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Latest travel advice for USA including safety and security, entry requirements, travel warnings and health

2017-03-27T10:07:45.327+01:00: Latest update: Summary – the US government has implemented additional security measures for flights departing to the US from Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates; you can find further details on the US Department for Homeland Security website; if you need more information about how this may affect your flight, contact your airline or travel company

The US government has implemented additional security measures for flights departing to the US from Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. You can find further details on the US Department for Homeland Security website. If you need more information about how this may affect your flight, contact your airline or travel company.

You’ll need prior authorisation to enter the United States using a British passport, either through a visa, a Permanent Resident Card, or the Visa Waiver Programme. Restrictions apply depending on the type of passport you hold, your nationality, criminal history, and countries you may have recently visited. Visa and other entry conditions can change at short notice; it’s your responsibility to know and understand the entry rules before you travel. See Entry Requirements

The introduction of temporary immigration measures on 16 March 2017 for nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen has been suspended following a Federal Court ruling. British passport holders weren’t affected by the measures but those who are either dual nationals with one of these countries or who have travelled to these countries since 2011 should note the unchanged rules for entry as outlined in Entry Requirements.

Around 3.8 million British nationals visit the United States every year. Most visits are trouble free. Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.

There is a general threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. You should monitor media reports and remain vigilant at all times. See Terrorism

Snow storms during winter can cause delays and cancellations throughout the major airline hubs in the USA. See Natural disasters

UK health authorities have classified the United States as having a risk of Zika virus transmission in Florida, Texas (Cameron County only), Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. For more information and advice, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website: for travel to Florida and Texas (Cameron County) - for travel to Puerto Rico - for travel to US Virgin Islands.

You should be alert to the dangers of car and street crime. See Safety and Security

The hurricane season normally runs from June to November and can affect US coastal regions. You should monitor the progress of approaching storms and follow the instructions issued by the local authorities, including any evacuation orders. See Natural disasters

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

Safety and security

Crime

Take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your property against petty crime. Don’t leave passports in rental cars, especially in the boot, as there have been a high number of thefts by gangs targeting the vehicles of those who appear to be tourists.

Violent crime, including gun crime, rarely involves tourists, but you should take care when travelling in unfamiliar areas. Avoid walking through less travelled areas alone, especially at night. You can find public advisories and information about recent incidents on the websites of local law enforcement authorities

Crime associated with the illegal drugs trade is a major issue in Mexican states bordering Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. Some foreign nationals have been among the victims of crime in the border regions, but there is no evidence to suggest they have been targeted because of their nationality. Research your destination before travelling, be vigilant, and follow the advice of local authorities.

Road travel

Traffic laws can vary from state to state. If you’re planning to drive in the United States, check the driving rules in the state(s) you’ll be visiting. Provisional licences aren’t accepted. International Driving Permits are generally not required in the US but it is helpful to carry one, and they’re only valid in conjunction with a full UK driving licence. The United States doesn’t issue International Driving Permits to foreign visitors, so you’ll need to obtain this document before you travel. Check requirements with your vehicle rental company.

Check the weather conditions before embarking on a long journey, particularly 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 scarce. Do not sleep in your car by the roadside or in rest areas and avoid leaving any items on display in your car. Try to stay on main roads and use well-lit car parks. If you’re hit from behind while driving, indicate to the other driver to follow you to a public place and call 911 for the police.

Petrol stations that do not display the price of fuel usually charge considerably more than the national average for a gallon of fuel. They’re often found close to tourist destinations and airports, and notoriously near to Orlando International Airport.

Air travel

Before you travel, check the security measures you’re likely to face at the airport on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA website. The TSA has a helpline number to help passengers with disabilities and medical conditions before they fly.

Don’t make flippant remarks about bombs or terrorism, especially when passing through US airports.

Safety concerns have been raised about INSEL Air. The US and Netherlands authorities have prohibited their staff from using the airline while safety checks are being carried out. UK government officials have been told to do the same as a precaution.

Terrorism

There is a general threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. You should monitor media reports and remain vigilant at all times.

Individuals may be inspired to target public events or places, as demonstrated by attacks in New York, New Jersey and Minnesota over the weekend of 17-18 September 2016, Orlando on 12 June 2016 and San Bernardino on 4 December 2015, among others. Attacks could take place with little or no notice.

