Visas for Diplomats and Foreign Government Officials
Important Notice: Same-sex Marriage
Effective immediately, U.S. Embassies and Consulates will adjudicate visa applications that are based on a same-sex marriage in the same way that we adjudicate applications for opposite gender spouses. Please reference the specific guidance on the visa category for which you are applying for more details on documentation required for derivative spouses. For further information, please see our FAQ’s.
If you are a diplomat or government official who is physically present in the United States on assignment:
Requesting to renew (reapply for) your visa or that of an immediate family member, select Renewing an A-1 or A-2 Visa in the United States to learn more. A-3 visa holders must reapply for their visas outside the United States.
Requesting to change status into or out of A status, select Change of Status to/from A,G, NATO to learn more.
Diplomats and other foreign government officials traveling to the United States to engage solely in official duties or activities on behalf of their national government must obtain A-1 or A-2 visas prior to entering the United States. They cannot travel using visitor visas or under the Visa Waiver Program. With the exception of a Head of State or Government -- who qualifies for an A visa regardless of the purpose of travel -- your position within your country’s government and your purpose of travel determine whether you need an A-1 or A-2 visa. Immediate family members of diplomats and government officials receive A-1 or A-2 visas, with few exceptions. Personal employees, attendants, or domestic workers for diplomats and government officials (holding a valid A-1 or A-2 visa) may be issued A-3 visas.
To qualify 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 specific duties or services that will be performed must be governmental in character or nature, as determined by the U.S. 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 visas and do not qualify for A visas. 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.
Diplomats and Officials Requiring A-1 Visas - Examples:
- Head of State or Government, regardless of the purpose of travel
- Official coming to serve at a foreign embassy or consulate in the United States, such as an ambassador or consul
- Government minister or cabinet member coming for official activities
- European Union (EU) and African Union (AU) delegation representatives
- Immediate family members of an A-1 visa holder
Officials and Employees Requiring A-2 Visas – Examples:
- Full-time employee assigned by that government, coming only to work at a foreign embassy or consulate in the United States, to perform duties which take place at an embassy
- Government official representing your government, coming to the United States based on written request of your country to perform official, government related duties
- Foreign military members stationed at a U.S. military base or assigned to a foreign embassy or consulate in the United States
- Staff of European (EU) and African Union (AU) delegation representatives
- Immediate family members of an A-2 visa holder
Travel Purposes Not Permitted on A-1 and A-2 Visas – Examples:
- Government officials coming to perform non-official or non-governmental functions of a commercial nature, or traveling as tourists, must apply for the appropriate visa category for the specific travel purpose, such as a B-2 visa for tourism. (Note: A Head of State or Government must travel on an A-1 visa regardless of the purpose of travel.)
- Local government officials representing their state, province, borough, or other local political entity require visitor (B) visas.
There are several steps to apply for a visa. The order of these steps and how you complete them may vary at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you apply. Please consult the instructions available on the embassy or consulate website where you will apply.
About Visa Interviews
As part of the visa application process, an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate is required for most visa applicants applying abroad. Embassies and consulates generally do not require interviews for those applying for A-1 and A-2 visas, although a consular officer can request an interview.
Personal employees, domestic workers, and attendants of A-1 or A-2 visa holders applying for A-3 visas are required to be interviewed. Review information in the Personal Employees section below.
- Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 – Learn more about completing the DS-160. You must: 1) complete the online visa application and 2) print the application form confirmation page. You must submit the confirmation page as part of your application. (Important Notice: For A-1 or A-2 visa holders on assignment in the United States reapplying for an A visa, use Form DS-1648, not DS-160. Review instructions on the Renewing A, G, or NATO Visas in the U.S. webpage.)
- Photo –You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160. Your photo must be in the format explained in the Photograph Requirements.
All applicants for A visas should gather and deliver the following required documents to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country:
- Passport valid for travel to the United States - Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond your period of stay in the United States (unless exempt by country-specific agreements). If more than one person is included in your passport, each person who needs a visa must submit a separate application.
- Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 confirmation page (For applicants applying outside the United States)
- Photo – You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160. If the photo upload fails, you must bring one printed photo in the format explained in the Photograph Requirements.
- A diplomatic note - This note is written confirmation from your country’s government of your status and official purpose of travel. A-3 applicants also require diplomatic notes to confirm the official status of their employers. Beginning July 1, 2014, the sending government must provide the following information in the diplomatic note submitted with any A-1 or A-2 visa application outside the United States, and for any request for a change into such visa status in the United States:
- the government official's or employee's name, date of birth, position and title, place of assignment or visit, purpose of travel, a brief description of his or her duties, travel date, and the anticipated length of the tour of duty or stay in the United States, and
- the names, relationships, and dates of birth of any dependents and other members of household who will be accompanying or joining the government official or employee.
- For an immediate family member applying separate from the principal visa applicant - A copy of both the visa and the I-94 (both front and back) for the principal visa holder is required.
Additional Documentation May Be Required
Review the instructions for how to apply for a visa on the website of the embassy or consulate where you will apply. Additional documents may be requested to establish if you are qualified.
Individuals who qualify for an official visa classification ( A, G, C-3, NATO) are exempt from paying visa fees.
More About Visa Fees - 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. 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.
Visa application procedures for your immediate family members are the same as for you. Important Notice: Effective immediately, U.S. embassies and consulates will adjudicate visa applications that are based on a same-sex marriage in the same way that we adjudicate applications for opposite gender spouses.
Immediate family members are defined as the spouse and unmarried sons and daughters of any age who are members of your household, even if studying in a different location. An immediate family member may also be a person who will reside regularly in your household, is not a member of some other household, and is recognized as your immediate family member by the sending Government, as demonstrated by eligibility for rights and benefits, such as the issuance of a diplomatic or official passport or travel and other allowances.
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.
The term "domestic partner" means a same-sex domestic partner. Domestic partners may be issued A-category visas if the sending country would provide reciprocal treatment to domestic partners of U.S. diplomats and government officials in that country.
A family member who does not qualify as immediate family, as described above, may qualify for a visitor (B-2) visa. Visitor visa applicants are required to pay visa application and issuance fees, if applicable.
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: A-3 Visas section below, as well as the following.
The employment contract must be in English and, if the employee does not understand English, also in a language the employee understands.
Employment Contract signed by both the employer and the employee which must include each of the following items:
- Description of Duties. The contract must describe the work to be performed, e.g., housekeeping, gardening, child care, and also must include a statement that the domestic employee shall work only for the employer who signed the contract.
- Hours of Work. The contract must state the time of the normal working hours and the number of hours per week. It is generally expected that domestic workers will be required to work 35-40 hours per week. It also must state that the domestic employee will be provided a minimum of one full day off each week. The contract must indicate the number of paid holidays, sick days, and vacation days the domestic employee will be provided.
- Minimum Wage. The contract must state the hourly wage to be paid to the domestic employee. The rate must be the greater of the minimum wage under U.S. Federal and state law, or the prevailing wage for all working hours. Information on the prevailing wage statistics by occupation and metropolitan area is available on the Department of Labor's Online Wage Library & Data Center website.
- The contract must state that wages will be paid to the domestic employee either weekly or biweekly. As of March 2011, the Department determined that no deductions are allowed for lodging, medical care, medical insurance, or travel. As of April 2012, deductions taken for meals are also no longer allowed.
- Overtime Work. The contract must state that any hours worked in excess of the normal number of hours worked per week are considered overtime hours, and that hours in which the employee is “on call” count as work hours. It also must state that such work must be paid as required by U.S. local laws.
- NOTE: Under Federal law, the rate of overtime pay need not exceed the regular hourly rate if the employee resides in the home of the employer, but State law governing overtime rates also applies and must be checked. If the employee does not reside with the employer, overtime for hours in excess of 40 hours per week must be paid at the rate of time and a half.
