Fire and rescue services
Exercise normal safety precautions in the United States of America.
Use common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour in the United States of America, including Alaska, Puerto Rico and the Hawaiian Islands.
Full travel advice: Safety
Full travel advice: Health
Full travel advice: Local laws
Full travel advice: Travel
Full travel advice: Local contacts
Terrorism is a threat worldwide. There is a heightened threat of terrorist attack in the US.
Attacks in recent years include:
Subscribe to the National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) bulletin for updates and advice. The latest bulletin advises that terrorist groups:
To reduce your risk of being involved in a terrorist incident:
If there's an attack, leave the affected area as soon as it's safe to do so.
The US has a higher level of violent crime than Australia, but incidents rarely involve tourists.
The latest official crime statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) show that metropolitan areas and cities tend to have higher rates of crime and murder.
Gun crime can happen throughout the US. In many states, it's legal for US citizens to openly carry firearms in public.
We do not update our advice for individual gun crimes, such as mass shootings or active shooter events, unless there's a significant risk to Australians.
To reduce your risk of encountering gun crime:
If you're affected by violent crime, follow advice from local authorities.
Tourists are often targeted for pickpocketing and theft. This happens more in crowded areas, such as on public transport.
Rental cars are easy to spot and are often a target of thieves.
Don't leave valuables on public display or in a car unattended, including in the boot.
Public protests and events that draw large groups of people can turn violent. They are frequent, but usually peaceful.
To avoid areas affected by unrest:
On 7 January 2020, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck about 10 kilometres off the southern coast of Puerto Rico, following a series of smaller earthquakes in the region. There is structural damage and power outages in the south-west of the island. Aftershocks may happen.
Natural disasters and severe weather occur in the US, including:
TV and radio services give official advice from local, state and federal authorities.
Mandatory evacuation orders apply to everyone, including travellers.
If there's an emergency:
You can also register with American Red Cross Safe and Well.
Severe weather in the US includes:
If you're in an area affected by severe weather:
Check the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for advice on:
Severe hurricanes occur in:
Hurricane season is from June to November.
Landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruption to essential services can occur.
If you're travelling in hurricane season, check updates from:
The direction and strength of hurricanes can change with little warning.
Before, during and after a hurricane:
If a hurricane is approaching:
Travelling to areas affected by natural disasters and severe weather events can be dangerous. It's also inconvenient if essential services are disrupted.
If you plan to travel to a region after a natural disaster, check with your transport operator that services are operating.
Contact the place you intend to stay and check other sources for details on local conditions.
Get comprehensive travel insurance before you leave. Your policy needs to cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. The Australian Government won’t pay for these costs.
If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. This applies to everyone, no matter how healthy and fit you are.
If you're not insured, you may have to pay many 1000s of dollars up-front for medical care.
Consider your physical and mental health before you travel, especially if you have an existing medical condition.
See your doctor or travel clinic to:
Do this at least 8 weeks before you leave.
Not all medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia is available in other countries. Some may be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.
If you plan to bring any medication, check if it's legal in the US. Take enough legal medication for your trip. If possible, bring the medication in the original container you were given by your pharmacist.
Carry a copy of your prescription or a dated letter from your doctor stating:
The United States is currently experiencing outbreaks of measles. Make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date before you travel and follow advice from local health authorities.
Insect-borne illnesses can occur throughout the US, including:
Research your destination and get local advice before you travel.
To protect yourself from disease:
Updates on US health issues, communicable diseases and preventative measures are available from:
The standard of medical facilities and care is similar to Australia.
Medical costs are high. A visit to a doctor for a minor issue can cost 100s of dollars, not including tests or medication costs.
You may need to show proof of insurance or your ability to pay before receiving treatment. If you don't have proof, you'll usually be asked to pay up-front.
You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that may appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling.
If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.
Federal and state laws for drug-related offences vary. This includes laws on the possession and recreational use of marijuana (cannabis).
Penalties for drug-related offences can be severe. They may include minimum mandatory sentences.
