The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S.) or America, is a federal republic composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles (9.8 million km ) and with over 325 million people, the United States is the world’s third- or fourth-largest country by total area and the third-most populous. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital’s federal district are contiguous and located in North America between Canada and Mexico. The state of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The state of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world’s 17 mega diverse countries.

Paleo-Indians migrated from Asia to the North American mainland at least 15,000 years ago. European colonisation began in the 16th century. The United States emerged from the thirteen British colonies established along the East Coast. Numerous disputes between Great Britain and the colonies following the French and Indian War led to the American Revolution, which began in 1775, and the subsequent Declaration of Independence in 1776. The war ended in 1783 with the United States becoming the first country to gain independence from a European power.The current constitution was adopted in 1788, with the first ten amendments, collectively named the Bill of Rights, being ratified in 1791 to guarantee many fundamental civil liberties. The United States embarked on a vigorous expansion across North America throughout the 19th century, acquiring new territories, displacing Native American tribes, and gradually admitting new states until it spanned the continent by 1848. During the second half of the 19th century, the Civil War led to the abolition of slavery. By the end of the century, the United States had extended into the Pacific Ocean, and its economy, driven in large part by the Industrial Revolution, began to soar. The Spanish–American War and World War I confirmed the country’s status as a global military power. The United States emerged from World War II as a global superpower, the first country to develop nuclear weapons, the only country to use them in warfare, and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union competed in the Space Race, culminating with the 1969 moon landing. The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 left the United States as the world’s sole superpower.

The United States is a founding member of the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Organisation of American States (OAS), and other international organisations. The United States is a highly developed country, with the world’s largest economy by nominal GDP and second-largest economy by PPP, accounting for approximately a quarter of global GDP. The U.S. economy is the fastest-growing in the Americas and is largely post-industrial, characterised by the dominance of services and knowledge-based activities, although the manufacturing sector remains the second-largest in the world. Though its population is only 4.3% of the world total, the U.S. holds 33.4% of the total wealth in the world, the largest share of global wealth concentrated in a single country. The United States ranks among the highest nations in several measures of socioeconomic performance, including average wage, human development, per capita GDP, and productivity per person. The U.S. is the foremost military power in the world, making up a third of global military spending, and is a leading political, cultural, and scientific force internationally.


The land area of the entire United States is approximately 38,000,000 square miles (98,419,548 km2), with the contiguous United States making up 2,959,064 square miles (7,663,940.6 km2) of that. Alaska, separated from the contiguous United States by Canada, is the largest state at 663,268 square miles (1,717,856.2 km2). Hawaii, occupying an archipelago in the central Pacific, southwest of North America, is 10,931 square miles (28,311 km2) in area.

The United States of America is the world’s third largest country in size and nearly the third largest in terms of population. Located in North America, the country is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. Along the northern border is Canada and the southern border is Mexico. There are 50 states and the District of Columbia.

More than twice the size of the European Union, the United States has high mountains in the West and a vast central plain. The lowest point in the country is in Death Valley which is at -282 feet (-86 meters) and the highest peak is Denali (Mt. McKinley) at 20,320 feet (6,198 meters).

MAJOR MOUNTAIN RANGES: Rocky Mountains, Appalachian Mountains

MAJOR RIVERS: Mississippi, Missouri, Colorado


Career Opportunities

At some point during their time studying in the U.S., most international students are asked about their plans after graduation.

Find out how international students can gain job skills with volunteer work.

1. Know where the job opportunities are: Some states, including California, New York and Texas, have a reputation of being friendlier to international workers.

These states are home to some big firms, and these companies have both the resources and the need to employ international students – which means these states are more prone to having a higher percentage of international employees living there.

Diversity is an important component for a lot of companies and those companies need a diverse workforce. States with bigger companies, then, are more likely to be where international students can find more jobs.

2. Speak to your career planning office: Most universities have a department that specifically helps students find employment after graduation. The career planning office usually has helped international students find employment in the past, and using these alumni connections can definitely help you in terms of a career network.​

3. Apply for Optional Practical Training: OPT is an opportunity for international students to get practical experience in their major area of study, under certain restrictions, for an initial period of up to a year. More information can be found on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

This is a common way​ for companies to employ international students, even if they are only in the position for a year. Companies also do not have to pay extra fees to hire an international student who has OPT status, but students will have to pay a small fee to apply for the training program.​​​​

Visa Categories

Athletes, amateur and professional (competing for prize money only)
Athletes, artists, entertainers
Business visitors
Diplomats and foreign government officials
Domestic employees or nannies (must be accompanying a foreign national employer
Employees of a designated international organization, and NATO G1-G5, NATO
Foreign military personnel stationed in the U.S.
Foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, education, business or athletics
Information media representative (media, journalists)
Intra-company transference
Medical treatment, visitors
Nurses travelling to areas short of health care professionals
Speciality occupations in fields requiring highly specialised knowledge
Students – academic and language students
Students – vocational
Student dependants
Temporary workers – seasonal agricultural
Temporary workers – non agricultural
Tourism, vacation, pleasure visitors