Five Things to Know Before Visiting the United States

 

Visiting the United States for the first time can be a very exciting experience. The variety of sights, experiences, foods, culture, and people found in the U.S. is hard to beat. However, for the unprepared it can also be confusing and a little scary. Arming yourself with some basic information before your visit allows you to relax and enjoy everything the country has to offer. With that in mind, we offer five tips that will allow you to enjoy this amazing experience.

 

1. The correct documents.
 

Are you a short term visitor? A student? A temporary or long term worker, or maybe looking to emigrate to the United States on a permanent basis? Each of these will require a different type of document. A Visa is the document that gives you permission to enter the United States, and tells you how long you can stay. There are Visas for tourism, work, and education. Depending on your goal, compliance with the Visas can be critical. For example, if you are in the United States on a tourist Visa, you may not get a job. If you stay past your allotted time, you are considered to be in the United States illegally. If you think you might want to be in the United States permanently, violation of a Visa rule can bar your path to citizenship or permanent residency. For peace of mind during your visit, and to keep your options open for the future, obtain the correct Vist, be familiar with its requirements, and comply with those requirements.

 

2. Why are you coming?
 

The United States is big, with widely varying regional customs, regional differences in the language and cuisine, and different regional experiences. Trying to create some sort of “total United States Experience” may not be satisfying, unless you have months available for travel. A little research about the different regions will help you identify the best destinations that match your interests. Destinations like Santa Fe, New Mexico or Austin, Texas exemplify Southwest cooking, art, and music. New York, Houston, and Los Angeles all provide well known tourist landmarks as well as museums, music, and world class cuisine. Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts exemplify the Northeastern experience, with seafood oriented cuisine and abundant natural experiences, like hiking in the New Hampshire Mountains or along the rugged New England seacoast. If you expend some effort to match up your interests, you can make better use of the time available and create a memorable experience.

 

3. Pay attention to logistical preparation
 

Depending on your destination and the time of year you travel, obtaining lodging, travel, and other types of support may present challenges. Plan ahead. Make your reservations early, especially for lodging and travel. Do you plan to drive? Check the requirements for foreign drivers in each state you want to drive in. Some states accept foreign licenses, while others require an International Driving Permit. Each state has a Department of Motor Vehicles, and their web-site will provide the requirements for your visit. Also, be careful, as there are International Drivers Permit scams.

 

4. Think about safety issues
 

The United States is home to a vast array of communities and enclaves, each with their unique approach to religion, communication, appropriate behavior, and flexibilities. Most of these communities are completely safe to visit, but research into the area you are considering would be prudent. Keep a cell phone with you, and remember that the number to call in case of an emergency, in any state, is 911. As with most places in the world, most American large cities have areas are best avoided; you should identify such areas before you arrive, and practice care in avoiding these areas. Also remember that, notwithstanding press to the contrary, the vast majority of law enforcement personnel in the United States are fair and even-minded officers with the safety of the community and its visitors as their primary goal. Do not hesitate to seek their assistance if it is necessary.

 

5. Language
 

Some grasp of the English language will greatly enhance your experiences in this country. Most U.S. citizens are not multi-lingual, though fluency in Spanish is on the rise. The ability to interact with the Americans you encounter can be critical, especially if you are in a situation requiring health care or law enforcement. Aside from these very important scenarios, the ability to communicate with U.S. citizens can greatly enhance your enjoyment on your visit; talking to vendors, finding out about local dining or cultural events, or simply conversing with local citizens to gain insight into the area or make a friend, are all facilitated by the ability to communicate. If you are not fluent, or even somewhat conversant, then consider obtaining a certified translator. Most large hotels can assist with this effort, as well as any travel agency. The ability to communicate can mean the difference between lifetime memories and a nightmare.

 

In sum:

–Gather and be familiar with your entry documents;

–Research the regions to see which area of the country matches your interests;

–Prepare your logistical requirements carefully;

–Think about safety; and

–Prepare for English use to the extent possible, and think about obtaining certified translation services or asking for a certified translator near me.