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Travel Security Advice for The United States of America

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Safety and Security

We advise you to exercise caution and monitor developments that might affect your safety in the United States because of the risk of terrorism. Pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.

The United States Department of Homeland Security's Advisory System Threat Level is at Orange for all domestic and international flights, indicating a "high" risk of terrorist attack. It is at Yellow or "elevated" for all other sectors, indicating a "significant" risk of terrorist attack.

Further information on safety and security is available from the following United States government agencies

 

Department of Homeland Security

Transport Security Administration

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Federal Emergency Management Agency

 

Crime

Crime rates are higher in the larger cities, such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Tourists are often targeted for petty crimes such as pick-pocketing and theft, particularly on public transport.

Local Travel

The United States enforces restrictions on travel to Cuba. The embargo applies to all United States citizens and permanent residents wherever they are located, and all people and organisations physically in the United States. If you plan to travel to Cuba, make sure you are familiar with the sanctions. For further details, see the Office of Foreign Assets Control website.

 

Individual State Advice

The Security Website has went one further and added all the individual State Safety Websites as these may be able to furnish you with the specific information on the State you are visiting with regards to Safety and Security.

Just Click HERE.......

 

Airline Safety

If you are travelling from an airport in the United States, either domestically or internationally, there are limitations on carrying liquids, gels, lotions and other items of similar consistency. You may carry through security checkpoints only travel-sized (85g or less) toiletries that fit comfortably in one, litre-sized, clear plastic, zip-top bag. Larger amounts of prescription liquid medications, baby formula and diabetic glucose treatments must be declared at the checkpoint for additional screening. If you are unsure of these requirements, check with your airline or on the United States Transport Security Administration's website.

Passengers on international flights to and from America are only allowed to carry a small amount of liquids (including aerosols and gels) in their carry-on baggage. Similar restrictions apply to flights in an increasing number of countries. Contact your airline for further information.

The European Union (EU) has published a list of airlines that are subject to operating bans or restrictions within the EU.

Since 6 November 2006 you can carry liquids, gels and aerosols in 3 ounce (or smaller) containers in a small zip-top bag.  You should visit www.tsa.gov for more details about this and other prohibited items.

Given that terrorist attacks have taken place in public areas, there is a risk that you could be caught up if there were other attacks in the future.  You should therefore be particularly vigilant in high-profile public places.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued new security directives to all United States and international air carriers with inbound flights to the U.S. effective 4 January 2010.  Every individual flying into the U.S. from anywhere in the world travelling from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be required to go through enhanced screening. For a list of the countries affected please visit the TSA website at http://www.tsa.gov/.

The directive also increases the use of random screening on passengers travelling from any other foreign country.

At this time, security checkpoint requirements for passengers departing U.S. airports remain the same. Passengers do not need to do anything differently, but they may notice additional security measures at the airport. Passengers travelling within the United States should give themselves extra time to check in and proceed through the security checkpoint before their flight, especially during the busy holiday travel season. TSA advises that passengers travelling on international flights to U.S. destinations allow extra time for security and arrive an additional hour earlier.


Natural Disasters, Severe Weather and Climate

The United States is subject to a wide range of natural hazards including hurricanes, tsunamis, volcanoes, and earthquake activity around the Pacific Basin including Hawaii; tornadoes in the midwest and southeast; mudslides in California; flooding and forest fires in the west, especially from March to November. General information on fires in the United States is available at the US National Interagency Fire Center website. If you are in areas affected by natural hazards, you should monitor media reports and follow the instructions of local authorities. Mandatory evacuation orders are issued on occasion and apply to everyone, including Australians.

Severe hurricanes occur in the Gulf and Atlantic coastal regions of the United States. During the hurricane season (June to November), landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services may occur.

Visitirs considering travel to areas often affected by tropical storms should give careful thought to the possible dangers and inconveniences should a storm strike. If you are travelling during hurricane season, you should contact your tour operator to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.

The direction and strength of hurricanes can change with little warning. You can check the latest hurricane information at the National Hurricane Center website. Television and radio services provide extensive advice from local, state and federal authorities. In the event of an approaching hurricane, you should identify your local shelter. Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended. Available flights may fill quickly. You should contact your airline for the latest flight information. The hurricane could also affect access to sea ports in the region. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe hurricane may not be available to all who may choose to stay. You should familiarise yourself with your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans.

