The A Visa category, otherwise known as a diplomatic visa, is reserved for diplomats or foreign government officials who are visiting the United States specifically for official work on behalf of their governments. Under the current immigration laws, those who wish to apply for an A Visa must do so before they enter the United States. There are some exceptions, like changing to an A-Visa from your current visa. The position that you hold within your government and the official reason for your travel will determine which type of A-visa that you need. Immediate family members of those who currently hold one are typically eligible for A visas, as well. Under some circumstances, however, visas are issued to personal workers and/or attendants of diplomatic officials traveling to the United States. As you can see, obtaining A Visas can be a complex process. If you are in the midst of applying, renewing or switching into one, give our experienced attorneys at Florida Immigration Law Counsel a call for your initial consultation.
Different Types of A Visas
Though an A Visa is designed for foreign officials and diplomats, there are three separate categories of A Visas. The type of visa that you apply for will correlate with your position within your government and the reason for which you are traveling. Listed below are the three types of A Visas and a description of who is eligible for each.
- A-1 Visa: No matter the purpose of visiting the United States, Head of States require an A-1 visa. Cabinet members, government ministers, European Union representatives, African Union representatives, and in some cases immediate family members of a current A-1 visa holder are eligible. Additionally, officials or diplomats who are working at the embassy or consulate in the U.S. of their national government require an A-1 as well.
- A-2 Visa: The A-2 visa is designed for full-time employees working at an embassy or consulate of their country in the U.S. Also, government officials coming to the U.S. due to a written request to perform official duties, foreign military officials located on a U.S. military base as well as the staff of AU and/or EU delegation members can be eligible. Immediate family members of A-2 visa holders are also eligible for an A-2 visa.
- A-3 Visa: An A-3 visa is specifically designed for personal employees, attendants, and/or domestic workers. This can include personal assistants, nannies, nurses, etc.
It is important to remember that all types of A visas are meant for those representing their national governments on official business. If the trip is for pleasure, there are other types of visas to apply for.
How to Apply for an A Visa
You must complete many steps in order to successfully apply for an A visa of any type. The order of the steps to the application process may vary, depending on which consulate or embassy you got to, so it’s important to check the website of your local embassy or consulate first. For most other visas, the U.S. Embassy or consulate will require an in-person interview. However, this is typically not necessary for those applying for an A-1 or A-2 visa. If you are a personal employee or domestic worker of a government official applying for an A-3, you will be required to interview.
For those who are applying for an A-1 or A-2 visa, you must fill out and complete a DS-160 form. This can be completed online. You will be required to submit the printed confirmation page with your application as well as a photo taken within the last six months. Furthermore, you will be required to submit the following documents with your application:
- Passport that is valid for at least six months beyond your length of stay
- Form DS-160
- Uploaded photo
- Diplomatic note confirming your position and reason for travel
- Form I-94 (for immediate family members of A-1 and A-2 visa holders
The U.S. embassy or consulate that you apply at may require additional documentation in order to determine your qualifications for A visas. Additionally, those applying for A visas do not typically have to pay fees. This is usually the same for immediate family members.
Renewing Your Visa
If you are a holder of an A-1 or A-2 visa, you can apply for a visa renewal within the United States. Unfortunately, A-3 visa holders cannot renew their visas while within the United States. They will be required to apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside of the nation. For specific cases, it is recommended that you contact the Diplomatic Liaison Division and/or the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. Renewal of A visas can be a nightmare without a knowledgeable and experienced immigration attorney.
Changing the Status of Your Visa
People often change to an A visa because they have accepted a new opportunity within their government. They may also choose to switch out of an A visa if their employment has been terminated or they have voluntarily resigned. Both of the aforementioned scenarios can be complex and require you to follow several steps. Any misstep can cause a delay. Though it is possible to switch into or out of A visas, it is not guaranteed that your application will be approved. The Diplomatic Liaison Division Visa Office is available for additional questions on a limited basis.
Why You Should Work With an Immigration Attorney
Obtaining and/or renewing A visas can be a cumbersome process. The rules for A visas are unique, complex and specific. Additionally, submitting the wrong documentation and/or information can delay your application and have a negative impact on your ability to do your job. Many holders of A visas wish to become citizens of the U.S., get a green card, and/or change their type of visa. It is recommended that you connect with an immigration attorney for each of these instances. The attorneys at Florida immigration Law Counsel are experienced in helping government officials, diplomats, and their family/employees to obtain A visas. Give us a call for your initial consultation today.