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United States of America (USA)

If you’re travelling to the United States of America (USA), our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information.

Get travel and medical insurance

Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.

Overview

Security status

There is an increased threat of terrorism and extremist violence worldwide and this should be borne in mind by Irish citizens living and working in the USA. The USA has also witnessed a number of mass shootings in recent years.

Latest Travel Alert

Note: With effect from 21 January 2016, the US authorities implemented changes to the Visa Waiver Programme affecting travellers who are Dual Nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen or any country that the US designates as a State sponsor of terrorism, and persons who have visited any of those countries since 1 March 2011.

The US has introduced new measures for certain travellers with effect from 27th January 2017. On 31 January 2017, the US Embassy in Dublin clarified that the travel of dual nationals from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Libya or Somalia would not be restricted, so long as the individuals hold the passport of an unrestricted country and possess a valid US visa. Prospective travellers who feel they may be affected should consult the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or the U.S. Embassy website for up to date information.

Update: For the next 90 days, foreign nationals from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen who are outside the United States on the effective date of the order, do not currently have a valid visa on the effective date of this order, and did not have a valid visa at 5:00 eastern standard time on January 27, 2017, are not eligible to travel to the United States.

There is currently an outbreak of Zika Virus (a dengue-like mosquito-borne disease) in Central and South America and the Caribbean. In light of cases of locally transmitted Zika virus confirmed in areas of Florida and Texas our travel advice for these areas is the same as for travel to any affected area: women who are pregnant or who are trying to become pregnant should consider postponing their travel. Irish Citizens are advised to follow guidance available on the website of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) at http://www.hpsc.ie/A-Z/Vectorborne/Zika/.

Emergency Assistance 

The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems, start by talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management.  

Our tips for safe travels

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly in an emergency, such as a natural disaster or a family emergency
  • Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates 
  • Read our Topical ‘Know Before You Go’ guide

Safety and security

Security checks

The Customs and Border Protection Agency has warned of possible increased waiting times at international airports, especially during the summer peak season, due to budget cuts. These may be up to four hours at the busiest airports. Increased processing times may make it more difficult to make tight connecting flights. These delays should have less impact on Irish passengers who undergo US border preclearance at Dublin or Shannon.

Terrorism

Since the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001, the US government has issued a number of warnings of potential further terrorist attacks in the country. The US domestic threat level stands at ‘elevated’ (yellow) and the government is maintaining heightened security, especially at airports. You should expect stringent security checks at airports, transport stations and other public buildings.

Crime

Crime remains relatively low in the US but you should take sensible precautions.

  • Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place
  • Limit the amount of cash you carry by using travellers’ cheques, Euro cheques or international credit cards
  • Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home
  • Avoid showing large sums of money in public and don’t use ATMs after dark, especially if you are alone. Check no one has followed you after conducting your business
  • Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places such as internet cafes, train and bus stations
  • Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible
  • Keep a lookout for people acting suspiciously or unattended packages in public places

 
Reporting a crime

If you’re a victim of a crime while in the US, report it to the local police immediately. And you can contact us at the Irish Embassy in Washington DC and the Irish Consulates in Austin, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New York and San Francisco.

Driving

If you’re planning to drive in the US, be aware that cars drive on the right side of the road but otherwise road safety conditions are fairly similar to Ireland.

If you want to drive:

  • Bring your full Irish driving licence and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law and you risk being detained, fined or banned from driving if caught
  • Keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags kept out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag-snatching if you’re stopped at traffic lights 

Hiring a vehicle

If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.

Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).

Local laws and customs

Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or may even be illegal.

When you’re in the US, all federal, state and local laws apply to you. Laws vary from state to state but when you’re physically present in a state, even temporarily, you’re subject to that state’s laws, and, in many cases, to the jurisdiction of its courts.

If you get into any difficulties with US Authorities, you should explain to them that you are an Irish national and ask to speak to an Irish consular officer. We will do what we can to help you but we cannot get you out of trouble or out of jail. 

Illegal drugs

Illegal drug use (no matter what the drug) carries stiff penalties, including fines and long prison terms. 

Immigration documents

US Federal Law requires all foreign nationals to carry immigration documentation (such as your passport showing that you have permission to enter or remain) at all times while in the USA.