You should carry your important documents at all times in a zip-lock bag (i.e. passport, arrival/departure record, photographic identification, airline ticket information, credit and debit cards, travellers’ cheques and cash, etc.) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. We also suggest that you contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches.

If you are caught in a disaster in the United States you can register that you are safe and well on the Red Cross "Safe and Well" website so your family and friends may review the site and confirm your safety. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

Wildlife

All visitors to the United States are advised to respect wildlife laws and to maintain a safe and legal distance when observing wildlife, including marine animals and birds. You should only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators and closely follow park regulations and wardens' advice.

Money and Valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work overseas.

Make two photocopies of valuables such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. The United States has specific requirements regarding locks used on airline baggage. See the Transport Security Administration's website for further details.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Children's Issues

If you are planning on placing your children in schools or childcare facilities overseas we encourage you to research the standards of security, care and staff training within those establishments. You should exercise the same precautions you would take before placing children into schools or childcare facilities in your own country.

Local Laws

When you are in the United States of America, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by other country standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed,  Your Embassy will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. ( See below for a list of Embassies)

Penalties for drug-related offences, including marijuana use, are severe and provide for minimum mandatory sentences.

If you overstay the date stamped on your Form I-94 or Form I-94W (see Visa Requirements), even by one day, you will have committed an offence under United States immigration law. If this is detected by immigration authorities, you will be subject to detention and deportation. In 2008, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) apprehended 791, 568 foreign nationals and removed 358, 886 from the country. While waiting to be removed, an overstayer will join some 32, 000 other illegal aliens detained in facilities nationwide where they may have to wait several months before being removed. There are some 17, 500 Border Patrol Agents in the United States, 89% of which patrol the border with Mexico. If you are travelling in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona or southern California, expect to have your documents inspected by authorities without warning and on a random basis, including on public transport.

International authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by tourists overseas. You may be prosecuted at home under your national child sex tourism laws. These laws provide severe penalties of imprisonment for tourists who engage in sexual activity with children under 16 whilst visiting another country.

Dual Nationals

The United States recognises dual nationality. Dual nationals are required by United States law to travel with both passports and use their United States passport to enter and exit the United States and its territories.

Visa Requirements

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of the United States for the most up to date information.

The United States administers a strict entry regime and you may be refused entry on arrival if you don't comply with entry requirements. We strongly recommend you contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of the United States of America about your specific circumstances, well in advance of travel, including if you plan to transit the United States.

For up-to-date visa information, you should review information contained on the following United States Government websites before deciding whether to seek entry under the Visa Waiver Program or to apply for a visa:

If you are visiting the United States for business or pleasure, you may be eligible to be admitted for 90 days under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). If you wish to work (including on journalism assignments), study, or stay for more than 90 days, you are not eligible for entry under the Program and you must obtain a visa before travelling.

Under US law if you or your children are dual 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

En route to the US by Air or Sea, a representative will give you a white form I-94 (if you are a visa holder) or a green Form I-94W (if you are a Visa Waiver Program traveller) to fill out before you arrive in the US.

Upon arrival, a US Customs and Border Protection officer will guide you through the inspection process, so have your travel document ready, such as passport and Form I-94/I-94W.

The officer will review your travel documents and ask questions, such as why you are visiting for how long.

The officer will scan up to 10 of your fingerprints and take your photograph with a digital camera.

The officer will tell you when you have completed the process.

Upon departure from the US, you should return the Form I-94 to the Airline or Ship representative as you depart.

The above arrival information can also be found at the US Department of Homeland Security website.

US-VISIT:

The US Department of Homeland Security's US-VISIT program provides visa-issuing posts and ports of entry with the biometric technology that enables the U.S. government to establish and verify your identity when you visit the United States.

In many cases, this process begins overseas at a U.S. visa issuing post, where a traveller's biometrics - digital fingerprints and a photograph - are collected and checked against a watch list of known criminals and suspected terrorists. When the traveller arrives in the United States, U.S. Immigration officials collect the same biometrics to verify that the person at the entry port is the same person who received the visa. Immigration officials use this information to help them make visa-issuance and admission decisions as part of the visa application process or entry inspection.

Unlike names and dates of birth, which can be changed, biometrics are unique and virtually impossible to forge. Collecting biomtrics helps the U.S. government prevent people from using fraudulent documents to enter the country illegally. Collecting biometrics also helps protect your identity in the event your travel documents are lost or stolen.

