USA and the UK
- What is a Diplomatic Visa?
- What are the different types of Diplomatic Visas?
- Who is eligible for the A-1 Visa?
- What are the requirements for an A-1 Visa?
- What is the application process for an A-1 Visa?
- What documents are needed for an A-1 Visa?
- How long is the A-1 Visa valid?
- How long does it take to get an A-1 Visa?
- Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Diplomatic Visa?
Diplomatic visas are issued to various government workers traveling on diplomatic passports to the United States for official government or diplomatic purposes. This type of visa is available to government officials, their immediate family members, and support staff.
While in the United States, foreign officials can participate in a variety of official duties and activities on behalf of their national government but can not take on any other form of employment or enroll in full-time study.
Furthermore, those who are in the U.S. under an A-1 visa are permitted to travel freely in and out of the United States. A-1 visa holders also have the privilege of ‘diplomatic immunity’ which prevents them from being tried in the U.S. court system despite the crime.
What are the different types of Diplomatic Visas?
All diplomats and other foreign government officials who are coming to the U.S. to take part in any diplomatic activities on behalf of their government will need to obtain A visa status before entering the United States. These officials can not travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program or through a Visitor Visa.
There are 4 different types of diplomatic visas available to anyone entering the United States on official government business. These include the following visa classifications:
- A-1 Visa. This visa is available to Heads of State, Diplomats, Embassy or Consular officers, Public Ministers or Cabinet Members, Ambassadors, Representatives from the European Union (EU) and African Union (AU) delegation, and immediate family members of A-1 visa holders.
- A-2 Visa. This visa is available to full-time foreign government officials who are coming to the United States to work at an embassy or consulate, foreign military members who will be stationed at a U.S. military base, or assigned to a foreign embassy or consulate, the staff of EU and AU delegation representatives, and immediate family of A-2 visa holders.
- A-2, NATO1-6 visa. This visa is available to foreign military staff who will be serving in the United States.
- A-3. This visa is available to personal employees, attendants, or servants of foreign government officials.
Who is eligible for the A-1 Visa?
It should be noted, that all foreign Heads of State of Government qualify for an A-1 visa regardless of their purpose of travel. All other visa applicants who are applying for an A-visa must be able to demonstrate a valid purpose of travel related to government work.
This means that the visa applicant must be traveling to the United States on behalf of their national government to perform specific duties or services that are inherently governmental in both nature and character. Any government officials who are traveling to the United as tourists or to perform non-governmental functions that are of a commercial nature will not qualify for an A-visa despite there being a government interest in the activities.
Local government officials representing their town, city, state, province, or other local political entity are not eligible for a diplomatic visa and must enter the United States on another visa, such as a B1 or B2 Visitor Visa.
What are the requirements for an A-1 Visa?
Individuals who are employed in the following governmental roles can apply for an A-1 visa:
- High-level officials in a foreign government (This can include heads of state, government ministers, judicial officers, legislative leaders, etc)
- Ambassadors or consular officers who are visiting the U.S. for diplomatic purposes
- Government representatives of foreign states who maintain diplomatic relations with the United States
Government representatives of nations who do not have diplomatic ties or relations to the United States may be allowed an A-1 visa if it is determined that visiting the U.S. will be in the interest of the country.
All applicants must be able to demonstrate that the purpose of their visit to the United States is government-related.
What is the application process for an A-1 Visa?
All A-1 visa applicants must be high-ranking government officials who have either a diplomatic passport or an official ‘diplomatic note’ issued by their government. Diplomatic notes must contain the government official’s full name, date of birth, position and title, duties, location of their assignment in the United States, and their anticipated length of stay. This note should also include the names, dates of birth, and relationship status of those who are accompanying the government official to the United States.
After the visa applicant has acquired their diplomatic passport and/or diplomatic note, he/she will then need to complete and submit Form DS-160 (Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application). This is an online form that can be filled out online. The online form will ask the applicant questions regarding their background, education, employment, and reasons for travel to the United States. The applicant will be required to upload a photo of themselves to this application. Once submitted, the applicant will be shown a confirmation page along with a code that identifies the application. The applicant must print out this confirmation page as it will need to be submitted later in the application process.
After Form DS-160 has been completed, the visa applicant will then need to send off the necessary supporting documents to their local U.S. Embassy or Consulate who will issue the A-1 visa.
It should be noted that although visa interviews are required for most U.S. visas, those who are applying for an A-1 or A-2 visa will not need to attend a visa interview unless the U.S. Embassy processing the visa requests an interview for specific reasons.
What documents are needed for an A-1 Visa?
To receive an A-1 visa, applicants will need to send the following documents to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their country of residence that is processing their visa:
- A valid passport (or diplomatic passport). This passport must be valid for at least 6 months after the intended departure date from the United States.
- DS-160 Form confirmation page
- One photo (This photo should comply with U.S. visa photo requirements and is only necessary if you are unable to upload a photo on the DS-160 online form)
- A diplomatic note written by the applicant’s foreign national government. This note should include the applicant’s full name, date of birth, position in the government, the purpose of travel, location of assignment/visit, description of their job position and its duties, internet period of travel in the United States. This diplomatic note should also contain the names, dates of birth, and relationship or job positions of any dependents or employees who will be traveling with the A-1 visa holder.
Immediate family members who are applying separately from the principal visa applicant will need to submit a copy of the principal visa holder’s passport and a copy of the I-94 form to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
How long is the A-1 Visa valid?
The A-1 visa is valid for the period of intended travel. If the A-1 visa holder is on assignment for a job role that is long-term, the A-1 visa can be valid indefinitely. If that long-term position ceases to be recognized by the U.S. government, the A-1 visa will no longer be valid.
Those who are in the U.S. under an A-1 visa for a defined amount of time but need to extend their stay can apply for a visa extension by submitting a request to the Department of State (DOS) along with a letter from the applicant’s foreign government outlining the reasons for the extension.
How long does it take to get an A-1 Visa?
Due to their importance, A-1 visas are generally processed faster than other non-immigrant visas. Processing times are extremely short and many are even processed with the same day of application submission.
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A-1 visa holders can bring their spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and other close relatives with them to the United States. These members of the family are allowed to work and study while in the United States. Those who plan to work may do so after they have applied and received their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the USCIS.
Family members are permitted to stay in the United States for as long as the A-1 principal visa holder is allowed to continue working in their official role.
There is no cost for an A-1 visa as A, G, C-3, and NATO visa classifications are exempt from any visa fees.
A-1 visas can be revoked under the following instances:
- If the A-1 visa holder has been found with plans to overthrow the US government through unlawful means or terrorism
- If the A-1 visa holder has been found with plans to commit crimes, engage in espionage, or export sensitive information that is prohibited from leaving the United States
- If the Secretary of States has determined that there are negative foreign policy consequences as a result of allowing the A-1 visa holder to enter the United States