Are you a foreign government official or a diplomat?
Will you be traveling to the U.S. on behalf of your government?
If you responded “Yes” to the above, then the A visa is likely to be the appropriate one for you! If you are a foreign government official and intend to enter the United States to conduct official business on behalf of your country, then you should consider using the A visa. In this chapter, we’ll give you an easy-to-follow set of instructions for obtaining an A Visa, including what is required of each applicant.
The good news for A visa holders is that they can come to the U.S. with their spouses, same sex partners, and children, as well as their domestic staff members. For example, if you have a butler or maid, then he or she can also accompany you to the U.S. under the A visa category.
The different types of A visas are as follows:
- A-1: Certain diplomats and their immediate family;
- A-2: Certain diplomatic personnel and their immediate family;
- A-3: Domestic Staff of an A1 or A2, and the staff person’s immediate family.
For an A-1 or A-2 visa, you must be traveling to the U.S. on behalf of your government for official activities only. Foreign officials traveling to the U.S. on official business must get an A visa before their entry into the U.S.. Foreign officials cannot enter the U.S. on a tourist visa or under the Visa Waiver Program1. Qualified A visa applicants traveling to the United States for assignments of less than 90 days will be issued visas designated as temporary duty “TDY.”
1 Detailed information in connection with the B Visitor Visa and the Visa Waiver Program is provided in the B Visa Chapter on page 6.
WHAT DOCUMENTS DO I NEED TO SHOW TO OBTAIN AN A VISA?
The documents required for an A visa are as follows:
- A diplomatic note: the diplomatic note is a document in writing from the foreign government confirming the applicant’s status. For A-3 applicants, the diplomatic note should confirm the employer’s official status.
- A valid passport: your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the time you intend to stay in the U.S.
IS AN INTERVIEW AND/OR FINGERPRINTING REQUIRED FOR AN A VISA?
Generally, visa applications require an interview of the applicant at the U. S. embassy. However, for diplomats applying for an A-1 or A-2 visa, an interview is not usually necessary, but can be requested by the consular officer. For A-3 visa applicants (domestic staff members), an interview is required as part of the visa process. Fingerprints are not required for children under 14 or adults over 79. If you have a diplomatic or official passport but apply for other types of visas you will be fingerprinted.
CAN MY FAMILY ACCOMPANY ME TO THE U.S. ON AN A VISA?
As mentioned earlier, you can bring your immediate family, such as your spouse, unmarried sons and daughters, and close relatives who are related to you by blood, marriage or adoption, as long as they live with you and are recognized by your government as your dependents. If you are not married to your partner, even if he or she is your dependent, you cannot apply for him or her as a derivative (i.e., they are ineligible for obtaining an A visa). Special allowances are made for same sex couples. A domestic partner may be eligible for an A visa as a dependent if the sending country would provide the same treatment to domestic partners of U.S. diplomats and government officials in that country. “Domestic partner” means a same-sex domestic partner and does not apply to opposite sex relationships.
CAN I BRING MY PRIVATE EMPLOYEES? AND WHAT DOCUMENTS DO THEY NEED?
Personal employees, attendants, domestic workers, or servants of A-1 or A-2 visa holders may be issued an A-3 visa. An interview at the embassy or consulate is required. The A-3 applicant must 5
provide proof that he or she will receive a fair wage from their employer, enough to financially support the domestic worker. The law requires that the fees paid to the domestic worker be similar to wages of American employees performing similar jobs. It is also required that the A-3 applicant shows that he or she will be doing the type of work mentioned in his or her employment contract. Applicants for A-3 visas must apply for a visa abroad before entering the U.S. The U.S. consular officer will determine if the person is eligible for the A-3 visa.
Please note: If the employer is not a Minister or higher, or does not hold a position equivalent to Minister or higher, the employer must demonstrate that he or she has sufficient funds to pay for the A-3 applicant’s fair wages and good working conditions, as reflected in the contract.
WHAT DOCUMENTS ARE REQUIRED FOR THE A-3 VISA?
The A-3 visa applicant employee must bring their employment contract to the required visa interview. The applicant must also ensure that the applicant and his employer have signed the agreement. The contract must be in English, the employee should be aware of the terms and conditions of the contract, and both employer and employee must sign the contract. The agreement must contain language which states: a description of the employee’s duties, the hours of work, the hourly wage the employee will be paid, the frequency that the employee will be paid, a provision in regards to overtime work, how the employee will be paid, and other required terms of employment. The rate at which the employee will be paid must be at least the state or federal minimum wage—whichever is greater. The A-3 applicant employee has to affirm that he or she will not accept any other work while they are working for their employer. The employer has to promise that he or she will not hold the employee’s passport after the employee arrives in the U.S.. Also, the contract should specify that the employer understands that the employee will not be forced to stay on the premises after working hours, unless he or she will be paid overtime wages. The A-3 applicant employee will also need to bring a photocopy of the diplomatic note confirming their employer’s official status.
HOW LONG CAN I STAY IN THE U.S. ON AN A VISA?
On an A-1 or A-2 visa, you are admitted for “Duration of Status” (D/S), which means you can stay in the U.S. as long as the U.S. Secretary of State continues to recognize the A visa holder as a member of the diplomatic category. You do not need to apply for an extension of stay. But on an A-3 visa, you are generally admitted for 3 years. After that, you can apply for extensions for periods not exceeding 2 years.
If you are a foreign official or diplomat entering the U.S. on official state business, the A visa may be your best choice. As an A visa holder, relatives such as your spouse and children, as well as private staff members, may be allowed to enter into the U.S.. Proof of the official business 6
intended to be performed by the foreign official or diplomat is required for all A visa applicants. Domestic staff members of A-1 or A-2 visa holders must bring specific documents along with them for the visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate’s office.