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United States

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S.) or America (), is a federal republic composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. Forty-eight states and the federal district are contiguous and located in North America between Canada and Mexico. The state of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The state of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

At 3.8 million square miles (9.8 million km2) and with over 324 million people, the United States is the world's third- or fourth-largest country by total area, and the third-most populous. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city is New York City; eight other major metropolitan areas—each approaching 5 million (or more) inhabitants—are Los AngelesChicagoDallasHoustonPhiladelphiaMiamiAtlanta and Boston.

Paleo-Indians migrated from Asia to the North American mainland at least 15,000 years ago. European colonization began in the 16th century. The United States emerged from 13 British colonies along the East Coast. Numerous disputes between Great Britain and the colonies following the Seven Years' War led to the American Revolution, which began in 1775, and the subsequent Declaration of Independence in 1776. The war ended in 1783 with the United States becoming the first country to attain independence from a European power. The current constitution was adopted in 1788, with the first ten amendments, collectively named the Bill of Rights, being ratified in 1791 to guarantee many fundamental civil liberties.

The United States embarked on a vigorous expansion across North America throughout the 19th century, acquiring new territories, displacing Native American tribes, and gradually admitting new states until it spanned the continent by 1848. During the second half of the 19th century, the American Civil War led to the end of legal slavery in the country. By the end of that century, the United States extended into the Pacific Ocean, and its economy, driven in large part by the Industrial Revolution, began to soar. The Spanish–American War and World War I confirmed the country's status as a global military power. The United States emerged from World War II as a global superpower, the first country to develop nuclear weapons, the only country to use them in warfare, and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 left the United States as the world's sole superpower. The U.S. is a founding member of the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Organization of American States (OAS), and other international organizations.

The United States is a highly developed country, with the world's largest economy by nominal GDP and second-largest economy by PPP, accounting for approximately a quarter of global GDP. The U.S. economy is largely post-industrial, characterized by the dominance of services and knowledge-based activities, although the manufacturing sector remains the second-largest in the world. Though its population is only 4.3% of the world total, Americans hold 33.2% of the total wealth in the world, the largest share of global wealth concentrated in a single country. The United States ranks among the highest nations in several measures of socioeconomic performance, including average wage, human development, per capita GDP, and productivity per person. The U.S. is the foremost military power in the world, making up a third of global military spending. It is also a global leader in science and technology.

Exercise normal security precautions

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

Crime

The possession of firearms and the frequency of violent crime are generally more prevalent than in Canada. Within large metropolitan areas, violent crime more commonly occurs in economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods, particularly from dusk to dawn. Verify official neighbourhood crime statistics before planning an outing.

Robbery and assault can also occur in wealthy residential or commercial districts. Exercise caution, particularly at night. Violent crimes, particularly assault, are often connected to alcohol and drug consumption. Remain alert and discreet while in entertainment areas.

Canadians have been the victims of crime such as break-ins, assaults and pickpocketing in the Miami area, sometimes during daylight hours. Theft occurs in the North Miami Beach area, at South Beach and at airports, particularly from trunks of parked cars. Be alert, as criminals use a variety of techniques to steal personal belongings.

Passport theft is on the rise. Ensure that your travel documents are secure at all times.

Driving to Mexico

Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada currently advises against non-essential travel to the Mexican side of the border region with the U.S., and does not recommend crossing the U.S.-Mexico border by car, due to continuously high levels of violence linked to organized crime in those areas. For more information on travel to Mexico, please consult our Travel Advice for Mexico.

Air travel

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in North America. When in doubt, remember…boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!


Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in North America, certain insects carry and spread diseases like Lyme disease and West Nile virus.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.


Malaria

Malaria

There is no risk of malaria in this country.


Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Certain infections found in North America, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

All hospitals must accept and treat emergencies, regardless of the person’s ability to pay. Clients will, however, be charged for all services rendered.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Illegal and prescription drugs

The U.S. zero tolerance policy imposes severe penalties for the possession of even a small amount of an illegal drug.

Even prescription drugs and syringes used for legitimate medical purposes come under intense scrutiny. Carrying medicines in their original containers and carrying a duplicate of your original prescription, listing both the generic and trade names of the drug, is recommended. Never carry a package or luggage for someone else unless you have been able to verify the contents completely.

