Traveling Luck for United States. United States, North America

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United States is located in North America, bordering both the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Pacific Ocean, between Canada and Mexico.

Land in United States is vast central plain, mountains in west, hills and low mountains in east; rugged mountains and broad river valleys in Alaska; rugged, volcanic topography in Hawaii.

American land covers an area of 9631420 square kilometers which is about half the size of Russia; about three-tenths the size of Africa; about half the size of South America (or slightly larger than Brazil); slightly larger than China; almost two and a half times the size of the European Union

United States has borders with Canada for 8893km and Mexico for 3141km.

American flag American national flag (Flag of United States)

As for the American climate; mostly temperate, but tropical in Hawaii and Florida, arctic in Alaska, semiarid in the great plains west of the Mississippi River, and arid in the Great Basin of the southwest; low winter temperatures in the northwest are ameliorated occasionally in January and February by warm chinook winds from the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.

American(s) speak English 82.1%, Spanish 10.7%, other Indo-European 3.8%, Asian and Pacific island 2.7%, other 0.7% (2000 census).

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Places of note in United States

American Map American map

Regions of United States

Britain's American colonies broke with the mother country in 1776 and were recognized as the new nation of the United States of America following the Treaty of Paris in 1783. During the 19th and 20th centuries, 37 new states were added to the original 13 as the nation expanded across the North American continent and acquired a number of overseas possessions. The two most traumatic experiences in the nation's history were the Civil War (1861-65) and the Great Depression of the 1930s. Buoyed by victories in World Wars I and II and the end of the Cold War in 1991, the US remains the world's most powerful nation state. The economy is marked by steady growth, low unemployment and inflation, and rapid advances in technology.

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Country Profile for United States

The US has the largest and most technologically powerful economy in the world, with a per capita GDP of $42,000. In this market-oriented economy, private individuals and business firms make most of the decisions, and the federal and state governments buy needed goods and services predominantly in the private marketplace. US business firms enjoy greater flexibility than their counterparts in Western Europe and Japan in decisions to expand capital plant, to lay off surplus workers, and to develop new products. At the same time, they face higher barriers to enter their rivals' home markets than foreign firms face entering US markets. US firms are at or near the forefront in technological advances, especially in computers and in medical, aerospace, and military equipment; their advantage has narrowed since the end of World War II. The onrush of technology largely explains the gradual development of a "two-tier labor market" in which those at the bottom lack the education and the professional/technical skills of those at the top and, more and more, fail to get comparable pay raises, health insurance coverage, and other benefits. Since 1975, practically all the gains in household income have gone to the top 20% of households. The response to the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 showed the remarkable resilience of the economy. The war in March-April 2003 between a US-led coalition and Iraq, and the subsequent occupation of Iraq, required major shifts in national resources to the military. The rise in GDP in 2004 and 2005 was undergirded by substantial gains in labor productivity. Hurricane Katrina caused extensive damage in the Gulf Coast region in August 2005, but had a small impact on overall GDP growth for the year. Soaring oil prices in 2005 and 2006 threatened inflation and unemployment, yet the economy continued to grow through mid-2006. Imported oil accounts for about two-thirds of US consumption. Long-term problems include inadequate investment in economic infrastructure, rapidly rising medical and pension costs of an aging population, sizable trade and budget deficits, and stagnation of family income in the lower economic groups.

American natural resources include coal, copper, lead, molybdenum, phosphates, uranium, bauxite, gold, iron, mercury, nickel, potash, silver, tungsten, zinc, petroleum, natural gas, timber

world's third-largest country by size (after Russia and Canada) and by population (after China and India); Mt. McKinley is highest point in North America and Death Valley the lowest point on the continent

American religion is Protestant 52%, Roman Catholic 24%, Mormon 2%, Jewish 1%, Muslim 1%, other 10%, none 10% (2002 est.).

Natural hazards in United States include tsunamis, volcanoes, and earthquake activity around Pacific Basin; hurricanes along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts; tornadoes in the midwest and southeast; mud slides in California; forest fires in the west; flooding; permafrost in northern Alaska, a major impediment to development.

Travel Advice for United States

United States

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Entry Requirements section (removal of registering departure para).  The overall level of the advice has not changed.

SUMMARY

  • The US Department of Homeland Security has lowered its terror alert status to "orange" or high for all flights into the US that have originated from the UK.  The terror alert level also remains at "orange" for all other international and domestic flights in the US.  Definitions for the US Advisory System can be found on US Department of Homeland Security.

