Like any other foreign national, diplomats and other foreign government officials need a non-immigrant visa to travel to the U.S. Nonimmigrant visas are temporary visas that permit non-U.S citizens to enter the country for a specific period and purpose. There are various nonimmigrant visa types. As a diplomat or foreign government official, you need to ensure you obtain the right type; otherwise, you won’t fulfill the duties that made you travel.
An immigration attorney will help you ensure you are on the right track to obtaining our visa. If you have questions about the process or documents you should submit, you shouldn’t hesitate to consult one. When you contact us, the California Immigration Attorney, we’ll schedule a free, confidential consultation to answer all your questions and help you establish which visa to obtain. We will also help you with the application process or request a change of the visa status for favorable results.
Nonimmigrant Visas for Diplomats or Foreign Government Officials
If you are a diplomat or foreign government official and are visiting the U.S to perform solely official activities or duties on your national government’s behalf, you must obtain a diplomatic (A) visa before entering the USA. You can’t travel using a visitor visa or without a visa under the waiver program. However, The Head of Government or State is exempted from this rule.
They qualify for the A visa irrespective of the activities they’re going to do. An ‘A’ visa is divided into three categories: A-1, A-2, and A-3. Your position in your nation’s government and the reason for traveling determine whether you’ll apply for either of these visas.
As a diplomat or government official, you will have to seek an A-2 or A-1 visa. Your immediate family member accompanying you to the United States also receives an A2 or A1 visa with a few exceptions. Your employees, domestic workers, or attendants may obtain the A-3 type.
For you to be eligible for the A-2 or A-1 visa, your reason for flying to the U.S must be to perform solely official duties or activities on your country’s government behalf. In other words, your country’s government must have sent and authorized you to conduct the official activities you are going to do.
The specific services or duties you are traveling to perform should be governmental as classified by the State Department, according to the United States immigration laws. If you are entering the U.S to engage in non-governmental commercial duties or visiting as a tourist, you need an appropriate visa for this. You don’t qualify for an A visa. The mere point that there might be government control or interest in a particular organization isn’t in itself a defining factor when it comes to determining if you’re eligible for any of the A visas.
Diplomats and Foreign Officials Who Need an A-1 Visa
For a United State A-1 visa, you will qualify if you are:
- A Head of Government or State recognized by the U.S (as we mentioned earlier, you will qualify irrespective of your reason for travel)
- A consul or ambassador of a foreign country that has diplomatic ties to the U.S
- A foreign government cabinet member or minister coming to attend an official function in the country
- An AU (African Union) or EU (European Union) delegation representative
- An immediate family member of an A-1 visa holder
Foreign Officials & Employees Requiring an A-2 Visa
You qualify for an A-2 visa if you are:
- A full-time employee of a foreign country, coming solely to work at a foreign consulate or embassy in the USA to engage in duties at a consulate or embassy.
- A government official representing your country’s government, visiting the U.S based on a written request by your nation to engage in government-related, official duties
- A foreign military member assigned to a foreign consulate/embassy in the U.S or posted at a United States military base
- A staff of AU or EU delegation representatives
- An immediate family member of an A2 visa holder
If you are traveling to the United States for a government function that will last ninety days or less, your visa is marked temporary service or TDY.
Persons Requiring A3 Visas
You’ll obtain an A3 visa if:
- You’re a personal attendant, employee, domestic worker (babysitter, caregiver, tutor, cook, governess, valet, etc.), you qualify for an A-3 visa.
Travel Purposes Prohibited Under an A-2 or A-1 Visa
We mentioned before that if you’re traveling on an A-2 or A-1 visa, then your purpose of travel must be only to represent your nation in official government duties. Activities prohibited under A1/A2 include:
- A government official coming to engage in non-official, non-governmental commercial duties, or visiting as a tourist. If any of these are your reasons for travel, then you have to seek the right visa for your specific traveling purpose. You will need a B-1 visa for commercial activities, while for tourism purposes, you will require a B-2 visa. It bears repeating that a Head of Government or State must use an A1 visa, whether they are coming to tour or to engage in commercial activities.
- A foreign local government official that’s traveling to represent his/her state, borough, or province. For instance, if you are a governor or mayor and wish to come for a convention in Los Angelea, CA, you won’t qualify for A visas, even if a United States mayor invited you. Instead, you will need a category B visitor visa.
Advantages of A1 and A2 Visas
These visas grant you several privileges while in the USA. These are a few of the many significant ones:
- You can travel in and out of the U.S for an indefinite period, provided your visa is still valid.
- You are not to be charged, tried, or prosecuted by a U.S-based court should you commit an offense because you have diplomatic immunity.
- The visa-processing process is expedited. There are no waiting times or priority dates.
- Your children and spouse will also be granted an A1/A2 visa, whereas your staff members will receive the A3 type.
