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In the USA, what would be the best practice to keep my passport safe when I go e.g. to the beach for a day trip?

I'm worried that I might easily lose it on the beach (Solo traveller). On the other hand, a hotel room seems notoriously unsafe IMHO and I think as a visitor to the USA, I am required to carry a passport. Does CBP require this in all states?

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    Do you mean that you have a US passport or that you are visiting the US? – Michael Hampton Feb 16 at 3:40
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    Does this answer your question? How safe is it to leave my passport in my hotel room? – Federico Poloni Feb 16 at 11:32
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    @AaronF you are right, I was misled by (or I had misunderstood) Wikipedia stating "form I-94W is no longer used" en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – fqq Feb 17 at 12:52
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    @AaronF there are actually some exceptions (Canadian visitors entering by land come to mind), but, as you correctly note, the VWP is definitely not one of them. – phoog Feb 18 at 4:56
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    Theft of passports from hotel rooms is exceedingly rare in the US. It's possible, sure, but it's always possible for something to go wrong in life. Leave it in your hotel room and enjoy your day trip. There will never be a way to 100% ensure your belongings don't get stolen. – user91988 Feb 18 at 17:15
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Whether or not a hotel room is "notoriously unsafe" will vary wildly from hotel to hotel, but I'd be hard pressed to imagine one that is less safe for your valuables than a beach. If your room has a safe, use that. Otherwise, keep your passport out of sight (not just sitting on the desk) in your room.

You might need your passport to make certain purchases that require ID (alcohol if you're in your 20s, pseudo-ephedrine decongestants, etc), but not just to walk around or to be on the beach. Leave your passport and most valuables safely behind when you go to the beach for the day.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Willeke Feb 18 at 20:12
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I do not think the U.S. requires foreigners to carry passports with them. Unless you travel near the U.S.-Mexican border, virtually no one will check your passport. You can put them in your room safe.

If you travel close to (meaning anywhere 100 miles/161km from) the U.S.-Mexican border, it is in your interest to carry your passport with you. CBP and ICE USBP officers carry out random checks here and are known to detain (quite arbitrarily) individuals that they believe might be "illegal immigrants".

That said, if you have any plans to drink, you might want to show your ID. Some U.S. establishments can be really strict, and might ID-check those who are apparently 21+.

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    The random checks are not carried out by ICE but by Border Patrol. Border Patrol is a subdivision of CBP, but Border Patrol officers are not CBP officers; they have different uniforms, a separate chain of command, and different training. – phoog Feb 16 at 8:27
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    Technically/Legally foreign nationals are required to carry their passport with them at all times. See Foreign National in the U.S.: What Documents Should I Carry With Me?. Practically it's a different story and depends on where you are. – Peter M Feb 16 at 20:35
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    It's worth adding to this answer that "close to the U.S.-Mexican border" means within 100 miles (161 km). – shoover Feb 17 at 0:27
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    @PeterM Yes, but this law is almost never enforced by the authorities in the U.S., unlike in some other countries (like Japan), where failure to carry your passport might give you a bad day. – xuq01 Feb 17 at 4:37
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    @PeterM that link has the correct answer: print out your I-94. I wonder if OP will ever find it among all the upvoted misinformation? – Aaron F Feb 17 at 11:51
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As others have said, your hotel room safe is your best option that will be widely available. Almost all hotels have them. The more respectable hotels will definitely have one. Even some Airbnbs will have one. You will not need to have it on you for regular use while walking around. Unless you are suspected of breaking the law, police will not require it of you. So, why risk loposing it (through your own fault even) by carrying it. If you are driving in the U.S. the passport is not enough to be legal. You actually need to be able to show your drivers license.

Now if the worst case scenario happens (you lose it, the hotel burns down, it’s stolen), it is better to have taken precautions. The first of which is to keep copies of you travel documents where you and only you can access them. Maybe giving copies to a trusted family member could work. At the very least, they can help you in recovering duplicates. Or, they can send you the copies by fax or some other means in a pinch. Most importantly, let your embassy know you will be traveling in the U.S. before you leave home. That way, someone knows where you are or should be.

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    If you have an e-mail address you can read while away from home that keeps the mail, like a spare yahoo, google or hotmail account, send a scan there. – Willeke Feb 16 at 8:34
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    @Willeke, when I was in Europe I kept photocopies of my passport and such in a DropBox account, one of the few accounts I actually memorized the password for. I didn't need it, but it was a reassurance. – CarlF Feb 16 at 14:41
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Some hotels have a facility to keep your passport in their own safe custody . Please check with the front desk .