There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provides public information about credible threats. Expect an increased presence of law enforcement and tight security at public places and events. This may include a heavy police presence, additional restrictions and searches on bags, and the use of screening technologies. For all current alerts within the United States and its territories, visit the DHS website.

Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.

Local laws and customs

Laws vary from state to state. When you are physically present in a state, even temporarily, you are subject to that state’s laws. You must carry a passport showing that you have leave to enter or remain with you at all times.

The US is an extremely diverse society and attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people differ hugely across the country. Transgender travellers may be affected by legislation passed recently in the state of North Carolina. Before travelling please read our general travel advice for the LGBT community. You can find more detail on LGBT issues in the US on the website of the Human Rights Campaign.

Possession or trafficking of a controlled substance in the United States can carry a severe prison sentence and/or fine. Check with each state you are intending to visit to make sure you comply with the personal possession and consumption laws of controlled substances within those states. A list of all types of controlled substances, as listed under the Controlled Substances Act, can be found on the US Department of Justice website.

Details of the assistance offered by the British Embassy and Consulates to British nationals if arrested or detained in the USA is available on GOV.UK.

Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

You’ll need prior authorisation to enter the United States using a British passport, either through a visa, a Permanent Resident Card, or the Visa Waiver Programme. It’s your responsibility to know and understand the entry rules before you travel.

Visa Waiver Programme (VWP)

The VWP allows most British Citizen passport holders to visit the US for up to 90 days. The types of journey allowed under the VWP include tourism, certain types of business visit and transit to another country.

You’ll generally qualify to enter the USA using the VWP if your British passport:

and you:

Certain exemptions apply on a case-by-case basis to those who have travelled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia or Yemen since March 2011. For more information about these exemptions, see the website of the US Embassy in London or contact the nearest US Embassy or Consulate

If you’re arriving by air or sea (with the exception of the ferry from Vancouver/Victoria in Canada), you should provide details online at least 72 hours before travel. This is known as an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation or ESTA. Getting an ESTA is a separate process to providing your airline with advance passenger information (details of your passport, country of residence, address of your first night’s accommodation in the US etc). For more information, and to apply online, visit the official ESTA website.

If you’re arriving by land or on a ferry from Vancouver/Victoria in Canada, you don’t need to complete an ESTA before you arrive at the border.

The VWP is intended to be used for occasional, short visits to the US. If a US immigration officer thinks you’re trying to ‘reset’ the clock by making a short trip out of the US and re-entering for another 90-day period, you can be denied entry. If you travel from the US to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean you can usually re-enter using the ESTA and admission stamp you were issued when you first arrived in the US, although the time you spend outside of the country is included in the 90 days allotted for your visit. Make sure you’re clear about the length of time the immigration officer has authorised you to remain in the US if you re-enter under the same ESTA.

If your current British passport is not an ePassport you can contact Her Majesty’s Passport office for a replacement to allow you to use the VWP. Otherwise, you’ll need to apply for a visa to enter the United States on your current passport.

Visa requirements

If you don’t qualify for entry under the VWP, and don’t have a US Permanent Resident Card, you should apply for a visa from the nearest US Embassy or Consulate before travelling.

Further details on the US immigration rules is available on the Customs and Border Protection website.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. You don’t need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.

Global Entry

The US Customs and Border Protection programme Global Entry gets pre-approved travellers through border control faster at some US airports. If you’re a British citizen you can now register to get a UK background check on GOV.UK. If you pass the background checks, you’ll be invited to apply for Global Entry.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETD) aren’t valid for entry into the United States under the Visa Waiver Programme. If you’re planning to enter the US using an ETD you must apply for a visa from the nearest US Embassy or Consulate before you travel, or hold a valid lawful permanent resident card (often referred to as a ‘green card’), which you must have with you on arrival.

Bringing medicines into the US

There are restrictions and prohibitions on the import of certain prescription drugs into the US. The US Department for Homeland Security website contains further information and advice on bringing medicines into the US.

Travelling with children

If a child (under the age of 18) is travelling with only one parent or someone who isn’t a parent or legal guardian, you may be asked to provide certain documents at the border. For further information, see the US Customs and Border Protection website.