Some States (Arizona, Utah, Indiana, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama) introduced legislation designed to identify and reduce the number of illegal immigrants in their states. These measures include authorisation for police officers to detain people they suspect of being in the US illegally. Although some of the measures are being contested in the courts, it is important that you have your documents available for scrutiny if you’re asked by law enforcement officials to present them wherever you are in the United States.

Additional information

Entry requirements (visa/passport)

The US has introduced new measures for certain travellers with effect from 27th January 2017. On 31 January 2017, the US Embassy in Dublin clarified that the travel of dual nationals from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Libya or Somalia would not be restricted, so long as the individuals hold the passport of an unrestricted country and possess a valid US visa. Clarifications as to how these new arrangements will operate continue to be announced by the US authorities. Prospective travellers who feel they may be affected should consult the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or the U.S. Embassy website for up to date information.

Electronic System for Travel Authorization

The ESTA is an electronic registration system requiring travellers who are part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to register in advance of travelling to the US.

Note: With effect from 21 January 2016, the US authorities have implemented changes to the Visa Waiver Program which will affect travellers who are Dual Nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen or any country that the US designates as a State sponsor of terrorism, and persons who have visited any of those countries since 1 March 2011. For further information on these changes to the VWP, you should consult the website of US Homeland Security or the US Embassy website.

Registration

You should register through the Department of Homeland Security website, where you will have to pay a fee (currently $14).  

Registration can be done by third parties on your behalf, such as travel agencies, and multiple applications can be completed and paid for in one transaction.

Validity

You can submit an ESTA application at any time prior to travel – the Department of Homeland Security recommends that it be submitted at least 72 hours in advance of travel. Once approved, it will be valid for multiple entries into the US and generally for up to two years or until your passport expires, whichever comes first.

Additional information

  • If you don’t get authorisation to travel you’ll need to go to your nearest US Diplomatic or Consular Mission and apply for a visa.
  • An ESTA approval does not determine admissibility into the US. The final decision for entry to the US rests with immigration authorities at the port of entry.
  • The ESTA programme does not apply if you have a visa for the US.
  • Children, including infants, who are endorsed on a parent's passport must have an individual machine-readable passport or else obtain a visa in the parent's passport.

Passport information

Machine-readable passports

You must have an individual machine-readable passport to avail of the US Visa Waiver Programme. Otherwise you will have to get a visa, in advance, from your nearest US Diplomatic or Consular Mission.

A machine-readable passport is a passport in which your details have been printed on the data page which also contains your photograph. A passport where your details have been handwritten is not a machine-readable passport.

Passport validity

In most cases, to enter the US, you must have a passport that is valid for at least six months after the date you enter. However, Ireland has an agreement with the US that allows you to enter on a current passport up to the actual date of expiration – so your Irish passport needs to be valid only for the duration of your stay in the US.

However, if you’re travelling visa-free on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and your passport is valid for less than 90 days, you will be admitted only until the date on which the passport expires. If the passport is not valid for the duration of your stay, you must apply for a new passport from your nearest Irish Embassy or Consulate while in the US.

Further details on entry requirements are available on the US Embassy website and you can find information on J1 visas in our Visa section.

US Embassy website and you can find information on J1 visas in our Visa section.

Children - Child travelling with one parent or someone who is not a parent or legal guardian or a group

Due to increasing incidents of child abductions in disputed custody cases and as possible victims of child pornography, the US authorities (CBP) strongly recommends that unless a child travelling to the US is accompanied by both parents, the adult have a note from the child's other parent (or, in the case of a child travelling with relatives other than parents, friends, or in groups such as school groups, a note signed by both parents) stating "I acknowledge that my wife/husband/etc. is travelling out of the country with my son/daughter/group. He/She/They has/have my permission to do so.” CBP also suggests that this note be notarised.

While CBP may not ask to see this documentation, if it does ask, and you do not have it, you may be detained until the circumstances of the child travelling without both parents can be fully assessed. If there is no second parent with legal claims to the child (deceased, sole custody, etc.) any other relevant paperwork, such as a court decision, birth certificate naming only one parent, death certificate, etc., would be useful. For further information, please visit the CBP website.

Health

Check with your doctor well in advance of travelling to see if you need any vaccinations for this country.

We also advise any Irish citizens visiting or living in the US to follow the advice of the US Centre for Disease Control