- Payment. The contract must state that after the first 90 days of employment, all wage payments must be made by check or by electronic transfer to the domestic worker’s bank account. Neither Mission members nor their family members should have access to domestic workers' bank accounts. In addition, the Department requires that the employer retain records of employment and payment for three years after the termination of the employment in order to address any complaints that may subsequently arise. Further, the bank account must be in the United States so that domestic workers may readily access and utilize their wages.
- Transportation to and from the United States. The contract must state that the domestic employee will be provided with transportation to and from the United States.
- Other Required Terms of Employment. The contract must state that the employer agrees to abide by all Federal, State, and local laws in the United States. The contract also must include a statement that the domestic worker’s passport and visa will be in the sole possession of the domestic worker. In addition, the contract must state that a copy of the contract and other personal property of the domestic employee will not be withheld by the employer for any reason. The contract must include a statement that the domestic worker's presence in the employer's residence will not be required except during working hours. The contract must also include a statement by the employee, promising not to accept any other employment while working for the employer.
- Other Recommended Terms of Employment. The contract may include additional agreed-upon terms of employment, if any, provided they are fully consistent with all U.S. Federal, State, and local laws. Any modification to the contract must be in writing.
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.
There are several steps to apply for a visa. The order of these steps and how you complete them may vary at the U.S. embassy or consulate where you apply. As part of the application process, an interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside the United States is required. The employer and/or recruitment agent does not attend the interview.
Schedule an Interview
You must schedule an appointment for your visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country. Please consult the instructions available on the embassy or consulate website.
Prepare for Your Interview
Visa applicants for A-3 visas must submit each of the items explained in this webpage and How to Apply sections including:
- Complete Online Visa Application and
- Gather Required Documentation and
- Submit Employment Contract - The contract must be in English and signed by both you and your employer. (If the personal employee does not understand English, then a translation of the contract in a language the employee understands is required to ensure that the employee understands the job duties and rights regarding salary and working conditions.) The contract must contain all of the information listed in the Personal Employee Contract section above.
Legal Rights and Protections
Learn about your rights in the United States and protection available to you by reading the Legal Rights and Protections pamphlet, before applying for your visa.
Attend Your Visa Interview
During your visa interview, a consular officer will determine whether you are qualified to receive a visa based on your purpose of travel. You must establish that you meet the requirements under U.S. law to receive an A-3 visa.
Ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken as part of your application process. They are usually taken during your interview, but this varies based on location.
After your visa interview, your application may require further administrative processing. You will be informed by the consular officer if further processing is necessary for your application.
If the visa is approved, you will be informed how your passport with visa will be returned to you.
For Employers and Personal Employees or Domestic Workers
Personal employees should 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 should understand 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. Employers, as well as personal employees, should review the Nonimmigrant Rights, Protections and Resources pamphlet explained above.
Personal employees and domestic workers should understand that they must follow U.S. laws while in the United States.
- We cannot guarantee that you will be issued a visa. Do not make final travel plans or buy tickets until you have a visa.
- Qualified A visa applicants traveling to the United States for assignments of less than 90 days will be issued visas annotated “TDY” (temporary duty).
- Unless canceled or revoked, a visa is valid until its expiration date. Therefore, a valid U.S. visa in an expired passport is still valid. If you have a valid visa in your expired passport, do not remove it from your expired passport. You may use your valid visa in your expired passport along with a new valid passport for travel and admission to the United States.
Change of Status Into, Within, Between, or Out of Diplomatic (A) Status in the U.S.
Select Change of Status to learn about:
- Changing into, within, or between A, G, or NATO status if you are in the United States and accept employment with a diplomatic mission, an international organization (including the UN), a permanent or observer mission to the UN, or NATO; and
- Changing out of A status into another nonimmigrant status because you left your assignment, but plan to remain in the United States.
Misrepresentation 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.
Review Ineligibilities for U.S. Visas.