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A Visa

The A visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows diplomats, ambassadors, government officials, and their support staff to travel to the United States to engage solely in official duties or activities on behalf of their national government. 

What are the different types of A visa? 

There are three types of A visa, the A-1, A-2, and A-3 visas. The differences between the three are outlined below: 

A-1 Visa

The A-1 visa is commonly issued to leading government officials, such as: 

  • the Head of State or Government of a country; 
  • Ambassadors, consuls, or other officials coming to the U.S. to serve at a foreign embassy or consulate;
  • Government ministers or cabinet members; 
  • European Union and African Union delegation representatives; 
  • Immediate family members of an A-1 visa holder. 

A-2 Visa

The A-2 visa is commonly issued to government officials and employees, such as: 

  • Government officials representing their government, who are coming to the U.S. on written request of their country to perform official, government related duties for a maximum of 90 days; 
  • Foreign military members stationed at a U.S. military base or assigned to a foreign embassy or consulate in the U.S.; 
  • Full-time employees assigned by their government to perform duties in the United States at their country’s embassy or consulate; 
  • Staff members of European Union and African Union delegation representatives; 
  • Immediate family members of an A-2 visa holder.

A-3 Visa

The A-3 visa is commonly issued to the support staff of A-1 and A-2 visa holders, such as: 

  • Personal employees; 
  • Domestic workers; 
  • Attendants; 
  • Aides/Assistants

Personal employees, attendants, or domestic workers for diplomats and government officials

Who Qualifies for the A Visa? 

In order to qualify for an A visa, an individual must be travelling to the United States solely for the purpose of engaging in official activities on behalf of their national government. Thus, the specific services or duties performed by the A visa holder must be governmental in nature. Even if there is a government interest or governmental control in a U.S. organization, a government official may still not qualify for the A visa. However, leading government officials, such as the Head of State of a national government, qualify for an A-1 visa regardless of the purpose of their travel.

Government officials do not qualify for an A visa if they are travelling to the United States to: 

  • Perform non-governmental work of a commercial nature; or
  • Vacation or be tourists. 

Government officials who represent their local or state government, and not their national government, do not qualify for the A visa. 

What is the Process to Receive an A visa? 

The application process for all types of the A visa is substantially similar. In order to begin the application process, the applicant must have a diplomatic passport. Importantly, the specific U.S. Embassy or Consulate through which the applicant applies may have additional requirements and should be consulted. The steps below outline the application process: 

Step One: Applicant Files Online Form DS-160 

The first step to the application process requires the A visa applicant complete Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, DS-160. When submitting Form DS-160, the applicant must print the application confirmation page and save it for their visa interview. Additionally, the applicant must upload a photo of him or herself that was taken within the preceding six months and conforms to the U.S. Department of State’s photograph requirements. 

Evidence to be Submitted to U.S. Embassy or Consulate

Along with Form DS-160, the applicant must submit certain documentation to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest to them. Importantly, the specific U.S. Embassy or Consulate may have additional and specific evidence requirements. Applicants should consult with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for specific requirements.

Generally, applicants must submit the following evidence and documentation with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate: 

  • Passport valid for at least 6 months beyond the applicant’s period of stay in the United States; 
  • Confirmation page for Form DS-160; 
  • Photo of applicant that conforms with photograph requirements;
  • A diplomatic note that confirms the applicant’s official status and purpose of travel from the applicant’s country, and includes: 
    • The government official or employee’s name, date of birth, position and title, place of assignment or visit, purpose of travel to the U.S., a short description of his or her duties, travel date, and the anticipated length of their stay in the United States; and 
    • The names, relationships, and dates of birth of any dependents and other members of the applicant’s household who will be accompanying the A visa applicant in the United States. 

Step Two: Applicant Schedules and Attends Visa Interview

After submitting Form DS-160, A visa applicants must then schedule an interview with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate near them. At their interview, A visa applicants will be required to have their biometrics taken and will be asked questions about their background and purpose for coming to the United States. Applicants must bring the following items to their interview: 

  • Copy of printed Form DS-160; 
  • A valid passport;
  • A photo conforming to the United States Department of State’s photo requirements;
  • Evidentiary documents proving the applicant’s qualifications, including a diplomatic note; 

Can family members of an A visa holder come to the United States? 

Family members who qualify as “immediate family members” to the A visa holder may accompany or later join the A visa holder in the United States. 

An immediate family member includes the spouse and unmarried child(ren) who are members of the A visa holder’s household. Additionally, individuals may qualify as immediate family members if they regularly reside in the A visa holder’s household and are recognized by the visa holder’s government as an immediate family member. 

The following individuals may qualify as an immediate family member for the purposes of travelling to the United States in connection with an A visa holder: 

  • Spouse of the A visa holder; 
  • Unmarried child(ren) of the A visa holder; 
  • Domestic partner of the A visa holder; 
  • Relative of the A visa holder by blood, marriage, or adoption of the domestic partner; 
  • Any other relative, by blood, marriage, or adoption, of the A visa holder or their spouse. 

In addition to a spouse and unmarried sons and daughters, immediate family members who may qualify to receive A-category visas include:

  • any other relative, by blood, marriage, or adoption, of you or your spouse;
  • a domestic partner; and
  • a relative by blood, marriage, or adoption of the domestic partner.

Family members who do not qualify as an immediate family member under the A visa may still come to the United States by qualifying for a visitor B-2 visa.

How much does it cost to get an A visa? 

Generally, individuals who qualify for an A visa classification are exempt from paying visa fees. The consular officer conducting the visa interview will make a determination whether the visa applicant qualifies for a fee exemption under U.S. immigration law. 

For how long is an A visa valid? 

The A visa may be issued for a short validity period that aligns with the length of time needed for the A visa holder to conduct official government business in the United States. A visa holders may receive an extension of their visa if they submit a diplomatic note from their country’s government stating the reasons the visa extension is needed.

Additionally, A visas may be issued for an indefinite period, allowing the A visa holder to remain in the United States for as long as the government position is eligible for the A visa. The length of validity of an A visa will depend on the specific circumstances for which the A visa is needed.

Sweta Khandelwal

Sweta completed her Masters in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles and her JD from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University in India and has been practicing law for 15+ years getting visas, green cards, and citizenship for 1000+ clients, 100+ companies across 50+ nationalities.

Sweta has been recognized as a ” Super Lawyer, Rising Star,” and as amongst the ” Top 40 under 40″ immigration attorneys in California (American Society of Legal Advocates). She is also the recipient of the Advocacy Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Sweta is also a chartered accountant — the equivalent of a CPA. This makes her uniquely positioned to understand the immigration needs of her business clients in the broader context of their corporate objectives.

Sweta is actively involved with immigration issues and immigrant communities in various capacities. She has assumed key roles at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), both at the local and national level. She has been a past chair at the Santa Clara Valley Chapter at AILA and has also been involved in various practice area committees at AILA National. Sweta has addressed multiple conferences/forums in the United States and worldwide on immigration and business issues.