ciee - council on international educational exchange

U.S. Laws


Illegal possession of controlled substances (drugs) in the U.S. is subject to prosecution by law. The penalties for drug possession vary from state to state. Any type of illegal drug use while in the U.S. may have serious consequences. You are subject to fines and possible time in jail for any drug possession or association with people who have drugs.


You must be 21 years old to drink alcohol legally in the United States. You can be arrested and subject to fines if:

  • You are under 21 and are found with alcohol
  • You purchase alcohol for persons under 21
  • You drink alcohol in public areas (drinking alcohol in public is prohibited in many parts of the U.S.)

Many bars, restaurants, and liquor stores will only accept a driver's license or non-driver identification card from the Department of Motor Vehicles as proof of age. Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles for information on the procedure for obtaining an identification card.

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

Enforcement of DWI/DUI laws in the U.S. is very strict. Fines can be up to $5,000. Keep yourself and others safe by NOT drinking and driving. Americans generally appoint a "designated driver" when going out with a group of friends. This person agrees to refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages and drives the rest of the group to and from their destination.

Local Laws

Unlike most countries, laws in the U.S. vary from state to state and even city to city. It is important to become familiar with and obey the local laws in the town or city where you are living. Local laws that govern alcohol consumption, noise levels, and group gatherings are strict. Your best source of information will be local residents and U.S. students who are living and working in the same town or city.


Americans may be less tolerant of smoking than people in your home country. It is illegal to smoke in many public places, so look around before you light up. No smoking signs are usually posted in a clear, visible location. Smoking is restricted in office buildings, restaurants, and public transportation, among other places.

Vehicle Laws and Safety

In the U.S., vehicle laws and regulations are determined by state. Make sure that you are familiar with the laws of the state you live in, and of those you will be traveling to. Click here to read the section on driving and auto safety.


If you are involved in an accident with an automobile, do not leave the scene of the accident. Contact the police immediately, and then call CIEE.

Motorcycles, Mopeds, and Recreational Vehicles

Your CIEE insurance does not cover any injuries or accidents while you are driving or riding on a moped, motorcycle, or recreational vehicle. If you decide to purchase or ride on one of these vehicles, you are responsible for purchasing additional health and motor vehicle insurance.

CIEE Announces Winner of the 2011 Internship USA Contest! Click Here to Read More!

Enter the WYSE Work Abroad Video Contest and you could win US$2,000!

As a member of WYSE Work Abroad, CIEE encourages you to showcase your creative talents by joining WYSE Work Abroad’s “Expand Your Horizons” Video Contest. Submit a 2-3 minute video about your work abroad, volunteer, work and travel, or internship experience, and you could win US $2,000!

Find out more about this exciting contest by visiting the contest microblog site:

The 2011 contest is now closed. Check back in April 2012 for details of the 2012 contest!

Be sure to notify WYSE Work Abroad that you’ve entered the contest by emailing them your name and the title of your video. You must also indicate that you are a CIEE Work & Travel USA participant.

If you have questions, please visit the WYSE Work Abroad website or email them at