International Travel Information
Passports and Visas
In order to travel to the United States, you must have a valid passport and a tourist visa.
- If you do not have a passport, start the process to get one immediately.
- If you already have a passport and it is not valid until January 20, 2018, start the process to renew your passport immediately.
- If you already have a passport and it is valid until January 20, 2018, start the process to get your United States visa immediately.
The chart below contains details of the passport and visa information for each country, along with everything from current currency exchange rates to details of the interview process. The chart is NOT an official source so you MUST still check with your country’s own passport authority for accurate passport information, and the United States Embassy in your country for exact Visa information. For example, if you are from a country that is included in the US Visa Waiver Program, you may not be required to secure a visa to travel to the United States. However, there are any number of reasons why you may need to secure one regardless of your nation’s status in the Visa Waiver Program, so you must still check with your local US Embassy. Be advised that FIRST Global cannot be responsible for any errors caused by relying just on our assistance chart, as you need to verify official sources in each country to be sure. We are always available to answer any questions and offer guidance throughout the process.
Flying and Airport Security
When your tickets are purchased, you must check with your airline to see what their baggage allowances are. Many airlines now charge for checked bags, but most airlines allow one carry-on bag and one hand bag (usually a purse or backpack).
If you choose to bring liquids (ie: toothpaste, liquid soap, hairspray, juice, water, etc.), you can pack those in your checked baggage or your carry-on. However, when you leave the United States, you cannot pack those in your carry-on unless the liquids follow the United States Transportation Security Agency (TSA)’s “311 rule” (~3 ounces, per 1 item, per 1 person) which means that liquids must fit in a quart-sized bag and are limited to travel-sized containers that are 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item. Therefore, when flying back home from the United States, you will not be able to bring a water bottle past TSA security. However, you will have the opportunity to buy water and other liquids and snacks after you go through security.
Check with the airport where you will be flying from to see how many hours before your departure time you should arrive. The general rule of thumb is 3 hours for international flights.
Airport security can seem daunting at first, but it is a really simple process. Generally, your bags will be put through a scanner, and you will have to go through a metal detector. You will have to take jackets, belts, shoes, and other metal objects including jewelry and put it through the scanner as well.
An agent may have to pat down an area on your body (such as your arm or your knee) if something shows on the scanners. If this happens, they will inform you of the location and you are free to request that it is done in private, and/or someone of a different gender to make yourself comfortable. Additionally, if you are uncomfortable with going through the scanner, you can request a private pat down. Bags are sometimes randomly checked. These things may seem challenging, but it’s important to remain calm and polite at all times.
If you have a layover at an connecting airport, go straight to your new gate before going to the restroom or getting food. If it’s a long layover (a few hours), make sure to monitor your flight status, and still find your new gate.
On the flight, the attendants will give you your destination country’s customs and immigration forms. Make sure to bring a pen with you!
Fill these forms out on the flight so you won’t waste time once you land. Know what you are bringing, how much money you have (cash), and the address of the place you are going to (we will provide this to you as the games get closer).
Every person needs to fill out an immigration form, even children.
Once you land, just follow the signs to immigration and wait in the line that says “visitors”. Afterwards, go to baggage pick-up to retrieve your luggage, airport personnel will scan your bags and then you’re all set!
Airport to Lodging
Once all teams have registered on the website and travel arrangements have been made, we will provide the plan for arriving team transportation from the airport (almost assuredly it will be Dulles International Airport just outside Washington DC) to where the teams’ lodging accommodations are located. This will include FIRST Global staff meeting arriving national teams and coordinating their transportation from the airport to their lodging accommodations.
You do not need any additional vaccines to come into the United States. However, check with your country’s health department to make sure there aren’t any immunization requirements to come back to your country, or any additional vaccines required for your layover country.
If you are planning on bringing a credit card, make sure to call ahead of time and let them know you will be traveling so the company does not think your charges are fraudulent. Similarly, if you are bringing a cell phone, you may need to purchase an international plan in advance. However, there will be WiFi at the event venue and your lodging accommodations, so you will be able to use applications like WhatsApp and WeChat on your /WiFi-enabled phones.