Monthly Archives: October 2013

Holy See

Italy is a developed democracy with a modern economy. The Holy See is a sovereign entity that serves as the ecclesiastical, governmental, and administrative capital of the Roman Catholic Church, physically located within the State of the Vatican City inside Rome, with a unique, non-traditional economy. San Marino is a developed, constitutional democratic republic, also independent of Italy, with a modern economy. Tourist facilities are widely available. Read the Department of State Fact Sheets on Italy, the Holy See, and San Marino for additional information.

Italy is a party to the Schengen Agreement. As such, U.S. citizens may enter Italy for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. The passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay. For further details about travel into and within Schengen countries, please see our Schengen Fact sheet.

For all other purposes, you need a visa, which you must get from an Italian Embassy or Consulate before entering Italy. For further information concerning visas and entry requirements for Italy, you may contact the Embassy of Italy at 3000 Whitehaven Street NW, Washington, DC 20008, or via telephone at (202) 612-4400; or Italian Consulates General in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, or San Francisco, accessible through the Italian Embassy website.

Are you a non-resident? U.S. citizens staying or traveling within Italy for less than three months are considered non-residents. This includes persons on vacation, those taking professional trips, students registered at an authorized school, or persons performing research or independent study.

Under Italian law, all non-residents are required to complete a declaration of presence (dichiarazione di presenza). Tourists arriving from a non-Schengen country (e.g., the United States) should obtain an immigration stamp in their passport at the airport on the day of arrival; this is considered the equivalent of the declaration of presence. Tourists arriving from another Schengen country must request the declaration of presence form from a local police office (commissariato di zona), police headquarters (questura), or their place of stay (e.g., hotel, hostel, campgrounds), and submit the form to the police or to their place of stay within eight business days of arrival. It is important that applicants keep a copy of the receipt issued by the Italian authorities. Failure to complete a declaration of presence is punishable by expulsion from Italy. Additional information may be obtained (in Italian only) from the Portale Immigrazione and the Polizia di Stato.

Are you a resident? U.S. citizens staying in Italy for more than three months are considered residents and must obtain a permesso di soggiorno (permit of stay). This includes U.S. citizens who will work or transact business and persons who want simply to live in Italy. An application “kit” for the permesso di soggiorno can be requested from one of 14,000 national post offices (Poste Italiane). The kit must then be returned to one of 5,332 designated Post Office acceptance locations. It is important that applicants keep a copy of the receipt issued by the post office. Additional information may be obtained from the  Italian immigration website. Within 20 days of receiving the permit to stay in Italy, U.S. citizens must go to the local Vital Statistics Bureau (Anagrafe of the Comune) to apply for residency. It generally takes one to two months to receive the certificate of residence (Certificato di Residenza).

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Italy.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.

Several major earthquake fault lines cross Italy. Principal Italian cities, with the exception of Naples, do not lie near these faults; however, smaller tourist towns, such as Assisi, do lie near faults and have experienced earthquakes. An earthquake severely damaged the town of L’Aquila in 2009. General information about disaster preparedness is available online from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Detailed information on Italy’s fault lines is available from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Italy also has several active volcanoes generating geothermal events. Mt. Etna, on the eastern tip of the island of Sicily, has been intermittently erupting since 2000. Mt. Vesuvius, located near Naples, is currently capped and not active. Activity at Mt. Vesuvius is monitored by an active seismic network and sensor system, and no recent seismic activity has been recorded. Two of Italy’s smaller islands, Stromboli and Vulcano, in the Aeolian Islands north of Sicily, also have active volcanoes with lava flows. Detailed information on volcano activity in Italy is available from the USGS.

Politically motivated violence in Italy is most often connected to Italian internal developments or social issues. Italian authorities and foreign diplomatic facilities have found bombs outside public buildings, received bomb threats, and have been subjects of letter bombs in the past several years. Organized crime and anarchist movements sometimes use firebombs or Molotov cocktails against buildings or offices. These attacks generally occur at night, and although they have not targeted or injured U.S. citizens, you should remain aware of your surroundings and report any suspicious activity to local authorities.

Demonstrations may have an anti-U.S. character, especially in areas hosting U.S. military bases. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful have the potential to turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. You should take common sense precautions and follow news reports carefully. Stay up to date by reading the Embassy’s Demonstration Notices.