It's illegal to carry prescription medication that you don't have a prescription for. See Health
The federal legal age for buying and drinking alcohol is 21 years old. Some US states have different laws. Check the state laws.
Surrogacy laws can be complex. Get legal advice before you agree to a commercial arrangement.
North Carolina and Mississippi have laws that could discriminate against people based on sexual orientation.
Some Australian criminal laws still apply when you’re overseas. If you break these laws, you may face prosecution in Australia.
The US recognises dual nationality. If you're a US dual national, you must:
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders.
Make sure you meet all entry and exit conditions. If you don't, the Australian Government can’t help you.
The US has strict entry requirements for both tourists and transit passengers. US Customs and Border Protection officers won't let you enter if you don't comply.
If you're visiting for less than 90 days, you may be eligible to:
Otherwise, you'll need to get a visitor visa before you travel.
Visa and other entry and exit conditions can change at short notice, including currency, customs and quarantine rules. Contact an embassy or consulate of the United States for the latest details.
If you plan to visit for less than 90 days, you may be able to travel under the VWP. This includes travel to the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
You can’t enter the US under the VWP if you have:
Before travelling under the VWP, you must apply and be pre-approved via the ESTA.
US authorities recommend that you apply as soon as you know you'll be travelling. ESTA approvals can take at least 72 hours.
ESTAs are valid for 2 years and for multiple entries.
You’ll need to apply for a new ESTA if:
If there are differences between your ESTA, passport or ticket information, you could be:
If your ESTA application is denied, you’ll need to apply for a visitor visa from a US embassy or consulate.
US authorities generally won’t tell you why an ESTA application was rejected. You can't appeal the decision.
If you provide false or incorrect information on an ESTA, you may be permanently barred from travel to the US.
If your ESTA application is denied or you're not eligible to travel under the VWP, or you intend to stay for more than 90 days, you’ll need to apply for a visa from a US embassy or consulate.
Depending on your reason for travel, you can apply for either:
There's a visa for every travel purpose.
When you arrive, US authorities will decide the date by which you must leave the country. This date may not be the same as the expiry date of your ESTA or visitor visa.
A US Customs and Border Protection official should:
Your I-94 is evidence of your legal status in the US. It shows the date when you must leave the country.
You can check your I-94 with the US Customs and Border Protection each time you enter the US.
If you stay past your I-94 expiry date, you can be detained, deported and barred from re-entering the US.
To extend your stay in the US, lodge a request with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Form I-539 before your I-94 expires.
You can't extend or renew your I-94 by travelling to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean for 30 days or less and then re-entering the US.
If you travel to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean and return to the US while your I-94 is still valid, you'll be readmitted for the amount of time left on it.
If your I-94 has recently expired and US authorities think the purpose of your trip was only to extend your stay in the US, they can:
If you're issued a paper I-94 when you arrive at a land border, give it to the airline, cruise line or US Customs and Border Protection officials when you leave the US.
Having an approved ESTA or visitor visa doesn't guarantee your entry to the US. It allows you to board a US-bound plane or vessel.
Customs and Border Protection officials at the port of entry will decide if you can enter the country.
Entry requirements are strict. Authorities have broad powers when deciding if you're eligible to enter.
At the port of entry, be prepared to answer questions about:
Officials may ask to inspect your electronic devices, emails, text messages or social media accounts.
If you enter the US under the VWP or on a visitor visa, it's likely you'll need to have:
If you provide false information, or can’t satisfy the officials you're visiting for a valid reason, you can be refused entry.
You may be held while US authorities arrange for you to be returned to Australia (or the last country you visited).
If you're refused entry under the VWP, you generally don’t have the right to an attorney or to appeal the decision.
Children must have their own ESTA approval or visitor visa.
A child travelling alone or with only 1 parent or legal guardian should carry a notarised letter of consent signed by the non-travelling parent or guardian.
Most travellers must have their fingerprints scanned and face photographed when they arrive.
