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Old 06-06-2010, 12:25 PM   #1
Master OP
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Foreigner in the US

So, here's the plan:

Next summer, I will (finally ) be graduating from university and I have this dream to do a year of motorcycle travelling through the USA. My intention is to do it very low budget (tent and sleeping bag). Since I'm from Europe, I have some practical questions I'd like to ask.

-How do I get my bike there at a very low cost? I intended to find a ship that wants to take me and my bike in exchange for me working on board (maybe in the kitchen or something). Anybody with experience on this matter?

-Can I ride my bike for an entire year with my Belgian License plate or do I have to register to get a US one?

-What about insurance? Do they cover foreign bikes when you have no social security number? Are there other legal matters to be taken care of?

-Is it easy to find temporary jobs to earn some money to live along the road? I'm thinking harvesting or working with cattle or in supermarkets or...

-Any suggestions on things I just have to see or do? Routes to follow? I want to see as many different things and meet as many different people as possible along the way.

-Any other concerns/thoughts/advices/...?

Maybe this might never happen, but I like to keep the dream alive, and making plans somewhat more concrete certainly helps!
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Old 06-06-2010, 01:46 PM   #2
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avoid Arizona
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Old 06-06-2010, 02:31 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Truckin_Thumper
avoid Arizona
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Old 06-06-2010, 03:06 PM   #4
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Temporary Vehicle Importation-
http://www.nhtsa.gov/cars/rules/import/

Things that you should see if able- New York City, Florida Everglades, Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Olympic Rain Forest, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Golden Gate Bridge, Sears Tower, Rocky Mountains...

Just off the top of my head.

And you're fine to go to Arizona, just make certain you keep your passport on yourself no matter where you are.

Also, as far as working small jobs for cash, there are plenty of opportunities for "Day Laborers". The SSA will assign you an SSN if you plan on working, but IDK how that would work with your status as a EU visitor. You might need a visa for working here.
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Old 06-06-2010, 03:09 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Master

-How do I get my bike there at a very low cost? I intended to find a ship that wants to take me and my bike in exchange for me working on board (maybe in the kitchen or something). Anybody with experience on this matter?
Given my other answers, including the fact that you can't stay here beyond 90 days, it might be cheaper to rent a bike. Or even buy a used one, then sell it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Master
-Can I ride my bike for an entire year with my Belgian License plate or do I have to register to get a US one?
I live in a huge city (Los Angeles), and I rarely ever see European license plates. I see Canadian and Mexico plates, and a few German ones from BMW's that were purchased in Germany, then shipped here (the port is supposed to remove the plates, but some get through). That means law enforcement may be suspicious of your plates.

In addition, I'm not sure you can get a 12 month visa to the US, unless you have some proof of monetary support from Belgium, have one of the 5 work visas or are getting an education leading to a degree. You can come to the US for 90 days without a visa, as long as you are a Belgian citizen and get the ESTA approval.

You can apply for an extension, but you need to start soon, and you need to show a lot of information to prove that you're not a Communist, terrorist, or here to live illegally. Moreover, you have to give proof that you can live in the US without an income, which means you will need to give proof that you have cash in the bank. Read this and apply for an extension here. I think you can do this in advance, but only a few weeks. In other words, you may come to the US and not know if you can extend beyond 90 days.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Master
-What about insurance? Do they cover foreign bikes when you have no social security number? Are there other legal matters to be taken care of?
I don't think it would be easy or even possible to get bike insurance here. Wouldn't your home insurance company cover you? That would be the way to go.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Master
-Is it easy to find temporary jobs to earn some money to live along the road? I'm thinking harvesting or working with cattle or in supermarkets or...
You might find some cash-paying jobs, because no legitimate employer would take you on. However, in the US, if you get caught, you will be arrested and deported. And you'll never be able to come back. Huge risk, which you shouldn't take.

In general, the anti-immigration attitude of most Americans is based on anti-Latino racism and xenophobia. Northern Europeans would probably be ignored, so you probably will never be questioned. However, I personally wouldn't risk it.

