activities, or attempt to obtain classified information from the country.
  • The Secretary of State determines that your presence is negative for the United States.

On the other hand, A-1 visa holders have certain restrictions within the United States. One is that they do not have employment authorization, as can be processed by another non-immigrant visa holder. Your presence in the supposed to be for government purposes on behalf of your country.

They also cannot enroll in academic courses or programs, as they could be distracting from the main purpose of the visit.

What documents do I need to apply for an A1 or A2 visa?

Firstly, a diplomatic note issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Chancellery) is required. In this document addressed to the United States government, the accreditation of the official mentioned in the diplomatic note is requested.

The diplomatic note includes the full name, date of birth and title of the designated official. Likewise, the place of assignment, the purpose of your trip and an explanation of your duties. It also indicates the date of the trip to the U.S. and an estimate of the length of your stay in the country.

The document also mentions the personal data of the diplomatic official’s companions. For example, names, dates of birth and relationship with the owner.

documentation for the A1 visa

Documents required to complete form DS-160

While filling out the form you will need to have certain documents on hand such as:

  • Valid passport.
  • Travel itinerary.
  • International travel history of the past five years, including to the United States.
  • Information about your education and job resume.

Along with Form DS-160, you must send other documents to the U.S. embassy / consulate or USCIS. These documents will be required to complete the A-1 visa application:

  • Valid diplomatic passport with a validity period of more than 6 months, after the planned departure from the USA. 
  • Confirmation receipt of Form DS-160.
  • Passport-type photography according to visa requirements.
  • Diplomatic note issued by the government of the country that the diplomat represents.

If you need help to apply for this type of visa, Lluis Law’s lawyers advise and guide you through every step. We are specialists in type A visas and in procedures of family based immigration.

What is the procedure to apply for the A1 or A2 visa?

The steps to obtain an A1 or A2 visa are quite simple and vary according to the embassy or consulate where it is processed.

It is important to know that only government officials with a diplomatic passport can perform this procedure.

  1. If you are already within the U.S. and entered with a visa type, you can send the A-1 visa application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). If you are outside the US, you must process the application in the U.S. embassy or consulate of your country.
  2. Pay the visa application fee. Applicants for A1 visas are generally exempt from this fee.
  3. Apply for and complete Form DS-160, electronic nonimmigrant visa application.
  4. Submit it for processing.
  5. After making the request, USCIS sends you a receipt that should 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?

Processing times for this visa are extremely short. There are cases in which the response to the visa application is immediate, even on the same day of applying for it. After the official from the U.S. Embassy Stamps the applicant’s passport, the visa is granted.

Validity of the A-1 visa

The United States Embassy can approve the visa for the time required for the diplomatic mission. Although there are also cases in which it is approved for an indefinite time. If so, the A1 visa holder can remain in U.S. territory indefinitely. Of course, as long as the position held by the applicant is recognized.

If visa validity is about to expire, a visa extension can be requested from the Department of State. As long as the reasons why the stay needs to be extended are explained, through a letter from the government.

While the A1 visa holder is present in the United States, he can also apply for an adjustment of status. This is done through the filing of Form I-566.

Difference between A and G Visas?

G visas are issued to diplomatic and government officials or any other employee who works for an international organization. This organization must be approved by the USA. G visas have four classifications and cover various international employees and types of organizations.

Sometimes G visas and A visas tend to be confused. Although both have specific purposes of politics and international trade, there are differences for each.

For this reason it is important to differentiate them with the following key points:

  • 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 necessary.
  • If you are a member of military personnel, the appropriate visa is G.
  • If the United States does not recognize the government of the country it represents, the applicant must apply for a G visa. If the applicant’s country of origin does not belong to the international organization where he works, he needs a G visa.

If you or a family member have questions about applying for an A visa, we will gladly answer them. Call us right now and talk with our expert immigration lawyers. The Lluis Law firm in Los Angeles is characterized by its efficiency, speed and quality of customer service.