Frequently Asked Questions
The following is a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on the United States covering a wide range of topics.
Visiting the United States:
Q: Do I need a visa to travel to the United States?
A: A citizen of a foreign country wishing to enter the United States generally must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. For detailed information about visas, please visit the Visa pages of our website.
Q: Where can I obtain tourist information?
A: Check out the practical travelers tips at FirstGov's travel page. For Air travel security, the U.S.Transportation Security Administration (TSA) provides new revised guidelines on items that a traveler may check and/or carry on to an airplane in the United States at: Permitted and Prohibited Items. If you plan to bring any products or gifts into the United States, it's also a good idea to read the information about U.S. Customs Regulations.
Q: What's the weather like where I'm going?
Q: What pets, agricultural products, or food items will Customs and Border Protection permit me to bring into the U.S.?
A: For information on travelling to the United States with your pet, or on what items you can bring into the U.S., please check out the information from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection at Bringing Agricultural Products into the United States. This page provides general guidelines on bringing agricultural products and live animals, and a general list of approved products and information resources for travelers. For more detailed information, please see also:Travel Alerts and Restricted/Prohibited Goods and Prohibited and Restricted Items.
Q: How can I find a brief summary of facts about the United States?
A: Please search the selected sources below:
The World Factbook is an annual publication by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States, with basic almanac-style information about the various countries of the world. The factbook gives two-to three-page summaries of the demographics, location, telecommunications capacity, government, industry, military capability, etc. of all U.S.-recognized countries and territories in the world.
Q: What is the National Anthem of the United States?
A: "The Star Spangled Banner", was ordered played at military and naval occasions by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, but was not designated the national anthem by an Act of Congress until 1931. The words were written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key, who had been inspired by the sight of the American flag still flying over Fort McHenry after a night of heavy British bombardment. The text was immediately set to a popular melody of the time, "To Anacreon in Heaven". The National Anthem consists of four verses. On almost every occasion only the first verse is sung. More information and lyrics of the song can be found at U.S. National Anthem.
Q: How many stars and stripes are on the U.S. flag?
A: There are 50 stars representing the 50 states and there are 13 stripes representing the 13 original states. A full picture of the flag is here. For more information on its history, please visit U.S. Flag Facts.
Q: How many States are there in the U.S?
A: There are fifty (50) states. The last two states to join the Union were Alaska (49th) and Hawaii (50th). Both joined in 1959. More information on the 50 states and U.S. territories is available from the following websites: the Fifty States ; U.S. States and Territories.
Q: What is Washington D.C.?
A: Washington D.C. (Washington, District of Columbia) is the capital of the United States. It is one of the few national capitals founded solely as a seat of government. It is also a federal district under the authority of Congress. The local government is run by a mayor and a 13 member city council. Washington D.C. is represented in Congress by an elected, nonvoting Delegate to the House of Representatives and residents have been able to vote in Presidential elections since 1961.
Washington, D.C., was named for George Washington and Christopher Columbus. The present-day city of Washington is co-extensive with the District of Columbia, and the names are synonymous. It is the only city in the United States that is not part of a state.
Q: What are the Postal Abbreviations for the U.S. states and territories?
A: The United States Postal Service offers Official USPS Abbreviations on which you can find postal abbreviations for the states and possessions. For more information, please see U.S. Postal Information.
Q: How can I find out the zip code of an address in the U.S.?
A: Zip Codes are a system used in the U.S. to facilitate the delivery of mail, consisting of a five- or nine-digit code printed directly after the address, the first five digits (initial code) indicating the state and post office or postal zone, the last four (expanded code) the box section or number, portion of a rural route, building, or other specific delivery location. You can find a ZIP Code by entering an address at Zip Code Lookup.
Q: What are the dates of public holidays in the United States?
U.S. History & Culture:
Q: What is the text of the U.S. Constitution?
A:The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration provides the full text with images of the Constitution of the United States of America. You can view larger images and easily read the transcript with references.
Q: How can I obtain a copy of U.S. government publications on U.S. history?
A: The Outline of U.S. History: is a publication of the U.S. Department of State. It is a chronological look at how the United States took shape -- from its origins as an obscure set of colonies on the Atlantic coast a little more than 200 years ago into what one political analyst today calls "the first universal nation.
Q: What is the U.S. Minimum Wage Rate?
A: The federal minimum wage for employees is $5.15 an hour. Please find more details from the U.S. Department of Labor Home pages on: Questions and Answers about Minimum Wage.
Q: How can I find the most current U.S. GDP and other key economic statistics?
A: The Economics and Statistics Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce provides timely access to the daily releases of key economic indicators from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the U.S. Census Bureau Economic Indicators.Gov or Overview of the Economy .