If I were you, I'd apply to grad school in the US. Or have an employer sponsor you to the US (I'm not sure what your degree is, but translators are always needed).

Honestly, you should count on 90 days and rent a bike. You can see a lot of the USA depending on the weather and season.
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Old 06-06-2010, 03:22 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CoastalDefender
Temporary Vehicle Importation-
http://www.nhtsa.gov/cars/rules/import/

Things that you should see if able- New York City, Florida Everglades, Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Olympic Rain Forest, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Golden Gate Bridge, Sears Tower, Rocky Mountains...

Just off the top of my head.

And you're fine to go to Arizona, just make certain you keep your passport on yourself no matter where you are.

Also, as far as working small jobs for cash, there are plenty of opportunities for "Day Laborers". The SSA will assign you an SSN if you plan on working, but IDK how that would work with your status as a EU visitor. You might need a visa for working here.
He would be on a B1 or B2 visitor's visa. It would be illegal for him to work. And if he did one of the day laborer things, he risks being arrested and deported. Not a wise idea.

As for Arizona, it's a violation of your 4th Amendment rights for a representative of the state to demand your papers. In fact, through further Supreme Court rulings, you can refuse to identify yourself or provide identification to a police officer. This is where Arizona's law becomes racist, because then the police officer requires probable cause to detain someone. Would it be me who looks foreign, speaks perfectly unaccented California English dialect? Or will it be someone white and blonde with a Swedish accent? This is racism, by any definition.

Moreover, as far as I know, the Gestapo is not working in the US. The "show me your papers" bullshit is why 6 million of my people are dead in Europe. I personally would refuse to provide identification, and would enjoy the economic windfall when I sue Arizona's ass if they did anything about it. Unless I broke the law. Then I guess I'm up the creek, but the American system is that the assumption is we did not break the law unless there's proof.

I guess I love the Constitution.
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Old 06-06-2010, 11:49 PM   #7
Master OP
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Thanks for the useful answers so far!

Something I forgot to tell but will probably help a lot is the fact that I have the American nationality as well as the Belgian. I was born in the US, but moved here when I was very young and I have not been back for longer than 2 weeks since and have no idea how the legal system works back there.
So I guess I can stay as long as I want. What about day labour jobs? Is it enough to be a US citizen or do you have to be able to provide a home address or a proof of social security or...

I would really like to do this thing with my own bike if possible. I know how it works and what the bike-specific problems are. Renting one would be to expensive for such a long period and I don't have the cash flow to buy one and then sell it again.
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Old 06-07-2010, 07:24 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Master
Thanks for the useful answers so far!

Something I forgot to tell but will probably help a lot is the fact that I have the American nationality as well as the Belgian. I was born in the US, but moved here when I was very young and I have not been back for longer than 2 weeks since and have no idea how the legal system works back there.
So I guess I can stay as long as I want. What about day labour jobs? Is it enough to be a US citizen or do you have to be able to provide a home address or a proof of social security or...

I would really like to do this thing with my own bike if possible. I know how it works and what the bike-specific problems are. Renting one would be to expensive for such a long period and I don't have the cash flow to buy one and then sell it again.
You failed to mention your birth in the US. This changes things tremendously, and makes your life in the US incredibly easy and fun. First, just to make sure, if you were born in the US to parents who were in the diplomatic corps, you do not qualify for US citizenship. I think that's based on some antiquated understanding that diplomats are always on home territory when in a foreign country.

So, take your birth certificate from the US, take a couple of passport photos, go to the US Embassy in Brussels, get a passport, and you're done. Because you are automatically a citizen, anyone born in the US is automatically a US citizen according to the 14th Amendment to the US constitution, you do not have to renounce your Belgian or EU citizenship. You do not have to be naturalized (at least I don't think you have to do so). You don't have to even know what the 14th amendment is!

