Advice for J1 Students
Students should ensure before travelling that they will be able to secure accommodation at their end destination. Reports are already emerging that lack of accommodation has been a serious issue for some Irish J1 students in some traditional destinations such as Chicago.
KEEP YOUR PASSPORT SECURE
Lost or stolen passports are a regular problem for J1 students every year. Replacement travel documentation can be obtained at the nearest Irish Embassy or Consulate. However, this adds to the expense of your trip and can cause you significant delay. Keep your passport safe at all times and try not to carry it in public. Bring alternative photo identification with you, such as a driving licence. You are also advised to keep a photocopy of the identification page of your passport in a secure place in case you have to apply for a replacement passport. Remember that if you travel to Mexico, you will not be allowed re-enter the US without a valid machine readable passport.
Falsifying or altering a passport is a criminal offence
Falsifying or altering a passport is a criminal offence and in the US a federal offence, punishable by fine, imprisonment and/or refusal of future entry to America.
TAKE ENOUGH MONEY
Make sure you have enough money to get yourself set up in the USA. Take a mixture of cash, traveller's cheques and credit cards and don't keep all your money in one place. Work out a realistic budget before you go. If you are renting accommodation, you will be required to pay a safety deposit and some rent in advance. Many apartments and houses in the USA are rented unfurnished so you may have this additional expense also. Bear in mind that it may take several weeks before you obtain employment or your Social Security Number, so bring enough money to cover yourself until then.
Reports have been received of a rental scam, in which students were asked to wire money for advance payment of rent to someone posing as a landlord, in advance of their travel to the US.
KNOW THE LOCAL LAWS
Please be aware that public disorder offences, such as public drunkenness, are penalised more severely in the United States than in Ireland. Drug use and supply are also considered serious offences. If you are arrested and subsequently convicted, this may affect your ability to re-enter the United States in the future. While our Embassies and Consulate in the USA will provide you with every assistance if you are arrested, they cannot get you out of jail or help you evade trial.
KEEP IN TOUCH
Keep your family informed as to your whereabouts and your travel plans. Bring a mobile phone that works in the United States so that you can be reached in case of emergency or crisis. If you do not have an e-mail account already, set one up. Many of the web-based e-mail accounts are free, such as Yahoo!, G-mail, and Hotmail and are an easy and inexpensive way to keep in touch with your family and friends. Please bear in mind that if you do not maintain regular contact with your loved ones or friends, it can cause them significant worry and needless anxiety.
Take the same precautions as you would at home. Be aware of what is going on around you and keep away from situations that make you feel uncomfortable. Avoid potential 'no-go' areas, in particular after dark. Do not accept lifts from strangers. Do not walk alone after dark; try and travel in groups if possible. Be aware of drugs - these have been used in incidents of rape.
BE CAREFUL WITH ALCOHOL
When consuming alcohol, know your limit. You are more likely to have an accident if you are drunk and probably won't be covered by insurance. Please also be aware that public disorder offences are penalised more severely in the United States than in Ireland.
IRISH EMBASSIES IN THE UNITED STATES AND MEXICO
The Department of Foreign has Missions in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Washington DC and Mexico City which provide consular services to Irish citizens. Contact details for all Irish Embassies and Consulates abroad are available here
Please also read our advice on What To What To Do In An Emergency.