- There’s no age limit for anyone accompanying you, unlike the other visa types for the United States. The only condition is that your government recognizes the relationship between you and the person traveling with you either by blood, marriage, or adoption.
The USA Government Can Revoke A Visas
In case the U.S government sees you as a threat to the nation, it can revoke your visa. Examples of instances that may make you be a threat to the United States are:
- Conspiring against the United States government to destroy its form of administration or overthrow it
- Planning to commit offenses, trying to acquire classified info from the government, or participating in espionage activities
- If the State Secretary establishes that being in the U.S brings a negative effect
Note that you have various restrictions if you are in the U.S on an A visa. One of them is that you cannot obtain any employment, as can other nonimmigrant visa holders. Your time in the country should be dedicated only to conducting official government duties on your country’s behalf. You also can’t enroll in any academic programs or courses since they could distract you from your visit’s primary purpose.
Applying for the A Visa
There are numerous steps to follow when applying for an ‘A’ visa. The order with which you complete the steps and how you do it may differ depending on the United States Consulate or Embassy where you’re applying. Check the application instructions on the consulate or embassy where you’ll apply.
Completing the Online Application
The first step towards your application is filling the online nonimmigrant visa application form, i.e., Form DS-160. While completing this form, you’ll need to have various documents at hand, like a travel itinerary, job resume & info about your education, and International travel history for the prior five years, including U.S tours. After completing the online application, print Form DS-60’s confirmation page. You’ll be required to submit it with other documents.
A critical point to note is that if you’re an A1/A2 visa holder on duty in the U.S and are reapplying for the A visa, you shouldn't complete Form DS-160, but DS-1648. You’ll also need to upload your passport photo when filling the application form. The passport photo should’ve been taken in the previous six months. It must also be in the required format.
Submitting the Required Documentation
If applying for an A visa outside the USA, you must gather and submit the various necessary documentation to the USA Consulate or Embassy in your country of origin. And if you’re already within the U.S, and entered using a visa type, then you can submit the documentation to the USCIS. The documents include:
- A Diplomatic Note — A diplomatic note is issued to you by the (Chancellery) Foreign Affairs Ministry and addressed to the U.S government. It’s a written accreditation from your nation’s government of the reason for your travel and status. If you are an A-3 applicant, you also need a diplomatic note to accredit your employer’s official status. Your country’s government has to include the following details in the note submitted along with an A1/A2 visa application out of the USA and for the request to change to either of the visa statuses in the U.S.:
- Your name or the name of your employee, date of birth, Place of visit or assignment, position and title, the reason for travel, a summary of the duties you’ll engage yourself in, date of travel, and the expected period you’ll be in the USA.
- The name, date of birth, and the relationship of any dependent and other household members that will be joining or accompanying you or the employee
- An Authentic Passport —You should also have a valid passport for travel to the USA. The passport has to be valid for at least six months beyond the expected period you’ll be in the U.S (except if exempt by specific agreements between the U.S and your country). If other people are included in the passport, each individual who wishes to obtain a visa must apply separately.
- If you apply for your visa outside the USA, you’ll need to submit the confirmation page of Form DS-160 to the US Consulate or Embassy.
- Photo— You’re supposed to upload your passport photograph when filling the online visa application form. However, should the upload fail, you have to include one printed passport photo with the application documents, and it should be in the required format.
- If you’re the government official’s family member submitting a separate application, you must include a photocopy of Form I-94 (back & front) and the government official’s visa.
- Additional Documents May Be Necessary—Review the visa application instructions on the consulate or embassy website where you’re applying for your visa. You may have to provide additional documentation to prove you’re qualified.
About Visa Application Charges
Persons eligible for official visa categories (A, NATO, C-3, and G) are exempted from visas application charges. If you’re holding a diplomatic passport, you might also be exempted from paying visa application fees irrespective of visa category and reason for travel if you satisfy any of these qualifying classifications. Having a diplomatic passport or its equivalent isn’t in itself enough to be eligible for a no-fee diplomatic visa. The consulate official will determine whether you qualify to be exempt from visa fees under the United States Immigration laws. If you hold an official passport, you won’t pay application fees for an official visa. However, you will be charged reciprocal issuance and visa application fee for any non-official visa.
As part of the application process, most visa applicants must be interviewed at the United States Consulate or Embassy. Generally, Consulates and Embassies don’t conduct interviews for A1 and A2 visa applicants, though a consular officer may request that one be carried out. Any domestic workers, attendants, and personal employees, of A-2 or A-1 visa holders seeking an A-3 visa, must undergo an interview.
Visa Application for an Immediate Family Member
The visa application process for your immediate family member is similar to yours. United States Consulates and Embassies treat visa applications based on same-sex marriages similarly as they do those for opposite-sex marital unions.