Italian authorities have made several high-profile arrests involving members or affiliates of transnational terror groups. Like other countries in the Schengen area, Italy’s open borders with its Western European neighbors allow for the possibility of terrorist groups entering/exiting the country with anonymity.

Stay up to date by:

Take some time before travel to consider your personal security. Here are some useful tips for traveling safely abroad :

CRIME: Italy has a moderate rate of crime. You should exercise extra caution at night and at train stations, airports, nightclubs, bars, and outdoor cafes. If you are drinking heavily, your ability to judge situations and make decisions may be impaired, making you a target for crime. Young drinkers are particularly vulnerable to robbery and physical and sexual assault. 

Petty crimes such as pick-pocketing, theft from parked cars, and purse snatching are serious problems, especially in large cities. Pick-pockets sometimes dress like businessmen. You should not be lulled into a false sense of security by believing that well-dressed individuals are not potential pick-pockets or thieves. Most reported thefts occur at crowded tourist sites, on public buses and trains, and at the major railway stations: Rome’s Termini; Milan’s Centrale; Florence’s Santa Maria Novella; and Naples’s Centrale at Piazza Garibaldi. For more information on trains and security, please see the Italian railway police’s advice for travelers. You should also be alert to theft in Milan’s Malpensa Airport, particularly at car rental agencies. Clients of Internet cafes in major cities are also targeted. Be careful with your bag or purse, as thieves on motor scooters are very quick and can snatch a purse off of your arm from a moving scooter. Resisting these thieves can be hazardous, as some tourists have suffered broken arms and collarbones.

Thieves in Italy often work in groups or pairs. Pairs of accomplices or groups of children are known to divert tourists’ attention so that another can pick-pocket them. In one particular routine, one thief drops or spills something on the victim; a second thief assists the victim in cleaning up the mess; and the third discreetly takes the victim’s belongings. Criminals on crowded public transportation slit the bottoms of purses or bags with a razor blade or sharp knife removing the contents.

Some travelers in Rome, Florence, and Naples have reported incidents where criminals used drugs to assault or rob them. These incidents have been reported near Rome’s Termini train station; at bars and cafes near Rome’s Colosseum, Colle Oppio, Campo de Fiori, and Piazza Navona; and at bars and cafes in the center of Florence and Naples. Criminals using this tactic “befriend” you at a train station, restaurant, café, or bar, and then offer you a drink laced with a sleeping drug. When you fall asleep, criminals steal your valuables and may sexually assault you. Some victims of these assaults in Rome have required hospitalization and two cases resulted in death.

Thieves are also known to have impersonated police officers in order to steal. The thief shows you a circular plastic sign with the words “police” or “international police” and then in perfect English asks to see your identification and your money. U.S. citizens should be aware that local police will generally exit their own vehicle when speaking with members of the public. Also, plainclothes undercover units rarely attempt to pull over vehicles without a marked car accompanying them. If this happens to you, you should insist on seeing the officer’s identification card (documento) before handing over your wallet as impersonators tend not to carry forged documents. You should immediately report thefts or other crimes to the actual police.

Be alert to the possibility of carjackings and thefts while you are waiting in traffic or stopped at traffic lights. This has been a particular problem in Catania, Sicily. Use particular caution driving at night on highways, when thieves are more likely to strike. U.S. citizens have reported break-ins of their rental cars during stops at highway service areas; thieves smash car windows and steal everything inside. Theft of small items such as radios, luggage, cameras, briefcases, and even cigarettes from parked cars is prevalent. Vehicles parked near beaches during the summer can be broken into and robbed of valuables. Lock car doors whenever you park, and do not leave packages in your car in plain view.