For moving around you can carry a scanned copy of your passport on yoir phone and any other supplementary identification card like your Driving license with you.

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    +1 for both parts of this answer. I always bring at least a couple of throwaway scans of my passport and maybe other key documents, just in case. – einpoklum Feb 16 at 23:35
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    Yes, just leave it at the front desk. It's safe there, if it's any sort of reputable hotel – vikingsteve Feb 18 at 15:18
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I have been told in the past that while in the United States I must always carry my passport with me, and I have been stopped at least once by Border Patrol officers (while already in the US) and been asked to show my passport. I do not know what might have happened if I did not have it on me.

Doing a bit of searching online, I found Do I Need to Carry Documents While I’m in the USA? which seems to indicate that it is required for all foreigners to carry their passport (or immigration documentation) on them at all times.

You may want to invest in a small water-proof sealed bag or container that you can attach to you while swimming (rather than having the risk of losing it or having it stolen if you leave it on the beach...)

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    A tourist in the US can satisfy the law concerning immigration documents by printing and carrying a copy of the I-94 form from i94.cbp.dhs.gov. With that in hand, it's not necessary to have a passport. – phoog Feb 17 at 3:46
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    We were driving from Alpine to Study Butte, Texas. I had my passport, but my wife, who was living in Iowa at the time, had only her driving license with her, having deliberately left her passport at home. We were reprimanded but not taken into custody. I don't know if we'd been so lucky if we had not been white. – gerrit Feb 17 at 9:38
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    @gerrit It worth noting that Study Butte is less than 25 km from the Chihuahua border, so it is definitely in scope of CBP/Border Patrol, in risk scope. It was quite predictable. While being in border zone of Chihuahua I was targeted and inspected by Mexican patrol as well – Suncatcher Feb 17 at 11:56
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    @Suncatcher We didn't know at the time, and we were surprised, in particular as we were driving toward the border. On the way back (away from the border) there was no check. – gerrit Feb 17 at 12:33
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Most hotels have room safes. I can’t remember the last hotel I stayed at that didn’t have a room safe. Even though these room safes are notoriously easy to break into (often just a magnet is enough), it’s still safer than the beach.

The front desk of the hotel may have a separate safe. If they do, they take responsibility for the contents.

The one place I would absolutely not trust is the lockers in youth hostels.

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    It depends on the kind if locker in a hostel. Many are sturdy build and allow you to use your own sturdy padlock. Not to be opened by a magnet. – Willeke Feb 16 at 5:11
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    "If they do, they take responsibility for the contents": in my experience, the contrary is true. – phoog Feb 16 at 8:23
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    Often staying at hostels? Have you had things stolen from you? – Relaxed Feb 16 at 9:20
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    I have edited this answer to take out the worst of the remarks about hostels and their users. – Willeke Feb 17 at 18:58
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    The details of "inkeepers liability" varies from state to state, but in most places leaving an item at the desk for safekeeping creates a 'bailment' and the hotel is legally responsible for that item. They might try to weasel out of it, but the law's on your side. That's more protection than you usually get from a room safe. – bta Feb 18 at 19:14
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If I was going swimming I'd consider a hotel safe as others have said.

For all activities that did not require me to "lose control over my clothes" I would (and always do) carry my passport with me at all times. I use a small "purse" with a neck cord that is designed to fit a passport and a few other non-bulky items (eg VISA card and a number of $100 or equivalent notes. I wear this with the strap adjusted so it hangs inside my shirt and with one end straddling my trouser belt line. There it is comfortable, location-invisible and even if someone knew it was there, exceeding-hard to access without me noticing. On numerous international trips this has always been "hassle free". YMMV - but, probably not.

In my own country when visiting a beach to swim, I carry a minimum of valuable down to the beach. I place car-keys and anything else valuable in a small plastic bag and surreptitiously bury this in the sand in an inobvious manner under my beach towel. The main hazard is the potential to remember to recover it when I dress and leave :-).

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You are not looking for a 100% secure, bullet-proof way to store your passport, but for the best option available to you. And then you weigh in convenience et voilà, the hotel room or front desk usually wins.

If you are feeling paranoid, keep it somewhere where noone would bother to look and staff cleaning your room won't accidentally throw it away.

As a precaution against loss of your passport in general, theft or otherwise, you should have printed copies of your passport at various locations, such as your backpack, wallet etc. Nowadays, you should also have a PDF or image of it at a secure cloud hosting service.

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    Any place an innocent visitor can think of, a hotel thief already knows and a lot more. Hiding in the hotel room is less secure than you would think. – Willeke Feb 16 at 14:34

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