A-1 & A-2 Visas
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Posted by: Admin, on 3/24/2009, in category "Diplomats and Foreign Government Officials"
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Location: Virginia, United States
Abstract: Overview How to Qualify for a Diplomatic Visa Local Government and European Union Officials How to Apply - Required Documentation Visa Processing and Issuance Fees Renewing a Visa in the U.S. Immediate Family Members Personal Employees Additional Information Misrepresentation of Facts or Fraud Entering the U.S.- Port of Entry Further Visa Inquiries Frequently Asked Questions

Diplomats and Foreign Government Officials

A citizen of a foreign country, who wishes to enter the United States, generally must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. The type of visa you must have is defined by immigration law, and relates to the purpose of your travel. A visas are issued to diplomats and other government officials for travel to the United States. With the exception of a Head of State or Government who qualifies for an A visa regardless of the purpose of his or her visit to the United States, the type of visa required by a diplomat or other government official depends upon their purpose of travel to the United States.

A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to the United States port-of-entry, and request permission of the U.S. immigration inspector to enter the U.S. A visa does not guarantee entry into the U.S.

How to Qualify for a Diplomatic Visa

To qualify for an A-1 or A-2 visa, you must be traveling to the United States on behalf of your national government to engage solely in official activities for that government.  The fact that there may be government interest or control in a given organization is not in itself the defining factor in determining if you qualify for an A visa; the particular duties or services that will be performed must be governmental in character or nature, as determined by the United States Department of State, in accordance with U.S. immigration laws. Government officials traveling to the United States to perform non-governmental functions of a commercial nature, or traveling as tourists, require the appropriate visa, and do not qualify for A visas.

Foreign officials who are traveling to the United States on official business must obtain an A visa prior to their entry. They cannot travel on tourist's visas, or visa free under the Visa Waiver Program. Please note that U.S. visa law indicates that if a visa applicant is entitled to an A visa as a principal or dependent, he or she must receive an A visa. The exceptions to this rule are extremely limited.

Qualified A visa applicants traveling to the United States for assignments of less than 90 days will be issued visas annotated "TDY" (temporary duty).


Local Government and European Union Officials

Local government officials representing their state, province, borough, or other local political entity do not qualify for A visa status; they require a B visa.  

How to Apply - Required Documentation

As part of the visa application process, when applying abroad, an interview at the embassy consular section is required for most visa applicants. Embassies and consulates generally do not require an interview for those applying for A-1 and A-2 visas; however, a consular officer can request an interview. Please contact the embassy or consulate  in your home country for more information. 
Personal employees, attendants and servants of A visa holders, that is, applicants for A-3 visas, are required to be interviewed. Additionally, as part of the visa interview, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will be quickly completed.
Visa application forms should be delivered to the embassy or consulate in the country in which you are a resident. Each applicant and any accompanying persons, must submit the forms and documentation as explained below:
  • An application, Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-156, signed and completed. The DS-156 must be the March 2006 date, electronic "e-form application." Select Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form, DS-156 to access the electronic version of the DS-156. 
  • An application for A, G, and NATO Visa, Form DS-1648 (ONLY for A-1 and A-2 visa applicants applying in the U.S., including in cases of change of status, or those working at the United Nations, the DS-1648 should be submitted in lieu of the DS-156). This application must be completed and submitted online by selecting DS-1648 Online: New Application for A, G, or NATO Visa (Applying in the United States only), and then submitting the confirmation page generated at the end of the application, affixed with the Embassy, mission, or organization seal. The non-electronic form DS-1648 is NOT accepted.

  • A diplomatic note. The diplomatic note is written confirmation by the sending government of the applicant’s status. A-3 applicants must also have a diplomatic note included with their applications to confirm the official status of employers.
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant’s intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions).

  • One photograph - For Online Application DS-1648, you will upload either a scanned or digital photograph meeting the format requirements explained in the Photo Standards Guide for the Online Application DS-1648. If the photo upload function fails, continue trying to upload until the application allows you to proceed without a photo. Then, submit one print photograph meeting requirements, stapled or glued to the online DS-1648 confirmation page ONLY if the confirmation page has an X in the box where the uploaded photo should appear. See the print photo format found in the Nonimmigrant Photograph Requirements. If the confirmation page includes a photo image, then the photo upload function has succeeded and no separate print photograph is required.

  • Copy of both the visa and I-94 (both front and back) for the principal visa holder required for an immediate family member applying separate from the principal visa applicant.


Individuals who establish entitlement to an official visa classification (e.g., A, G, C-3, NATO) are exempt from paying visa fees. Additionally, individuals holding diplomatic passports may also be exempt from visa fees regardless of visa classification and purpose of travel, if they meet one of the qualifying categories defined in 22 CFR 21.26 (c)(1)(i) through (xvi). Possession of a diplomatic passport or the equivalent is not by itself sufficient to qualify for a no-fee diplomatic visa. The consular officer will make the determination whether the visa applicant qualifies for an exemption of fees under U.S. immigration laws. Official passport holders are not charged for official visas, but are required to pay visa application and reciprocal issuance fees, if applicable, for all non-official visas.

 Immediate Family Members

Immediate family members are defined as the spouse and unmarried sons and daughters of any age who are members of the principal applicant's household, even if studying in a different location. Immediate family also includes close relatives of the principal applicant or spouse who are related by blood, marriage or adoption and are not members of some other household, will reside regularly in the household of the principal applicant, and are recognized as dependents by the sending government. An unmarried partner, even if recognized as the principal applicant's dependent by the sending government, would not be eligible for a derivative A visa, but may apply for a B visa, if otherwise qualified. B visa applicants are required to pay visa application and reciprocal issuance fees, if applicable.