The U.S. Secret Service in Rome is assisting Italian law enforcement authorities in investigating an increase in the appearance of ATM skimming devices. These devices are attached to legitimate bank ATMs, usually located in tourist areas, and capture the account information stored electronically on the card’s magnetic strip. The devices consist of a card reader installed over the legitimate reader and a pin-hole video camera mounted above the keypad that records the customer’s PIN. ATMs with skimming devices installed may also allow normal transactions to occur. The victim’s information is sold, traded on-line, or encoded on another card, such as a hotel key card, to access the compromised account. Here are some helpful hints to protect against and identify skimming devices:

  • Use ATMs located in well-lighted public areas, or secured inside a bank/business;
  • Cover the keypad with one hand as you enter your PIN;
  • Look for gaps, tampered appearance, or other irregularities between the metal faceplate of the ATM and the card reader;
  • Avoid card readers that are not flush with the face of the ATM; and
  • Closely monitor your account statements for unauthorized transactions.

Organized criminal groups operate throughout Italy, but are more prevalent in the south. They occasionally resort to violence to intimidate or to settle disputes. Though the activities of such groups are not generally targeted at tourists, visitors should be aware that innocent bystanders could be injured.

Don’t buy counterfeit or pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal to bring back into the United States, if you purchase them, you may also be breaking local law. 

According to Italian law, anyone caught buying counterfeit goods (for example, DVDs, CDs, watches, purses, bags, belts, sunglasses, etc.) is subject to a fine of no less than EUR 1,000. Police in major Italian cities enforce this law to varying degrees. You are advised to purchase products only from stores and other licensed retailers to avoid unknowingly buying counterfeit and illegal merchandise.

VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

We can:

  • Replace a stolen passport;
  • Help you find appropriate medical care in instances of violent crimes such as assault or rape;
  • Put you in contact with the appropriate police authorities and, if you want us to, we can contact family members or friends; and
  • Help you understand the local criminal justice process and can direct you to local attorneys, although the local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Italy is 113.

Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States. Please see also information regarding assistance for victims of crime in Italy.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Italy, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own, and criminal penalties vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in Italy, but still illegal in the United States; For instance, you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States.

Arrest notifications in host country: You should try to remain aware of local laws and their implications. If you break local laws in Italy, your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution. If you are arrested in Italy, Italian authorities are required to notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate of your arrest. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.

Strikes and other work stoppages occur frequently in the transportation sector (national airlines, airports, trains, and bus lines); most are announced in advance and are of short duration. Reconfirmation of domestic and international flight reservations is highly recommended.

You must obey local transportation laws and regulations. You must purchase train tickets and validate them by inserting them into validating machines, which are usually located near the entrance of train tracks, prior to boarding. Failure to follow this procedure may result in an on-the-spot fine by an inspector on the train. You must purchase bus tickets prior to boarding and validate them immediately after boarding. Tickets may be purchased at tobacco stores or kiosks. Failure to follow this procedure may result in an immediate fine imposed by an inspector on the bus. If the violator does not pay the fine on the spot, it will automatically double and will be forwarded to the violator’s home address.

You must obey local driving laws and regulations. Vehicle traffic in some historic downtown areas of cities and towns throughout Italy is limited by a system of permits (called “ZTL,” functioning the same way as an electronic toll system in the United States might on the freeway). Cameras record the license plates of cars driving in parts of the city that require a permit. Although most of the automated verification stations are clearly marked, if a driver passes one, it is impossible to know at the time that a violation occurred or has been recorded. Violators are not pulled over or stopped, and there is no personal contact with a police officer. Whenever possible, the fines imposed for these violations are forwarded to the driver’s home in the United States to request payment. Notice from Italian authorities of a violation may take a year or longer to arrive. The fines are cumulative for each time a driver passes a control point. A similar system of automated traffic control cameras is in place in many parts of the highway system and is used to ticket speeding violations.

Accessibility: While in Italy, travelers with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation different from what is found in the United States. Many find Italy’s narrow cobbled streets and storied monuments charming; they can, however, be a challenge for physically impaired travelers. Many Italian sidewalks lack ramps, some Italian streets lack sidewalks altogether, or for instance in the case of Venice, may feature staircases and narrow pedestrian bridges. While some major sights and hotels have put time and planning into ensuring accessibility, there are others that lack ramps, elevators, or handicap-accessible bathrooms. Advance planning can go a long way in making a difference in accommodation for disabled travelers. Inform airlines and hotels of your disabilities when making reservations as some time may be needed to prepare accommodation. Call ahead to restaurants, museums, and other facilities to find out if they are wheelchair-accessible. Most, but not all, train stations in Italy have accommodations for those traveling in wheelchairs. With advance notice, personal assistance can be provided to a disabled person traveling through a particular station. More information is available at Trenitalia’s website addressing disabled travelers. For those who wish to rent cars, hand-controlled vehicles are available in Italy from major car-rental companies. You should contact the car rental company well in advance of your trip in order to reserve the vehicle. Remember that Italy functions on 220 volt current. To recharge an electric wheelchair motor, you may require a transformer to change the 220 current to 110 volts, as well as an adapter to adjust the plug to fit Italian electrical sockets.