Authorities actively pursue, detain and deport people who are in the US illegally.
It's becoming more common for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to carry out random travel document checks, even on public transport.
The US enforces restrictions on travel to Cuba. This applies to anyone under US jurisdiction, including Australians who live or work in the US.
If you plan to visit the US after you've been to Cuba, you'll need documents to prove the purpose of your trip. Immigration officials may question you at the port of entry.
Some countries won’t let you enter unless your passport is valid for 6 months after you plan to leave that country. This can apply even if you’re just transiting or stopping over.
Some foreign governments and airlines apply the rule inconsistently. Travellers can receive conflicting advice from different sources.
You can end up stranded if your passport is not valid for more than 6 months.
The Australian Government does not set these rules. Check your passport’s expiry date before you travel. If you’re not sure it’ll be valid for long enough, consider getting a new passport.
Your passport is a valuable document. It's attractive to people who may try to use your identity to commit crimes.
Some people may try to trick you into giving them your passport. Always keep it in a safe place.
If your passport is lost or stolen, tell the Australian Government as soon as possible:
The local currency is the United States Dollar (USD).
Declare all amounts over $US10,000 on arrival and departure. This covers all forms of currency, not only cash.
Credit and debit cards are widely accepted.
To drive in the US, you'll need to get an International Driver's Permit (IDP) before you leave Australia.
Some states will allow you to drive for a limited time on your Australian driver's licence.
You're almost 2 times as likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in the US as you are in Australia.
Road rules vary between states.
If you plan to drive in the US:
Petrol stations can be scarce in isolated areas.
You need a motorcycle licence to operate a motorcycle in the US.
Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when using a motorbike, quad bike or similar vehicle.
Always wear a helmet.
Taxis are generally a safe mode of transport.
Ridesharing options are widely available.
Take the same safety precautions that you would in Australia.
Many international cruise liners are based in the US.
DFAT doesn’t provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths.
Check USA's air safety profile with the Aviation Safety Network.
Depending on what you need, contact your:
Always get a police report when you report a crime.
Your insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.
For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider.
Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.
For consular assistance, contact the nearest Australian embassy or consulate.
Contact the Australian Embassy in Washington DC if you're in:
1145 17th St NW, Suite GP410
Washington, DC 20036-4707
Phone: (+1 202) 797 3000
Fax: (+1 202) 797 3331
Contact the Consulate-General in Chicago if you're in:
Australian Consulate-General, Chicago
123 North Wacker Drive, Suite 1330
Chicago, Illinois 60606
Phone: (+1 312) 419 1480
Fax: (+1 312) 419 1499
If you're in Hawaii, contact the Consulate-General in Honolulu.
Australian Consulate-General, Honolulu
Penthouse, 1000 Bishop Street
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Phone: (+1 808) 529 8100
Fax: (+1 808) 529 8142
Contact the Consulate-General in Houston if you're in:
Australian Consulate-General, Houston
3009 Post Oak Blvd, Suite 1310
Houston, Texas 77056
Phone: (+1 832) 962 8420
Fax: (+1 832) 831 2022
Contact the Consulate-General in Los Angeles if you're in:
Australian Consulate-General, Los Angeles
2029 Century Park East, 31st Floor
Los Angeles, California 90067
Phone: (+1 310) 229 2300
Fax: (+1 310) 299 2380
Contact the Consulate-General in New York if you're in:
Australian Consulate-General, New York
150 East 42nd Street, 34th Floor
New York, New York 10017-5612
Phone: (+1 212) 351 6500
Fax: (+1 212) 351 6501
Contact the Consulate-General in San Francisco if you're in:
Australian Consulate-General, San Francisco
575 Market Street, Suite 1800
San Francisco, California 94105
Phone: (+1 415) 644 3620
Fax: (+1 415) 536 1982
Check the embassy or consulate website for details about opening hours and any temporary closures.
In a consular emergency, if you can't contact an embassy, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on:
Be the first to know official government advice when travelling.