Personal medication may be subject to U.S. drug importation laws and regulations. In general, personal importation of a 90-day supply of medication is allowed, but only if the drug is not available in the U.S. Prescription drugs imported through the mail from Canada are carefully scrutinized. For further information, please consult the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Laws

A serious violation of the law may lead to a jail sentence or, in some states, a death sentence. The jail sentence will be served in a local prison. Canada and the U.S. do, however, have a treaty that permits a Canadian imprisoned in the U.S. to request a transfer to Canada to complete the sentence in a Canadian prison. The transfer requires the agreement of both Canadian and American authorities. Canadian citizenship confers no immunity, special protection or rights to preferential treatment.

Imports and exports

A non-resident may bring merchandise worth up to US$200 free of duty for personal or household use into the U.S. On visits of 72 hours or more, you may carry an additional US$100 worth of merchandise free of duty as gifts for other people. Certain items are prohibited. More information is available from the U.S. CBP.

For information on personal duty purchase exemptions at the border when returning to Canada, please consult the Canada Border Services Agency.

Travel to Cuba

Residents of the U.S., including Canadian citizens, are subject to U.S. law regarding travel to Cuba. They are prohibited from spending money (in any currency) relating to Cuban travel unless they are licensed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

Pets

When examined at a port of entry, cats and dogs must show no signs of diseases communicable to humans. If there is evidence of poor animal health, an examination by a licensed veterinarian might be required, at the expense of the owner. The U.S. authorities may also require a health certificate. Vaccination against rabies is not required for cats. Dogs must be vaccinated against rabies at least 30 days before entry, except for puppies under three months of age. Other animals are also subject to controls or quarantine requirements. Additional information is available from the U.S. CBP and local authorities.

When you return to Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will require proof of vaccination against rabies for all cats and dogs over three months of age. For detailed information, contact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Automobile insurance

If you are entering the U.S. by personal automobile, you should check with your insurance agent to verify that your existing coverage is valid or sufficient for the areas you will be visiting and for the duration of your visit. If you are going to remain in a specific location in the U.S. for a considerable period of time, verify with the local authorities that your vehicle registration and driver’s licence will remain valid.

Many states have mandatory automobile insurance requirements, and many require motorists to carry appropriate proof of insurance. Each state’s motor vehicles department can give you more specific information. The American Automobile Association and the Canadian Automobile Association can provide detailed information to their members.

If you are in the U.S. and wish to drive to Mexico in your personal vehicle, you may need to purchase liability insurance as well as additional auto insurance. Contact your insurance agent and the local Mexican tourist office for further information. See our Travel Advice and Advisories for Mexico.

Hitchhiking

Never cross the border with a hitchhiker or as a hitchhiker. Though you may not be carrying anything illegal, the hitchhiker in your vehicle might be, and you could be implicated.

Be equally careful about who and what you carry in your vehicle. As the driver, you could be held responsible for the misdeeds of your passengers, even if committed without your knowledge or involvement.

Money

The currency is the U.S. dollar (USD). Canadian currency, traveller’s cheques in Canadian dollars, and personal cheques drawn on Canadian banks are not widely accepted or easily negotiable in the U.S. All major credit cards are accepted throughout the U.S.

There are banking machines that will accept Canadian bank cards, but these may be limited depending on your account access. Despite these difficulties, do not carry large amounts of cash. Non-U.S. residents generally cannot negotiate monetary bank instruments (international bank drafts, money orders, etc.) without having a U.S. bank account.

There is no limit to the amount of money that you may legally take into or out of the U.S.. However, if you carry more than US$10,000 in monetary instruments (such as U.S. or foreign coin, currency, traveller’s cheques, money orders, stocks or bonds) into or out of the U.S., or if you receive more than that amount while in the U.S., you must file a report (Customs Form 4790) with U.S. Customs. Failure to comply can result in civil and criminal penalties, including seizure of the currency or monetary instruments.

Climate

Hurricane season

The hurricane season extends from June to the end of November, in the southeastern states. Consult the website of the National Hurricane Center for additional information on weather conditions, stay informed of regional weather forecasts, and follow the advice and instructions of local authorities.

Volcanoes, tornadoes and earthquakes

Some volcanoes in the U.S. are active and seismic activity also occurs. For up-to-date information on volcanic activity, consult the Alaska Volcano Observatory’s website. Additional information on volcanic and seismic activity in the U.S., as well as on possible tsunami threats to Pacific states, is available from the U.S. Geological Survey. Consult the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service for information on tornadoes. You should know the address and telephone number of the nearest embassy or consulate general of Canada in the event of an emergency.

Wildfires

Hot, dry weather conditions and strong winds often lead to wildfires during the summer. Remain alert to local developments through the media and modify your travel arrangements accordingly. In the event of a wildfire, follow the advice of local authorities. If you suffer from respiratory ailments, take into account that the air quality in areas near active fires may deteriorate due to heavy smoke.

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