All diplomats and other foreign government officials 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. The officials cannot 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 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 Government State 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 States as tourists or to perform non-governmental functions that are commercial 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?
To qualify for the A-1 visa, there are certain requirements that government officers must meet. If they are not in an elected government position, then they must look for other types of visas which can help them achieve their goals to visit the US.
The following people are eligible for the 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 with 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 demonstrate that the purpose of their visit to the United States is government-related.
How to apply for the A-1 visa?
The application process for the A-1 visa is quite straightforward and has fewer procedures than other non-immigrant visas. However, the application cannot be started unless the person applying has a diplomatic passport. So if you have just been appointed in a government position that qualifies you for the A-1 visa, you must get your diplomatic passport before applying.
If you are within the US on another type of visa, you can send your A-1 visa applications to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), but if you are outside the US, you must go through a US embassy or consulate located in your country of residence.
After you get your diplomatic passport, the application procedure for the A-1 visa is as follows:
⦁ Fill out Form DS-160
⦁ Submit the necessary A-1 visa documentation
1. Fill out Form DS-160
Form DS-160 is an online application form used for non-immigrant visas. Depending on the visa you are applying for, it will have the appropriate fields you need to fill. It collects your personal information as well as information on your purpose of visit. At the end of your application, when you submit it, you will get a visa confirmation code or page. You must save this since you will need it later in the application process.
2. Submit the necessary A-1 visa documentation
You will also need to submit documents, depending on where you are applying from. These documents are necessary for your A-1 visa application to be complete:
⦁ A valid diplomatic passport.
⦁ Your Form DS-160 confirmation page which you will get when you complete the form.
⦁ A photograph meeting the US visa Photo Requirements
⦁ Diplomatic note is written from your country’s government and must include:
⦁ Your full name
⦁ Date of birth
⦁ Position within the government
⦁ Purpose of travel
⦁ Description of your duties and job position
⦁ Intended travel period
⦁ Names, dates of birth, and relationship with your dependents, if they intend to travel with you
⦁ Names, dates of birth, and job positions of attendants or servants, if you need them to travel with you
Besides the Form DS-160 and the supporting documents, applicants for the A-1 visa will not need to go through other procedures. Visa interviews are usually held for other types of US visas and are not required for the A-1 and A-2 visas. However, the US Embassy is allowed to require an interview if they see a reason for it.
How long is the processing time for the A-1 visa?
After you submit your A-1 visa application, the processing times are extremely short; many are even processed on the same day of application submission. Due to their importance, A-1 visas are generally processed faster than other non-immigrant visas. The US Embassy officer will stamp your passport and you can then start to make travel arrangements for the US if you are applying from another country.
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. However, if that long-term position ceases to be recognized by the U.S. government, the A-1 visa will no longer be valid.
Can I get a Green Card with an A-1 visa?
Getting a Green Card with an A-1 visa is quite difficult, but not impossible. To become a lawful permanent resident of the US, A-1 visa holders will have to give up their diplomatic status. This means that they will not have the privileges they had with an A-1 visa. To do this, they need to file Form I-508 – Waiver of Rights, Privileges, Exemptions, and Immunities. Afterward, A-1 visa holders can apply to get a Green Card through marriage, investment, or if they can prove that they cannot return to their home country safely.
Can my dependents accompany me with an A-1 visa?
As mentioned, A-1 visa holders can have their spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old come to the US. In addition, they can also bring their immediate family or close relatives. The dependents are allowed to work after getting an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS, and they are also allowed to study and enroll in an academic program in the US.
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