Guide-dog owners must present the documentation required by European Union Member States in order to enter Italy with a dog.

Medical facilities are available, but may be limited outside urban areas. Public hospitals, though generally free of charge for emergency services, sometimes do not maintain the same standards as hospitals in the United States, so you are encouraged to obtain insurance that would cover a stay in a private Italian hospital or clinic. It is almost impossible to obtain an itemized hospital bill from public hospitals, as required by many U.S. insurance companies, because the Italian National Health Service charges one inclusive rate for care services and room and board.

In parts of southern Italy, the lack of adequate trash disposal and incineration sites has led to periodic accumulations of garbage in urban and rural areas. In some cases, residents have burned garbage, resulting in toxic emissions that can aggravate respiratory problems.

The U.S. Navy initiated a public health evaluation in the Naples area in 2008. After finding levels of bacterial and chemical contamination of potential health concern, particularly in samples of area well water, the Navy recommended all personnel living off-base in the Naples area use only bottled water for drinking, cooking, ice-making, and brushing teeth. For more information on safe food and water precautions, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

You can find good information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website, which also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

Continue reading

Comments Off on Holy See

Antarctica

Antarctica is the coldest, driest, windiest, and most isolated continent on Earth. The extreme climate limits the presence and activities of humans in Antarctica. The persistent cold (even during the austral summer), the limited precipitation (which qualifies much of the continent as frozen desert), the frequent overcast skies, the severe winds, and the succession of storms over the ocean and coastal areas help explain why Antarctica is the only continent that has never had a native human population.

Although seven countries (Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway, and the United Kingdom) maintain claims to territory in Antarctica, the United States and most other countries do not recognize those claims.  Governance of the continent is managed through the Antarctic Treaty (signed in Washington, DC, in 1959) and its associated instruments, such as the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. The continent is reserved for peaceful purposes and science, and most of those who stay there for limited periods of time are associated with national Antarctic science programs. The 50 Treaty Parties, one of which is the United States, meet annually at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting to discuss cooperation.

Antarctica’s popularity as a tourist destination is growing. More than one-third of all ship-borne tourists visiting Antarctica are U.S. citizens and almost half of all Antarctic tourist expeditions are subject to U.S. regulation because they are organized in or proceed from the United States. The Department of State is responsible for informing other Treaty Parties of non-governmental expeditions to Antarctica organized in or proceeding from the United States.

While there are no visa requirements for visiting Antarctica, the Antarctic Treaty and the Environmental Protocol do establish certain obligations on the Treaty Parties with regard to expeditions to the Antarctic Treaty area (i.e., the area south of 60° South Latitude, including all ice shelves). Article VII(5)(a) of the Treaty obliges each Party to give advance notification of all expeditions to and within Antarctica, on the part of its ships or nationals, and all expeditions to Antarctica organized in or proceeding from its territory. U.S. tourists who have booked passage to Antarctica on a commercial cruise regulated by an Antarctic Treaty Party would be covered by the vessel operator’s and/or tour company’s advance notification. All U.S. nationals organizing private expeditions or charters to Antarctica in the United States, or proceeding to Antarctica from the United States, should complete a DS-4131 ADVANCE NOTIFICATION FORM – TOURIST AND OTHER NON-GOVERNMENTAL ACTIVITIES IN THE ANTARCTIC TREATY AREA and submit it to the Department of State’s Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs at least three months prior to the intended travel to the Antarctic Treaty area.  The Department of State, in consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), will then determine whether the expedition is subject to U.S. jurisdiction. If we determine that the expedition falls under U.S. jurisdiction, we will provide information on how to proceed with the EPA and NSF documentation processes, which are mandatory under U.S. law. In accordance with longstanding U.S. Policy on Private Expeditions to Antarctica, the U.S. government is not able to offer support or other service to private expeditions, U.S. or foreign, in Antarctica.