Travelling to the US from Cuba

It’s possible to travel to the United States after you’ve been to Cuba. However, you may wish to take supporting documents about the purpose of your trip to Cuba in case you’re questioned by US immigration officials at the port of entry on arrival in the US. If you have any further questions or concerns, contact the nearest US Embassy or Consulate.

Health

Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 911 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Medical treatment is expensive and there are no special arrangements for British visitors. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

Some hospitals may ask non-US residents to pay a deposit or ‘good faith’ payment on admittance. You should direct any requests for funds to your travel insurance provider in the first instance; only pay the hospital if you’re advised to do so by your travel insurance company. Your level of medical care won’t be affected while your claim is being processed.

You should take suitable steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes and ticks. There are occasional outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases, including West Nile virus, eastern equine encephalitis, Dengue fever, Chikungunya virus, and tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease.

UK health authorities have classified the United States as having a risk of Zika virus transmission in Florida, Texas (Cameron County only), Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. For more information and advice, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website: for travel to Florida and Texas (Cameron County) - for travel to Puerto Rico - for travel to US Virgin Islands.

Natural disasters

Earthquakes

Alaska, California, Guam, Hawaii, Nevada, Northern Mariana Islands, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Washington state and the US Virgin Islands are prone to earthquakes. To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, visit the Federal Emergency Management website.

Hurricanes

The Atlantic hurricane season normally runs from June to November and can affect US coastal regions. You should monitor the progress of approaching storms on the US National Hurricane Centre website and follow instructions issued by the local authorities, including any evacuation orders.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) website contains information about how to prepare for extreme weather conditions and what to do if you are told to evacuate. It also provides a list of disaster supplies that will help if you live in an area affected by storms and hurricanes.

Tornadoes

Tornadoes can occur at any time of the year depending on weather conditions. To learn more about what you should do during, and after a tornado, visit the US National Weather Service website.

Wildfires

Forest and brush fires (wild fires) are a danger in many dry areas. High winds can cause fires to spread very rapidly. Areas of high risk are canyons, hills and forests. Monitor local media reports and follow the advice of local law enforcement officials. For more information visit the National Interagency Fire Centre and US Geospatial Multi-Agency Coordination Group websites. For more detail about wild fires in California, visit the CAL FIRE website.

Snow storms

Snow storms during winter can cause delays and cancellations throughout the major airline hubs in the USA. Contact your travel company or airline before you travel. To monitor airport conditions in the USA, visit the Federal Aviation Administration website.

Travel advice help and support

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send us a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

Arctic travel

Large numbers of British nationals travel successfully and safely in and around the Arctic each year. The Arctic is, however, a vast region, comprising the northerly areas of Canada, Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Alaska (United States). In addition to reading the specific travel advice for each of these countries, prospective visitors to the Arctic should also consider carefully the potential remoteness of certain destinations from search and rescue, evacuation and medical facilities. Independent travellers are particularly advised to develop contingency arrangements for emergency back-up.

The most popular way of visiting the Arctic is by ship. As some areas of the Arctic -specifically the more northerly and remote regions - can be uncharted and ice-covered, you should check the previous operational experience of cruise and other operators offering travel in the region. You should also consider the on-board medical facilities of cruise ships and talk to cruise operators as appropriate, particularly if you have a pre-existing medical condition.

The eight Arctic states take their international search and rescue obligations very seriously, and have recently signed a binding agreement on search and rescue co-operation in the Arctic. However, in the highest latitude regions of the Arctic, cruise ships may be operating in relative isolation from other vessels and/or inhabited areas. You should be aware that in these regions, search and rescue response will often need to be despatched from many hundreds of miles away, and assistance to stranded vessels may take several days to arrive, particularly in bad weather. Search and rescue assets are also likely to offer only basic transport and basic medical care, and are unlikely to be capable of advanced life-support. Responsible cruise operators should happily provide additional information relevant to the circumstances of the cruise they are offering, and address any concerns you may have.

Consular assistance and support to British nationals in the Arctic will be affected by the capacity of national and local authorities. You should make sure you have adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment or potential repatriation.

