Diplomatic (A and G) Visas, Explained
Learn more about the A and G visa categories for ambassadors, diplomats, and government officials
Diplomatic visas in the United States are specialized visas granted to foreign government officials and employees assigned to work at embassies, consulates, or international organizations within the country. These visas, categorized as A or G visas, facilitate the entry and stay of individuals engaged in diplomatic, official, or international organization activities. Diplomatic visa holders are typically exempt from certain U.S. taxes and enjoy privileges and immunities to ensure the smooth functioning of diplomatic missions.
In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of diplomatic visas and the different requirements and processes to keep in mind for diplomats and foreign government officials who live and work in the U.S.
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A Visas for Diplomats and Foreign Government Officials
A visas (for diplomats and foreign government officials) are a category of nonimmigrant visas for individuals engaging in diplomatic or official activities on behalf of their home country.
A visas provide diplomatic privileges and immunities to the visa holders to ensure the smooth conduct of their official duties. These privileges typically include exemption from certain U.S. taxes and the ability to engage in diplomatic functions without interference.
It’s important to note that A visas are not intended for individuals traveling to the U.S. for tourism, business, or other non-official purposes. The application process for A visas is typically coordinated through the U.S. Embassy or consulate in the applicant’s home country.
Diplomats and other foreign government officials coming to the United States for official duties on behalf of their national government must acquire A-1 or A-2 visas before entering the country. They cannot travel to the U.S. under a visitor visa or the Visa Waiver Program.
Different A Visa Categories
There are two primary types of A visas:
- A-1 Visa: This category is for individuals serving as ambassadors, public ministers, career diplomats, consular officers, and their immediate family members. A-1 visa holders are typically involved in representing their home country’s government in an official capacity. Examples would include European Union (EU) and African Union (AU) delegation representatives.
- A-2 Visa: A-2 visas are issued to foreign government officials, employees, or representatives, along with their immediate family members, who are traveling to the U.S. for official duties but do not qualify for A-1 status. This category includes individuals such as government ministers, military officials, and other government representatives. Examples would include the staff of European (EU) and African Union (AU) delegation representatives.
G Visas for Employees of International Organizations
G visas are granted to individuals who are representatives of international organizations and their immediate family members. These visas are designed for individuals traveling to the U.S. to engage in official duties on behalf of their respective international organizations.
G visas provide diplomatic privileges and immunities similar to those of A visas, ensuring that individuals engaged in official international duties can carry out their responsibilities without interference. Like the A visa, the application process for G visas is typically facilitated through the U.S. Embassy or consulate in the applicant’s home country.
Different G Visa Categories
There are several subcategories of G visas:
- G-1 Visa: This visa is for individuals who are representatives of a recognized foreign government to an international organization, as well as their immediate family members.
- G-2 Visa: G-2 visas are issued to representatives of a recognized foreign government to an international organization, other than those classified as G-1, and their immediate family members.
- G-3 Visa: This category is for representatives of non-recognized or non-member foreign governments and their immediate family members.
- G-4 Visa: G-4 visas are issued to individuals who are employees or officers of international organizations, such as the United Nations, and their immediate family members.
How to Apply for A and G Visas
Applying for A and G visas involves several steps, and the process may vary slightly depending on the specific U.S. Embassy or consulate and the applicant’s home country. Here is a general overview of how to apply for A and G visas:
- Determine Eligibility: Verify that you qualify for an A or G visa based on your role as a diplomat or as a representative of an international organization or foreign government.
- Complete the DS-160 Form: Fill out Form DS-160 (Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application). This form collects information about your background, purpose of travel, and other relevant details.
- A Visa Applicants — Provide a Diplomatic Note: A diplomatic note will also need to be included in your application. This note serves as official confirmation from your government, stating your status and the official purpose of your travel. The note must include: 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 U.S.
- G Visa Applicants — Provide a Diplomatic Note/Travel Orders: This document provides written confirmation from the international organization of the applicant’s status and official purpose for coming to the U.S. It must include: the officer’s or employee’s name, date of birth, position and title, the international organization or office where the individual will be serving, the purpose of travel, a brief description of his or her duties, travel date, and the anticipated length of stay in the U.S.
- Visa Interview: Embassies and consulates generally do not require visa interviews for A and G visa applicants, although it is always at the discretion of the consular officer reviewing the application to request an interview.
A and G Visa Costs
Individuals who qualify for A and G visas are typically exempt from paying visa fees.
Any applicant who holds a diplomatic passport may also not have to pay visa fees, regardless of their visa category or travel purpose, if they fall under specific qualifying categories. It is always at the discretion of a consular officer to assess whether the visa applicant qualifies for a fee exemption according to U.S. immigration laws.
Diplomatic Visa Frequently Asked Questions
Can you work in the U.S. on a diplomatic visa?
Yes, individuals with diplomatic visas can work in the U.S., but there are certain restrictions and conditions.
While on a diplomatic visa, individuals are generally allowed to engage in official duties related to their diplomatic mission. However, they may not take on employment or engage in business activities outside the scope of their official responsibilities without obtaining proper authorization.
It’s important to note that the specific regulations and requirements may vary based on the type of diplomatic visa (e.g., A, G, or other categories) and the terms negotiated between the U.S. government and the individual’s home country.
Can dependents of diplomatic visa holders come to the U.S.?
Yes, dependents of diplomatic visa holders are generally eligible to accompany the primary visa holder to the U.S. Family members, such as spouses and unmarried children under 21, may be eligible for derivative visas, depending on the primary visa category of the principal diplomatic visa holder.
It’s important to note that dependents must meet the eligibility criteria for the respective visa category, and their visa applications are often processed in conjunction with the primary visa holder’s application. Like the primary visa holder, dependents are granted certain privileges and immunities, but they are also subject to specific restrictions, including limitations on unauthorized employment.
Can the spouse of a diplomat work in the U.S.?
Yes, the spouse of a diplomat, holding a derivative A or G visa, is generally eligible to work in the U.S. Spouses of individuals with diplomatic status are often granted employment authorization as part of their dependent visa benefits, however they may be required to first apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to legally work in the country.
Can A and G visa holders apply for green cards?
A and G visa holders may be eligible to apply for a green card (permanent residency)
under certain conditions. A and G visa holders are generally considered to have “nonimmigrant” status, indicating a temporary stay in the U.S. As such, applying for a green card may be seen as a contradiction to this nonimmigrant intent.
A and G visa holders are also often required to obtain a waiver of immunity from their home country’s government before applying for permanent residency. This waiver indicates that the individual is willing to give up certain diplomatic privileges and immunities associated with their current status. A and G visa holders interested in applying for a green card should consult with an immigration attorney to discuss the best way forward.