U.S. Government & Politics:
Q: I want to do research on the U.S. Government. How is the U.S. Government organized?
A: United States governmental power and functions are carried out by three branches of government: legislative, judicial, and executive. View a complete diagram (PDF 429K).
The executive branch of the government is responsible for enforcing the laws of the land. The president, vice president, department heads (cabinet members), and heads of independent agencies carry out this mission.
Courts decide arguments about the meaning of laws and how they are applied. They also decide if laws violate the Constitution—this is known as judicial review, and it is how federal courts provide checks and balances on the legislative and executive branches.
Article I of the Constitution establishes the legislative or law making branch of government. The United States has a two-branch Congress—the Senate and the House of Representatives—and agencies that support Congress.
Please take a look also at the following publications:
- The United States Government Manual is an official hand book of the federal government. It provides comprehensive information on the agencies of the legislative, judicial, and executive branches. It also includes information on quasi-official agencies, international organizations in which the United States participates, and boards, commissions, and committees. The Manual begins with reprints of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. The new edition of the Manual is available annually in late summer.
- About America: How the United States Is Governed is a publication from the Bureau of International Information Program, U.S. Department of State. This publication describes how federal, state, and local governments are elected, how they operate, and how the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government relate under the U.S. constitutional system.
Q: How can I find list of all U.S. Government Directories?
A: FirstGov: the official web portal for the U.S.Government is an easy-to-search, free-access website designed to give you a centralized place to find information from U.S. local, state and federal government agency websites.
Q: How many presidents has the United States had?
A: The current President, Barack H. Obama is the 44th President of the United States of America.
Q: Where can I find information about the U.S. Congress?
A: The Congressional Directory is the official directory of the U.S. Congress, prepared by the Joint Committee on Printing (JCP). Published since 1888, the Congressional Directory presents short biographies of each member of the Senate and House, listed by state or district, and additional data, such as committee memberships, terms of service, administrative assistants and/or secretaries, and room and telephone numbers. It also lists officials of the courts, military establishments, and other Federal departments and agencies, including D.C. government officials, governors of states and territories, foreign diplomats, and members of the press, radio, and television galleries.
Q: How many members of Congress are there, and how long are their terms of office?
A: The U.S. Congress is bicameral, composed of two bodies, the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Senate has 100 members: two senators for each of the fifty states. Senators are elected for six years. One third of the Senate is elected every two years. The House of Representatives comprises 435 Representatives. The number representing each state is determined by the population, but every state is entitled to one representative. Representatives are elected every two years. A Resident Commissioner for Puerto Rico, and Delegates from American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam and the Virgin Islands complete the composition of Congress. The Resident Commissioner and Delegates have no vote in the full House but they do vote in the committees to which they are assigned.
Q: How does a bill become a law in the U.S.?
A: This complicated process is explained in the House of Representatives document How Our Laws are Made: a detailed text description of the legislative process. Broadly speaking, a proposed law, whether initially introduced in the House or the Senate, or both, must be passed by both the House and the Senate, in exactly the same form, and then approved by the President, before becoming law.
Q: Why is the Donkey a symbol of the Democratic Party? And why is the Elephant a symbol of Republican Party?
A: Background history of these famous symbols of the two major political parties in the U.S. can be found from the Democrat Party: History of the Democratic Party Donkey and the Republican Party: Origin of the Elephant
U.S. Education & Studying in the U.S.:
Q: Where can I find general information on U.S. Education?
A: Organization of U.S. Education System by the U.S. Department of Education. There, you can find the information on how U.S. education is governed, including the roles of the federal information system, national associations and the ways by which standards and quality are monitored.
Q: I would like to study in the United States- What do I do?
A: Check out Education USA : a comprehensive, objective and timely resource for students interested in pursuing postsecondary studies in the United States. The web page also offers Education Advising Centers in Kigali and guide books: Undergraduate, Graduate and Short Term Studies, predeparture information and living in the U.S. See more from on how to Study in the USA Inc..
Q: Where can I find out about accredited institutions?
A: Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) provides list of Recognized Accrediting Organizations (PDF 141K) this website has a list of all the organization and accreditation bodies they recognized.
Q: Where can I find the information on loans for international students?
A: TOEFL® (Test of English as a Foreign LanguageTM) test measures the ability of non-native speakers of English to use and understand English as it is spoken, written, and heard in college and university settings. More information on the TOEFL test and other tests (see Test Directory on the TOEFL page) are provided by the Educational Testing Service.
GMAT® or The Graduate Management Admission Test® is a standardized assessment—delivered in English—that helps business schools assess the qualifications of applicants for advanced study in business and management. Schools use the test as one predictor of academic performance in an MBA program or in other graduate management programs. More information on GMAT is provided by the Graduate Management Admission Council. More information on standardized tests.
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