US-VISIT currently applies to all international visitors (with limited exemptions) entring the United States (this includes visitors travelling under the Visa Waiver program).

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 your country of origin.

Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA):

All  passport holders visiting or transiting the United States under the Visa Waiver Program must apply via the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA), preferably at least three days (or 72 hours) prior to travel to the United States. At this stage the US does not impose a fee for the ESTA service. Legislation to introduce a fee, however, is currently before the US Congress.

ESTA is a web-based system administered by the United States Government that determines the preliminary eligibility of visitors to travel under the Visa Waiver Program prior to boarding a carrier to the United States. Travellers who do not have a valid ESTA may be denied boarding, experience delayed processing or be denied admission at a United States’ port of entry.

To obtain a travel authorisation, each family member travelling is required to complete an ESTA application using the online system. For further information, please see our travel bulletin on entry into the United States.

If you are travelling on your Australian passport and seek to enter under the Visa Waiver Program, including transit stops, your passport must be:

machine-readable if issued prior to 26 October 2005;

machine-readable and have a digital photograph if issued on or after 26 October 2005; or ;an e-Passport if issued on or after 26 October 2006.

Australian passports that do not have two lines of 44 characters at the bottom of the personal particulars page are not machine-readable. To confirm whether your passport is machine-readable or an e-Passport, please contact the Australian Passports Information Service on 131232 (within Australia).

Australian citizens travelling on an Emergency Passport, Document of Identity or Provisional Travel Document without a valid US visa may have difficulty entering the United States. Australians intending to travel to the US on one of these documents are advised to make every attempt to obtain an appropriate US visa before seeking to enter into the United States.

Whether you are staying with family or friends or staying at a hotel, you will need to provide full details of a valid address in the United States when you check in for your flight. A five-digit zip code (post code) is required for all addresses. If you are a permanent resident of the United States, you will be asked for your Alien Registration Number and your country of normal residence.

Many US permanent residents (‘greencard’ holders) believe they can live abroad as long as they return to the United States at least once a year. This is incorrect. Permanent residents who leave the United States for extended periods, or who cannot show their intent to live permanently in the United States, may lose their permanent resident status. Full details are contained in the United States Government’s publication ‘Welcome to the United States: A Guide for New Immigrants’ .

International visitors will receive a white or green arrival/departure record (Form I-94 or Form I-94W) upon arrival in the United States. This form must be returned to an airline or ship representative when departing the United States, usually at the time of check-in.

Visitors are lawfully present in the United States only up to the date stamped on their arrival/departure record, not the expiration date printed on the visa. If detected, visitors staying beyond the 90-day Visa Waiver Program limit or beyond the date stamped on their arrival/departure record may be arrested and detained for up to seven weeks or more, deported and likely barred from re-entering the United States, possibly for life.

Where children are travelling alone or with one parent/guardian, we recommend you carry a notarised letter of consent for travel signed by the non-travelling parent(s) or guardian.

Foreign Nationals with a criminal record (regardless of how minor or how long ago the offence took place) should ensure they seek advice from their nearest United States Embassy or Consulate about their visa requirements for entering or transiting the United States as they may be refused entry.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity and carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Health Issues

Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 has spread throughout the world. The World Health Organisation (WHO) provides useful information for individuals and travellers on its website.

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Your Embassy and Consulates-General may not be able to assist with medical expenses. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. Most Government's will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

 

Insurance

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

Your doctor or travel clinic is the best source of information about preventive measures, immunisations (including booster doses of childhood vaccinations) and disease outbreaks overseas. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers.

The standard of medical facilities and care throughout the United States compares favourably with that available in most well developed nations. Medical costs in the United States are, however, extremely high. A visit to a doctor in the United States for even minor complaints can cost several hundred dollars, excluding laboratory tests or medication costs. In the absence of accepted health insurance (or proof of ability to pay), payment would generally be required up front.

Mosquito-borne disease, particularly West Nile virus, is prevalent during summer and continues into autumn months. We recommend you take precautions to avoid mosquito bites, including using repellent at all times, particularly in rural areas. For further information, see the US Government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has confirmed cases of avian influenza in birds in a number of countries throughout the world. For a list of these countries, visit the OIE website.


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding travel to The United States of America HERE....

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassies Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens).........

Regards

The SW Team..............

 

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