  • Around 6.5 million British nationals visit the United States each year.  Most visits are trouble-free.  The main types of incident for which British nationals require consular assistance in the USA are for replacing lost or stolen passports, money and other documents, road accidents, and street-related and other crimes.  The majority of cases occur in New York City; the tourist areas in Florida (principally Orlando and Miami); and Los Angeles and San Francisco.  You should be alert to the dangers of car and street crime in cities.

  • The hurricane season normally runs from June to November, and can affect the whole of the southern USA. Please see the Natural Disasters section of this Travel Advice and the Hurricanes page on the FCO website for more information.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see: Travel Insurance.


SAFETY AND SECURITY


Political Situation

United States Country Profile.

Crime

You should bear in mind the following:
  • Do not leave your door open at any time.
  • Avoid wearing expensive jewellery and carrying valuable items in run down areas.
  • Do not sleep in your car by the roadside or in rest areas.
  • Avoid leaving items on display in cars.
  • Try to stay on main roads and use well-lit car parks.
  • If hit from behind while driving, indicate to the other driver to follow you to a public place and call 911 for Police help.
Road Safety
If you intend to drive then an international driving licence is recommended.  If you are on a fly-drive holiday then a UK driving licence is required for each driver.  If you have a photocard licence you should remember to also bring the green 'paper' counterpart licence with you.  You should also ensure that your car rental insurance covers occupants of your vehicle and any third party claims, including personal injury.

You should learn US traffic laws before coming to the country.  For example, both the speed and drink driving limits are lower than in the UK.

It is worthwhile buying a detailed road atlas of the areas through which you are travelling.

Find out the prevailing weather conditions before embarking on a long journey, e.g.  in mountainous and isolated areas where there is increased likelihood of snowfall, or in dry desert areas where you may need extra water and petrol stations could be scarcer than usual.


LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS

Do not make flippant remarks about bombs or terrorism, especially when passing through US airports.

Laws vary from state to state, including speed limits and the age of consent.  So does the age at which you may legally buy and consume alcohol, but this is usually 21 years.

The plant Khat (or Qat) is an illegal narcotic in the US.  You will be arrested and detained with the possibility of a prison sentence if you are caught trying to take Khat into the US.

If you get into any difficulties with US Authorities, you should explain to them that you are a British national and ask to speak to a UK consular officer.  Please see: What We Can Do To Help.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

The US Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) allows most British Citizen passport holders to visit the US for up to 90 days. The types of journeys that are permissible under the VWP include general travel/tourism, certain types of business and when transitting to another country.
More details are available on the VWP and other aspects of US immigration at the following wesbites :
US Embassy in London:  www.usembassy.org.uk
Department of Homeland Security:  http://www.dhs.gov/us-visit
US Department of State:  US State Department
If you have any doubts about whether you are eligible to enter the US under the VWP, or about visa matters generally, you are strongly advised to contact the US Embassy in London before your travel.
They can also be contacted as follows:
US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, London W1A 1AE.  The Visa Information line is 0904 245 0100 (calls are charged at £1.20 per minute).
Please also read the following Questions & Answers:
Do I qualify to travel under the VWP or do I need a visa?

Several million British nationals travel to the US annually under the VWP without any problems. Only people described as a "British Citizen" on the photo page in their passport qualify to enter the US under the VWP. If you are described as a "British Subject", "British National (Overseas)", "British Overseas Territories Citizen", "British Dependent Territories Citizen", "British Protected Person" or "British Overseas Citizen", you will need a visa.

