The A-1 visa is known as the official visa or the diplomatic visa. It is granted to diplomats and officials from foreign nations who wish to enter the U.S. The A-1 visa is issued such that the holder cannot use the Visa Waiver program to travel, they must apply for the visa and wait for U.S. approval before they can begin their travel to the U.S.
What Is the A-1 Visa?
The A-1 visa is a visa that can only be held strictly by foreign government officials. Examples of officials who may carry an A-1 visa are:
- Ambassadors or career diplomats
- Consular officers holding a position in their country’s consulate or embassy
- Public ministers and their cabinet traveling to the U.S. on government business
An A-1 visa holder’s family (spouse or children under 21 years of age, as defined in as defined in 22 C.F.R. 41.21) is also accepted under the A-1 visa status. Because the A-1 visa is the only non-immigrant U.S. visa to allow prestigious government officials to travel to the U.S. for diplomatic purposes, lower local government officials of the foreign nation do not qualify for the A-1 visa.
A-1 Visa Privileges And Revocation
A-1 visa holders are able to enjoy privileges in the U.S. such as:
- Traveling into and out of the U.S. with a valid A-1 visa with an unlimited frequency
- Even having committed a crime, an A-1 visa holder will not face trial from the U.S. government in any U.S. court
- The A-1 visa is attended to quicker than any other non-immigrant visa
The A-1 visa may be revoked however if a holder proves to be harboring malicious intent towards the U.S. government such as:
- If the official harbors plans to overthrow the U.S. government or commit acts of terrorism
- If the official intends to leak sensitive U.S. government information or engage in crime or espionage
- If the official has a negative impact on the foreign policy of the U.S. as determined by the U.S. Secretary of State
A-1 visa holders are not eligible for employment in the U.S. Because they have entered the country on government business, the U.S. government does not honor any employment intentions by a foreign government official. A-1 visa holders are also prohibited from enrolling in any academic classes because it would take away from their primary focus of their visit in the U.S.
Requirements For The A-1 Visa
The A-1 visa holds certain requirements that must be met by government officials before they can apply for the visa. If the applicant does not hold an eligible government position, they are not allowed to apply for the A-1 visa. They must instead seek other options for visas that will allow them to fulfill their purpose for traveling to the U.S.
The following positions are eligible to obtain the A-1 visa:
- Officials of high office such as: Heads of State, Ministers, Judicial Officers, Legislative Leaders
- Ambassadors or consular officers who are visiting for diplomatic goals
- Representatives of foreign nations that are in good diplomatic relationships with the U.S. and are seeking to further their relationship with the U.S.
Each applicant is also required to state their official purpose for their visit to the U.S. These purposes must be strictly related to government business or diplomatic relations, otherwise applicants may not apply for the A-1 visa.
Applying For The A-1 Visa
The application process for the A-1 visa is much simpler than applying for other non-immigrant visas. However, an applicant must hold a diplomatic passport in order to apply. Recent government appointees must make sure they present their newly issued diplomatic passport.
If the applicant is currently residing in the U.S. with another non-immigrant visa, they may send their application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If they reside outside the U.S. however, they must get official approval from their nation’s U.S. embassy or consulate located in the country they reside in.
The A-1 Visa Application Process
After acquiring a diplomatic passport, the A-1 visa application process continues with the following steps:
- Complete Form D-S 160 and upon it passing the approval process, the official must submit it to receive a visa confirmation code
- Submit necessary documentation to the USCIS or U.S. embassy
- A valid diplomatic passport
- Form D-S 160 with the confirmation page
- An online photograph
- A detailed diplomatic note from the official’s national government (with certain required fields)
Beyond submitting the required documentation, A-1 visa applicants aren’t required to undergo further procedures. Unlike other visa application processes, an A-1 visa applicant does not need to be subjected to an interview. However, the U.S. embassy may wish to interview the applicant if they believe there is strong reason to.
Waiting For A-1 Visa Approval
Having submitted an A-1 Visa application, the approval process takes a short period of time. Waiting for the application to be processed can even take only one day, or is immediately presented to an applicant on the same day they submitted their A-1 visa application. The applicant’s passport is then officially stamped by the U.S. embassy, and the new visa holder can start their travel plans for visiting the U.S.
Validity Of the A-1 Visa
Once the visa is obtained, the U.S. embassy only allows the visa to be valid for the length of stay of your travel or indefinitely. If the visa is granted for an indefinite time period, the A-1 visa holder is permitted to stay in the U.S., so long as the U.S. government recognizes the official’s formal position in their nation’s government as qualified for the A-1 visa.
In cases of resignation, the foreign official may stay as long as it takes the U.S. Department of State to make the necessary record changes. Once they reconcile the A-1 visa holder’s resignation, he or she is required to return to their country.
The visa holder may be allowed an extension of their stay, provided they obtain a letter from their nation’s government stating the reasons for an extension period. The request must be submitted to the DOS.
To request a change of A-1 status the visa holder must submit Form I-566 Interagency Record of Request that depends on the details of the official’s NATO status. The form must be submitted to the DOS. If your dependents are also in need of a change of status, they must be included on the form as well.
Applying For A Green Card
Obtaining a Green Card for an A-1 visa holder is particularly difficult. To become a permanent resident of the U.S., the visa holder must relinquish their status as a diplomat. This includes their A-1 status privileges. The process requires filing Form I-508. After the completion of this process, A-1 visa holders are eligible to apply for a Green Card by way of marriage, investment or evidence that it is dangerous for them to return to their country. Please schedule a consultation to speak with an immigration attorney today.