In this context, an immediate family member is your spouse and your unmarried daughters and sons, who are your household members, even if they’re studying in different locations. It may also include an individual who resides in your home regularly, isn’t a member of any other household, and the sending government recognizes them as your immediate family member, as established by entitlement to rights & benefits.
Apart from your unmarried daughters & sons and a spouse, other family members categorized as immediate who can qualify for an A visa are:
- Any of your other relatives related to you by marriage, adoption, or blood of your spouse or yours
- Your domestic partner
- Your relative by marriage, adoption, or blood of your domestic partner
‘Domestic partner’ in this context refers to same-sex domestic partners. You and your domestic-partner can be granted an A visa if your country would offer mutual treatment to the domestic partners of United States diplomats or other government dignitaries in that nation.
Family members who don’t fall under immediate family members may be eligible for B-2 visitor Visas. A visitor visa applicant is charged an application & visa issuance fee, if applicable.
After submitting your application, the USCIS will send a receipt to you, which you should keep on file. This receipt has a critical number, as it’ll be needed later. The processing time for A visas is short. We have cases where the feedback to the submitted application is as immediate as the same day you give your documents.
Visa Application for Personal Employees
If you are a personal employee, domestic worker, attendant, or servant to a diplomat or any other government official, you may qualify for an A3 visa. When applying for this visa, you must be interviewed at the US consulate or Embassy. Your recruitment agent or employer won’t be present at the interview. You have to schedule an appointment for the interview at the United States Consulate/Embassy in any of these places:
- Your country of origin
- The nation where you’re currently living
- The nation where you’re physically present
You also have to provide the consulate officer with a written contract of your employment duties. In line with the contract, your employer should provide evidence that you’ll work under conditions that conform to the United States law and be paid the minimum salary. The contract has to be written in English and signed by you and your employer. In case you don’t understand English, then it must be translated into a language you comprehend to ensure you know your employment duties and rights as far as working conditions and salary are concerned.
Additionally, you need to prove that you will do the employment duties you’re contracted to perform. The consulate officer determines whether or not you are eligible for the A3 visa. Note that if you’re seeking this kind of visa, you have to do so outside the USA.
Suppose your employer isn’t a principal officer, deputy principal officer, or doesn’t have a minister’s diplomatic ranking or other higher rankings. In that case, they must prove that they’ll have enough finances to provide you with the required working conditions and pay minimum wage, as indicated in your contract. The consular official also considers the number of workers an employer will reasonably be capable of paying.
Apart from these requirements, you also have to:
- Fill in the online application form and print the confirmation page, which you will submit with other documents at the US Consulate or Embassy.
- Gather the necessary documentation (documents we mentioned in A-1 and A-2 above
You are the one to keep your passport, duplicate the employment contract, and other personal property for the period you’ll be in the USA. You shouldn’t allow your employer to keep them for you for any given reason. Both you and your boss will be under United States laws for the period you’ll be in the country. Your contract outlines the work plan that your boss is supposed to respect.
We have given employment-based non-immigrants that enjoy legal rights in accordance with United States Federal Immigration, employment, and labor statutes, and you should’ve received info about available resources and protection. It’s critical to know your legal rights, and resources & protection available for you in the United States as a temporary visitor.
The validity of A Visas
The Embassy could approve your visa for the period length you require for your diplomatic mission. However, we also have cases where it’s approved indefinitely. If this is the case, you can stay in the United States territory for an unlimited period, provided the position you hold is recognized.
In case the visa is nearly expiring, you can request its extension from the State Department, provided you explain the reasons for the extension through a letter from your country’s government. While you are in the USA, you could also seek to adjust your status. You do this by completing Form I-566.
The Difference Between Category A & G Visas
A G visa is granted to diplomats and any other government official or other employees who work for international organizations. The organization has to be U.S-approved. A G visa has four categories and covers various kinds of organizations and international employees.
Sometimes, people confuse between A visas and G visas. Even though the two have specific international trade and political purposes, they differ from each other. The visas are differentiated with these crucial points:
- In case you work for an international NGO, you’ll travel on a G visa. But if you’re representing your country’s government, you’ll have to apply for an A visa.
- If the U.S doesn’t recognize the government of the country you’re representing, the visa to travel on is G. If your home country doesn’t belong to the international organization where you work, then you’ll need a G visa.
- In case you’re a military personnel member, the right visa for you is G.
Consult an Experienced Immigration Attorney Near Me
If you need expert help securing or renewing an A visa, contact the California Immigration Attorney right away. Our lawyers have successfully helped clients obtain different visa types, including those in the A category. We offer state-of-the-art services in different languages, including English and Spanish, and you can count on our experience and resources to obtain the best possible outcome. Contact us at 424-789-8809 for a consultation.