You will also probably need a visa if you fall into one of the following categories (Note: this list is not exhaustive).
You intend to stay longer than 90 days
You intend to travel to the US for a reason other than business, pleasure or transit
You have been arrested (even if not convicted)
You have a criminal record
You have a serious, communicable disease (including HIV)
You have been refused entry to the US on a previous occasion
You have been deported from the US
You have overstayed during a previous visit
If you are unsure, or if you think that your situation falls into any of the above categories, you should consult the US Embassy (see above) – you must do this well in advance of any plans to travel.
Does my British passport allow me to travel under the VWP?
To enter under the VWP your passport must contain a machine-readable zone (MRZ)
at the foot of the photo page. The MRZ contains 2 lines of text as letters, numbers and chevrons (>>>).  If the area is blank the passport is not machine-readable and you need to apply for a visa.
The new style passports containing a biometric chip and an MRZ are acceptable for the VWP.
My child is included in my passport is that OK?
No - each person entering under the VWP must have their own MRZ passport.
Can I extend my stay under the VWP?
No - US Immigration does not grant extensions beyond 90 days.  If you would like to stay in the US for longer than 90 days, you will need to apply for a visa before travelling.  For those already in the US hoping to extend beyond 90 days, you will need to depart the US and apply for a visa.
What do I do if my passport is due to expire?
You are advised to check the remaining validity of your passport as soon as you plan to travel overseas.  The US and the UK have an agreement that allows people travelling from one country to the other to enter using a passport with limited validity.  However, you are strongly advised to renew your passport beforehand if it has six months remaining validity or less.  This is in case your departure from the US is delayed for any reason; if you wish to make side visits to other countries; or if you have further travel plans immediately after your visit to the US.
The ability to Transit Without Visa (TWOV) in the US has been suspended.  Those travellers who are passing through the United States ‘in transit’ but are not eligible for the Visa Waiver Programme must obtain a visa prior to travel.
I have a US criminal record - is that a problem?
US Criminal Records are linked to US Immigration databases.  If you have a previous conviction in the US; if you have violated your probation; or if you think you may have a US arrest warrant against you, we strongly advise that you consult the US Embassy in London before travelling.  Failure to do so may result in detention and/or deportation.  Exclusion periods for aliens with previous convictions are as follows:
3 years - After being found inadmissible as an arriving alien.
10 years - Being ordered removed/excluded.
20 years - After being found inadmissible and having previously been excluded, deported or removed (i.e.  illegal re-entry).
Life - Aggravated Felonies.
Is dual nationality allowed?
Under US law if you or your children are dual UK-US nationals travelling between both countries, you should travel with both passports. US law also requires that dual US nationals use their US passport to enter and exit the country - those who attempt to travel on their foreign passport risk being denied boarding.  Further information can be obtained from the US State Department (see above).
What do I do if I have renounced my US citizenship?
If you have renounced your US citizenship, you should carry a copy of your Certificate of Loss of Nationality when you travel to or from the US.  If you do not, you may not be allowed to board your aircraft.
What will happen on arrival in the US?
All arrivals under the VWP are subject to US-VISIT.  This means that all travellers aged between 14 and 79 are finger-scanned and digitally photographed on arrival. Special arrangements are in place for travellers with disabilities.
In 2002, the US authorities introduced the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System.  This requires nationals or citizens of certain countries identified as presenting an elevated national security concern - including those who also have British passports - to register on arrival and departure from the US, and in some cases, to register again with US authorities in-country.  Those required to register may be asked to provide fingerprints, have their photographs taken and be interviewed.
For full details about the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System you should consult the nearest US Embassy, or visit: US Immigration & Customs Enforcement (go to Enforcement - immigration) BEFORE travel.
Are there special considerations for lone parents travelling with children?
Lone parents travelling with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing them travel.  For further information on rules for the US please contact the US Embassy in London (see above.)
How do I apply for a visa?
Most applicants for US visas are required to attend an interview at a US Embassy or Consulate prior to issue.  The waiting time for an interview varies.  The US Embassy in London finger-scans visa applicants.
If you are in the United States and hold either a C, E, H, I, L, O or P visa, you are obliged to leave the country if you wish to renew or change your visa status.  For further information, we recommend that you visit the State Department website (see above) for more details or consult an attorney specialising in immigration law.


HEALTH

Comprehensive travel and medical insurance is essential; at least $1,000,000 cover, which includes hospital treatment and medical evacuation to the UK, would be wise.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see: Travel Insurance.

Medical treatment can be very expensive; there are no special arrangements for British visitors.  The British Embassy and Consulates-General cannot assist with medical expenses.

You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date.  For further information on health, visit the Department of Health’s website at: www.dh.gov.uk.

NATURAL DISASTERS

Hurricanes

The hurricane season normally runs from June to November, and can affect the whole of the southern USA.  There are a number of things you can do to prepare yourself if you are travelling to an area where hurricanes are common, including:
  • Telling friends or family in advance about your itinerary and calling them to let them know of your plans if a hurricane moves into the area in which you are staying.
  • Pay close attention to local media outlets.
  • Keep important numbers handy such as airlines, tour operators, travel insurance providers and the nearest Embassy or consulate.
  • Ensure you have access to supplies of food, water, radios, torches, first aid kit etc.
You can also monitor local and international weather updates from World Meteorological Organisation and the National Hurricane Centre for updates.  Please also see Hurricanes for more detailed information about what to do if you are caught in a hurricane.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) website http://www.fema.gov also contains information about how to prepare for extreme weather conditions and what to do if you are told to evacuate.  It also provides a useful list of disaster supplies that will help if you live in an area affected by storms and hurricanes.

Forest Fires

Forest and bush fires are a danger in many dry areas in the US, particularly on the west coast – you should monitor media reports about fires in your areas and take all necessary precautions.


GENERAL

If things go wrong when overseas, please see: What We Can Do To Help.