Without the passport, you would be entering the US as a Belgian, and then you can only legally stay for 90 days. You couldn't work. Nothing. Get the passport. Get a social security number. Then come here and work at a McDonalds if you want to earn some cash. Depending on your college degree, you could do a lot better. You could get a temp job in translating (you must speak French and/or Flemish, I suspect) for good money.

You've made your life easier. Just get the Passport. No one will bother you. But you will have to drink our crappy beer. Sorry about that. :)

Again, you can get any kind of job if you have a US Passport. Get one. It's easy for you. You can be a US citizen with a foreign address. You can earn money legally in the US with a foreign address, but be aware, you must pay US taxes. Yes, you will need a social security number, but as a US citizen, you can easily obtain one. Don't do day labor jobs. They are horrible, and frankly, Immigration makes frequent roundups of illegals there. Though you're not an illegal, you'd have to go through lots of problems doing so.
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Old 06-07-2010, 07:38 AM   #9
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Day labor in the US

You really need to visit the US Embassy or Consulate there before anything else. There's lots of info on the internet but the Embassy is the final word. Make sure to go in with your US birth certificate, or you'll be in the slow line to long frustration and repeat visits.

As for working day labor in the US, check out the job listings in Craigslist.com. There are plenty of day gigs, especially for tutoring school kids.

I think that to bring your bike into the US you will want to use or at least work with the services of an importer. Doing it on your own risks getting the bike stuck in US Customs on a dock somewhere. "Your motorcycle sir? Why we are waiting on EPA and safety certification...." Another slow line to long frustration. The main points of entry I'm aware of are Boston, New York, Philly, Baltimore, and Miami.

If you really get frustrated in this, it may be possible to ride North America from Canada. They've got less of the post-9/11 hysteria that the US adopted.

Sounds like fun!
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Old 06-07-2010, 08:21 AM   #10
Master OP
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Ah, things are looking up!

I already have the US passport (got through the administration when doing a fast 4 days visit to New-York a few years ago).
So what I understand is that I need to apply for a SSN, which should be easy. I can work, which is great. I don't know about the translator thing: I do speak Dutch, French and English, but I don't have a language degree (will have a master's degree in veterinary science) so I don't know if one would hire me. Besides, I don't plan to stay in the same place for long.
Now all I need to do is find myself an importer for, if I understand correctly, that will be the only way to get my bike in without to much trouble. Hope this will not raise my costs too much.
I was already considering entering the US through Canada, since I think I might like the scenery over there as well. Are their borders open for US citizens coming in from Europe? Any chance I might get away with driving my own bike off a boat and into the country?

When the time comes, I will visit the embassy, good tip!
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Old 06-07-2010, 08:28 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LeftCoastMan

As for Arizona, it's a violation of your 4th Amendment rights for a representative of the state to demand your papers. In fact, through further Supreme Court rulings, you can refuse to identify yourself or provide identification to a police officer. This is where Arizona's law becomes racist, because then the police officer requires probable cause to detain someone. Would it be me who looks foreign, speaks perfectly unaccented California English dialect? Or will it be someone white and blonde with a Swedish accent? This is racism, by any definition.

Moreover, as far as I know, the Gestapo is not working in the US. The "show me your papers" bullshit is why 6 million of my people are dead in Europe. I personally would refuse to provide identification, and would enjoy the economic windfall when I sue Arizona's ass if they did anything about it. Unless I broke the law. Then I guess I'm up the creek, but the American system is that the assumption is we did not break the law unless there's proof.

I guess I love the Constitution.

Since you've elected to make this political, let's see how fast we can get this kicked to the current thread on the same subject.

Have you read the law or just spouting opinions? Has any court ruled on the Arizona law yet? Does California have a similar law on the books already?