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  • British Embassy Washington

    Title:British Embassy Washington
    Email:
    Address:

    3100 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
    Washington DC 20008
    USA

    Contact: Telephone:: +1 202 588 6500
    Visiting:
    Services:Emergency Travel Documents service (Assistance Services)
    Notarial services (Documentary Services)
    Citizenship Ceremony service (Documentary Services)
  • British Consulate General Atlanta

    Title:British Consulate General Atlanta
    Email:
    Address:

    133 Peachtree Street, NE
    Suite 3400
    Atlanta GA 30303
    USA

    Contact: Telephone:: +1 404 954 7700
    Visiting:
    Services:Emergency Travel Documents service (Assistance Services)
    Notarial services (Documentary Services)
    Lost or Stolen Passports (Assistance Services)
  • British Consulate General Boston

    Title:British Consulate General Boston
    Email:
    Address:

    One Broadway
    Cambridge MA 02142
    USA

    Contact: Telephone:: +1 617 245 4500
    Visiting:
    Services:Emergency Travel Documents service (Assistance Services)
    Notarial services (Documentary Services)
  • British Consulate General Chicago

    Title:British Consulate General Chicago
    Email:
    Address:

    625 N Michigan Avenue, Suite 2200
    Chicago IL 60611
    USA

    Contact: Telephone:: +1 312 970 3800
    Visiting:
    Services:Emergency Travel Documents service (Assistance Services)
    Notarial services (Documentary Services)
    Lost or Stolen Passports (Assistance Services)
  • British Consulate General Houston

    Title:British Consulate General Houston
    Email:
    Address:

    1301 Fannin Street
    Suite 2400
    Houston TX 77002
    USA

    Contact: Telephone:: +1 713 210 4000
    Visiting:
    Services:Emergency Travel Documents service (Assistance Services)
    Notarial services (Documentary Services)
    Lost or Stolen Passports (Assistance Services)
  • British Consulate General Miami

    Title:British Consulate General Miami
    Email:
    Address:

    1001 Brickell Bay Drive
    Miami FL 33131
    USA

    Contact: Telephone:: +1 305 400 6400
    Visiting:
    Services:Emergency Travel Documents service (Assistance Services)
    Notarial services (Documentary Services)
    Citizenship Ceremony service (Documentary Services)
    Lost or Stolen Passports (Assistance Services)
  • British Consulate General New York

    Title:British Consulate General New York
    Email:
    Address:

    845 Third Avenue
    New York NY 10022
    USA

    Contact: Telephone:: +1 212 745 0200
    Visiting:
    Services:Emergency Travel Documents service (Assistance Services)
    Notarial services (Documentary Services)
    Citizenship Ceremony service (Documentary Services)
    Lost or Stolen Passports (Assistance Services)
  • British Consulate General San Francisco

    Title:British Consulate General San Francisco
    Email:
    Address:

    1 Sansome Street, Suite 850
    San Francisco CA 94104
    USA

    Contact: Telephone:: +1 415 617 1300
    Visiting:
    Services:Emergency Travel Documents service (Assistance Services)
    Notarial services (Documentary Services)
    Issue certificate of no impediment (Documentary Services)
  • British Consulate General Los Angeles

    Title:British Consulate General Los Angeles
    Email:
    Address:

    2029 Century Park East, Suite 1350
    Los Angeles CA 90067
    USA

    Contact: Telephone:: +1 310 789 0031
    Visiting:
    Services:Emergency Travel Documents service (Assistance Services)
    Notarial services (Documentary Services)
    Lost or Stolen Passports (Assistance Services)
  • Department for International Trade USA

    Title:Department for International Trade USA
    Email:ResearchUSA@mobile.ukti.gov.uk
    Address:

    British Consulate General New York
    845 Third Avenue
    New York NY 10022
    USA

    Contact:
    Visiting:The central co-ordination team in New York manages and directs all enquiries for the US network
    Services:
  • British Defence Staff in the USA

    Title:British Defence Staff
    Email:BDSUS-COMMUNICATIONS@mod.uk
    Address:

    British Embassy Washington
    3100 Massachusetts Avenue NW
    Washington DC 20008
    USA

    Contact: Enquiries: +1 202 588 6500
    Visiting:
    Services:
  • UK Science and Innovation Network in the USA

    Title:
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