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A Diplomats


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.

Qualifying for a Diplomatic Visa

Diplomatic applicants must meet specific requirements to qualify for a diplomatic (A) visa under immigration law. The consular officer will determine whether you qualify for the visa. 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 theU.S. 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:

  • Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160. Visit our DS-160 webpage to learn more about the DS-160 online process.
  • 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 instead of DS-160). 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 - You will upload either a scanned or digital photograph to your Form DS-160 or DS-1648 that meets the format requirements explained in the Photograph Requirements, under Applicants using Form DS-160 or Form 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 2x2 inch color photograph that meets requirements explained in the Photograph Requirements, stapled or glued to the online DS-160 or DS-1648 confirmation page ONLY if the confirmation page has an X in the box where the uploaded photo should appear. 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 paper Form I-94 (both front and back) for the principal visa holder required for an immediate family member applying separately from the principal visa applicant. If the principal visa applicant entered the U.S. after the automation of Form I-94, and his/her Arrival/Departure Record was created electronically, a photocopy of his/her admission stamp can be provided to the family member applying separately. Alternatively, the principal applicant may obtain a paper Form I-94 atwww.cbp.gov/I94 and provide it to the family member applying separately. 

Visa Processing and Issuance Fees

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 41.26 (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 household, even if studying in a different location. Application procedures are the same as for the principal applicant. Immediate family members may also include someone who will reside regularly in the household of the principal applicant, is not a member of some other household, and is recognized as an immediate family member of the principal alien by the sending Government or International Organization, as demonstrated by eligibility for rights and benefits such as the issuance of a diplomatic or official passport or other similar documentation, or travel or other allowances. Those who may qualify for immediate family status on this basis include: any other relative, by blood, marriage, or adoption, of the principal alien or spouse; a domestic partner; and a relative by blood, marriage, or adoption of the domestic partner. The term "domestic partner" for the purpose of this section means a same-sex domestic partner. Domestic partners may be issued diplomatic visas if the sending state would provide reciprocal treatment to domestic partners of U.S. Mission members. Individuals who do not qualify as immediate family, as described above, may otherwise potentially qualify for a B-2 visa. B visa applicants are required to pay visa application and reciprocal issuance fees, if applicable.

Personal Employees

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.

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. No more than 20 percent of the employee’s wages may be withheld/deducted for food (a minimum of 3 daily meals). Notice: As of March, 2011, housing and other expenses (including the provision of medical care, medical insurance, and travel) are excluded from allowable wage deductions. (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.

Recent changes to U.S. law relate to the legal rights of certain employment-based nonimmigrants under Federal immigration, labor, and employment laws, and the information to be provided about protections and available resources. As a temporary visitor to the U.S., it is important that you are aware of your rights, as well as protections and resources available when you come to work or study here. Before your interview, review the Nonimmigrant Rights, Protections and Resources pamphlet and learn about additional information on our webpage.

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.

Misrepresentation of Material Facts or Fraud

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.

Entering the U.S. - Port of Entry

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 (CBP), 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/Entryrequirements, 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 have biometric data collected by the Department of Homeland Security (previously known as the US-VISIT program). A-1 and A-2 visa holders are exempt. If allowed to enter, the CBP official will authorize the traveler's admission to the U.S.

Notice: New Electronic I-94 Process - A new electronic I-94 process at air and sea ports of entry was fully implemented by May 25, 2013. Under the new CBP process, a CBP officer will provide each admitted nonimmigrant traveler with an admission stamp on their passport. CBP will no longer issue a paper Form I-94 upon entry to the U.S., with some exceptions. Learn more on the CBP website.

If you are issued a paper Form I-94, this will document your authorized stay in the U.S. and note the length of stay permitted; it is very important to keep the paper Form I-94 in your passport.