Personal employees, attendants, domestic workers, or servants of individuals who hold a valid A-1 or A-2 visa may be issued an A-3 visa, if they meet the requirements in 9 FAM 41.22 N4. As part of the application process, an interview at the embassy or consulate is required. Proof that the applicant will receive a fair wage, sufficient to financially support himself, comparable to that being offered in the area of employment in the U.S. is required. In addition, the applicant needs to demonstrate that he/she will perform the contracted employment duties. The consular officer will determine eligibility for the A-3 visa. Applicants for A-3 visas must apply outside the United States.
If the employer does not carry the diplomatic rank of Minister or higher or hold a position equivalent to Minister or higher, the employer must demonstrate that he or she will have sufficient funds to provide a fair wage and working conditions, as reflected in the contract.  Consideration is also given to the number of employees an employer would reasonably be able to pay.
To apply for an A-3 visa, the visa applicant must submit each of the items explained in the How to Apply - Required Documentation section above, as well as the following.
  • A supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-157, which provides additional information about your travel. 
  • Employment Contract signed by both the employer and the employee which must include each of the following items:

 The contract must be in English and also in a language understood by the employee to ensure the employee understands his or her duties and rights regarding salary and working conditions;

A guarantee the employee will be compensated at the state or federal minimum or prevailing wage, whichever is greater. Any money deducted for food or lodging is limited to that which is considered reasonable. (Note: Fair prevailing wage is determined by the consular officer using the Department of Labor Alien Labor Certificate/Occupational Employment Survey prevailing wage statistics by occupation and metropolitan area.);

  • A statement by the employee, promising not to accept any other employment while working for the employer;

  • A statement by the employer, promising to not withhold the passport of the employee; and

  • A statement indicating that both parties understand that the employee cannot be required to remain on the premises after working hours without compensation.

  • The employer must pay the domestic's initial travel expenses to the United States, and subsequently to the employer's onward assignment, or to the employee's country of normal residence at the termination of the assignment.

  • If the employer does not carry the diplomatic rank of Minister or higher or hold a position equivalent to Minister or higher, the employer must demonstrate that he or she will have sufficient funds to provide a fair wage and working conditions, as reflected in the contract.  Consideration is also given to the number of employees an employer would reasonably be able to pay.
Important Notices - for Employers and Personal Employees/Domestic Workers - Personal employees are advised to keep their passport and a copy of their contract in their possession. They should not surrender their contract and passport to their employer under any circumstances. Personal employees and domestic workers are advised that they will be subject to U.S. law while in the United States, and that their contracts provide working arrangements that the employer is expected to respect.

The U.S. Government considers "involuntary servitude" of domestic workers, as defined under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), to be a severe form of trafficking in persons (TIP) and a serious criminal offense. Victims of involuntary servitude are offered protection under the TVPA. "The term 'involuntary servitude' includes a condition of servitude induced by means of any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause a person to believe that, if the person did not enter into or continue in such condition, that person or another person would suffer serious harm or physical restraints, or the abuse or threatened abuse of the legal process." While in the U.S., domestic workers are advised that the telephone number for police and emergency services is 911, and that the U.S. Government maintains a telephone hotline for reporting abuse of domestic employees and other TIP-related crimes, 1-888-373-7888.

Additional Information

No assurances regarding the issuance of visas can be given in advance. Therefore final travel plans or the purchase of nonrefundable tickets should not be made until a visa has been issued.        

  Unless previously canceled, a visa is valid until its expiration date. Therefore, if the traveler has a valid U.S. visitor visa in an expired passport, do not remove the visa page from the expired passport. You may use it along with a new valid passport for travel and admission to the United States.

     Attempting to obtain a visa by the willful misrepresentation of a material fact, or fraud, may result in the permanent refusal of a visa or denial of entry into the United States. Classes of Aliens Ineligible to Receive Visas provides important information about ineligibilities.

Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to a port of entry in the United States, such as an international airport, a seaport or a land border crossing, and request permission to enter the U.S. Immigration inspectors with the Department of Homeland Security's, Customs and Border Protection, will permit or deny admission to the United States, and determine the permitted length of stay in the U.S., on any particular visit. Visa holders whose visas indicate port of entry restrictions are responsible for paying close attention to those restrictions, and risk being refused entry if they attempt to enter the United States at a port of entry that has not been authorized. In advance of travel, prospective travelers should review important information about Admissions/Entry requirements, as well as information related to restrictions about bringing food, agricultural products or other restricted/prohibited goods explained on the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection website. Upon arrival, A-3 visa holders will be enrolled in the US-VISIT entry-exit program. A-1 and A-2 visa holders are exempt from entry into the US-VISIT program. In addition, some A-3 travelers will also need to register their entry into the U.S. and departure. Select Special Registration to learn more. If allowed to enter, the U.S. immigration official will authorize the traveler's admission to the U.S. with a Form I-94, Record of Arrival-Departure. The Form I-94 documents authorized stay in the U.S. and notes the length of stay permitted; it is very important to keep the Form I-94 in one's passport.  

Further Visa Inquiries

      Questions on visa application procedures and visa ineligibilities should be made to the U.S. consular office abroad by the applicant. Before submitting your inquiry, we request that you carefully review this website and also the Embassy consular web site abroad. Very often you will find the information you need.

     If your inquiry concerns a visa case in progress overseas, you should first contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate handling your case for status information. Select U.S. Embassy or Consulate, and you can choose the Embassy or Consulate Internet site you need to contact.


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