CONSULAR SERVICES: The United States does not maintain an embassy or consulate in Antarctica. If you lose your passport or require other consular services while there, contact the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country next on your itinerary or nearest to you for assistance. For your convenience, links to the embassies and consulates most commonly called upon to provide services are below:

The greatest threats to travelers to Antarctica are environmental hazards posed by the severe elements and changeable weather. Among the more common threats are frostbite, dehydration, eye damage from reflected glare, overexposure to the sun, and maritime accidents.

Dangerous Confrontations Related to Whaling Activities:  U.S. citizens should be aware that, in recent years, dangerous confrontations have occurred involving Japanese whaling vessels and private vessels in the waters off the coast of East Antarctica near the Ross Sea. United States law prohibits certain conduct that endangers the safety of navigation, including on the high seas. Some of the activities undertaken by these vessels and their crews could violate U.S. law or the laws of foreign countries and could also be inconsistent with applicable international law. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid involvement in activities that violate the law or put themselves or others at risk.

  

Antarctica has no public hospitals, pharmacies, or doctor’s offices. Although cruise ships have the capacity to deal with minor ailments, medical emergencies require evacuation to a country with modern medical facilities. Travelers to Antarctica should obtain adequate medical evacuation and travel insurance before leaving home.

Continue reading

Comments Off on Antarctica

Best scuba diving sites in the Cayman Islands

No sediment plus deep water equals fabulous diving. Continue reading

Posted in USA Today | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Best scuba diving sites in the Cayman Islands

Best places to golf in Montego Bay

Jamaica’s second-largest city offers a rich quantity and quality of courses. Continue reading

Posted in USA Today | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Best places to golf in Montego Bay

Tunisia Travel Warning

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Tunisia.

This replaces the Travel Warning dated March 13, 2013 and serves to update information on the continuing potential for demonstrations and unrest in Tunisia, to reiterate information on security incidents, and to provide recommendations on security awareness.

A “state of emergency” declared by the government of Tunisia remains in effect, and the U.S. Embassy continues to operate with limited staffing due to security concerns.  On September 14, 2012, violent mobs caused extensive property damage during an attack on the U.S. Embassy and the American Cooperative School of Tunis.  During the past year, two prominent Tunisian opposition party leaders were assassinated on separate occasions, February 6 and July 25 respectively, which inspired large though generally peaceful demonstrations throughout the country.  Tunisian security forces have also been targeted, including bombs directed against vehicles belonging to security forces.  In recent months, Tunisian security forces have conducted raids on locations throughout Tunisia, including greater Tunis, and confiscated illegal arms caches.  Several suspects have been arrested or killed during these operations.

Given the unpredictability of the security situation in Tunisia, U.S. citizens should be alert and aware of their surroundings at all times.  The ability of U.S. government personnel to reach travelers or provide emergency services may be severely limited, since the U.S. Embassy continues to operate with limited staffing.  U.S. citizens should also avoid large crowds and demonstrations as even demonstrations that are intended to be peaceful can become violent and unpredictable.  U.S. citizens should exercise caution when frequenting public venues that are known to be visited by large numbers of expatriates.  U.S. citizens remaining in Tunisia should make their own contingency emergency plans, enroll their presence in Tunisia through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), and provide their current contact information and next-of-kin or emergency contact information.  The Embassy also recommends that U.S. citizens regularly monitor the local media for current news and information.

For information on what the Department of State can and can’t do in a crisis, please visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ Emergencies and Crisis link.  Up-to-date information on travel and security in Tunisia can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 08:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, found at travel.state.gov, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook. You can also download our free Smart Traveler App available through iTunes and Google Play to have travel information at your fingertips.

The Embassy is located in the Les Berges du Lac suburb of Tunis. The Embassy telephone number is 216 71 107 000 and the Embassy fax number is 216 71 963 263. The Consular Section can also be contacted by email at ConsularTunis@state.gov.

Continue reading

Posted in Government, US State Department | Tagged , | Comments Off on Tunisia Travel Warning