Master - enjoy your visit to the US and if you're in AZ, dinner's on me. I worked just north of you years ago and loved visiting Belguim. I always was reminded to take my paperwork with me at all times also.
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Old 06-07-2010, 09:18 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Master
Now all I need to do is find myself an importer for, if I understand correctly, that will be the only way to get my bike in without to much trouble. Hope this will not raise my costs too much.
I was already considering entering the US through Canada, since I think I might like the scenery over there as well. Are their borders open for US citizens coming in from Europe? Any chance I might get away with driving my own bike off a boat and into the country?
Others may have different experience, but I believe it would be almost impossible to import the bike yourself, or as WreckC said, it might lead to huge delays. I'm using Wallenius-Wilhelmsen for US-->Europe and back this summer, and they recommended AllRound Forwarding ($175) as the freight forwarder and to do customs. Despite my inexperience they've been very helpful - and when you use the shipper's recommended forwarder, they are happy to sort things out amongst themselves rather than having you do it!
I know this doesn't give you the opportunity to shove coal on board a ship (or whatever) but it might be more realistic. W-W use Zeebrugge and Antwerp so maybe you could do some reconnaissance at the docks and see what's up?

Entering Canada should be easy with a US Passport, just be prepared to prove that you have money and aren't a vagabond and that you have a few actual destinations and an exit date. It's a stunningly beautiful country with lots to see.
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Old 06-07-2010, 03:02 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Master
Ah, things are looking up!

I already have the US passport (got through the administration when doing a fast 4 days visit to New-York a few years ago).
So what I understand is that I need to apply for a SSN, which should be easy. I can work, which is great. I don't know about the translator thing: I do speak Dutch, French and English, but I don't have a language degree (will have a master's degree in veterinary science) so I don't know if one would hire me. Besides, I don't plan to stay in the same place for long.
Now all I need to do is find myself an importer for, if I understand correctly, that will be the only way to get my bike in without to much trouble. Hope this will not raise my costs too much.
I was already considering entering the US through Canada, since I think I might like the scenery over there as well. Are their borders open for US citizens coming in from Europe? Any chance I might get away with driving my own bike off a boat and into the country?

When the time comes, I will visit the embassy, good tip!
First, you're an American with a passport. Coming from Canada into the US is straightforward, except for customs. They're looking for drugs and such. Make sure your Passport is valid, though being in the US it will be easy to get it replaced.

You can apply for an SSN easily outside of the US. See this.

I don't know about the bike. You can drive your bike in the US for up to a year if it has an International Registration Marker and you have an International Driver's License. You need to find a freight agent to help you out. I'm assuming you could drive away, but you'll need someone to handle all of the logistics, so that it clears customs. If you're importing it, you'll never get through. But a good freight agent will make your life much easier than trying to deal with customs yourself. In fact, you probably have no shot of doing it yourself. I'm sure there are lots of good freight forwarders in Belgium who will do everything for you.

As for the jobs, again, don't do day labor. It can be dangerous. Now that I know you have a veterinary degree, you'll be able to find a lot of temporary jobs in clinics or the such. I'd find every veterinarian in an area that you want to explore, and I'll bet you can score a few weeks job with them. At good pay too.
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Old 06-07-2010, 03:03 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by k7
Since you've elected to make this political, let's see how fast we can get this kicked to the current thread on the same subject.

Have you read the law or just spouting opinions? Has any court ruled on the Arizona law yet? Does California have a similar law on the books already?

Master - enjoy your visit to the US and if you're in AZ, dinner's on me. I worked just north of you years ago and loved visiting Belguim. I always was reminded to take my paperwork with me at all times also.
Whatever dude. Evidence based is my "opinion." In other words, I rarely have an opinion, I spout evidence.
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Old 06-07-2010, 09:05 PM   #15
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Plenty of "Day labor" jobs available. All totally safe, totally legal and totally legit.

Go to any city, look for "Temporary" hiring services. I.E. Manpower etc...

Even common factories do all their hiring through these servers. Survive 90+ days and you can get hired full time. It's the corporate world's method of filtering out the hiring process, dead beats and removes benefit liabilities.

Sports arenas, convention centers, city sponsored festivals etc... all use temporary help. Someone has to clean out the garbage cans, sweep the floors etc...

You're travelling through, not looking for a full time career job.
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