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.
- Safety and security
- Local laws and customs
- Natural disasters and climate
- Additional information
If you’re planning a trip to the US, we advise you to take normal precautions.
Register with us
If you are visiting or planning to stay in the US, you should register your details with us so we can find you quickly if there is an unforeseen crisis like a natural disaster or if you have a family emergency while you are abroad. And, if necessary, we can offer help to you and your family.
We suggest you learn as much as you can about the US before your trip.
We also recommend reading our Know Before You Go travel guide for practical tips on travelling abroad.
The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems, try talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management.
Contact the Embassy
If there is an emergency, or if you need help and advice, you can contact the Irish Embassy in Washington DC and the Irish Consulates in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New York and San Francisco.
If you phone outside of working hours, leave us a message giving:
- Your name
- The nature of your problem
- Where you are now
- Your contact details (mobile phone number or phone number of where you’re staying)
We regularly monitor these messages and one of our staff members will be in contact with you.
How we can help you
We have a lot of experience helping Irish citizens who run into problems when they’re abroad. Learn more about the kind of emergency assistance we can offer you.
Safety and security
Safety and security
- Read our Know Before You Go travel guide for useful security tips when travelling abroad
- Get advice locally about areas of risk and security concerns
- Take common-sense precautions about safety and security
- Know who to contact in case of an emergency
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.
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 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 Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New York and San Francisco.
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
- Be aware of US traffic laws, such as speed limits
- Wear your seatbelts at all times
- 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
Local laws and customs
- Read our travel advice, inform yourself before travelling and get advice locally when you arrive
- 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 even 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 drug use (no matter what the drug) carries stiff penalties, including fines and long prison terms.
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.
Natural disasters and climate
Natural disasters and climate
- If you’re travelling to the USA, make sure you know what to expect – then plan and pack so that you’re prepared
- Get local advice on how to manage in the case of a serious incident or dangerous conditions
- Co-operate with local authorities and emergency services in the case of serious incidents
The hurricane season in the US normally runs from 1 June to 30 November, and can affect the whole of the southern US. Please check the National Hurricane Centre website, monitor local weather reports and get local information on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website and on their blog.
FEMA's website 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.
Entry requirements (visa/passport)
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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 datapage which also contains your photograph. A passport where your details have been handwritten is not a machine-readable passport.
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.
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. Further information is available here.
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.