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  About San Francisco
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Travel, Visa, and Passport Information


About San Francisco

ASHG is pleased to host its 62nd Annual Meeting in San Francisco, California, often called “Everybody’s Favorite City.” San Francisco is one of the top tourist destinations in the United States, famous for its scenic beauty, cultural attractions, diverse communities, and world-class cuisine. San Francisco’s landmarks include the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, Chinatown, Union Square, and North Beach. San Francisco’s corrugated surface is home to more than 40 neighborhoods, if not more. The claims to fame and the local lore in these neighborhoods are all a wonderful, exuberant part of the “Only in San Francisco” experience. No two neighborhoods are alike and each is worth a closer look. For more information about San Francisco, go to the ASHG customized Microsite by clicking here.






San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is located 13 miles south of downtown San Francisco. The airport offers non-stop links with more than 31 international points on 30 international carriers. The Bay Area’s largest airport connects non-stop with more than 71 cities in the U.S. on 18 domestic airlines. SFO was voted “North America’s Best Airport” by passengers for its outstanding customer service and amenities. For more information, visit Click here for ground transportation options from SFO.


Oakland International Airport (OAK) is 20 miles from downtown San Francisco. The airport has service from 13 different airlines combining for 30 non-stop flights nationally and internationally. For more information, visit Click here for ground transportation options from OAK.



Ground Transportation and Parking


Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART): BART is the fast, easy, inexpensive way to get to downtown San Francisco and around the Bay Area. BART operates five routes with service to 43 stations. Trains arrive at the SFO International Terminal every 15 minutes and is just 30 minutes to downtown San Francisco. For a station list and map, click here.

Sustainable Airport Transfers

ASHG is pleased to recommend BART as the only sustainable transfer from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Oakland International Airport (OAK). We suggest that you Go Green by taking BART from SFO or OAK to downtown San Francisco. Click here for details on how you'll be helping the environment and for stops closest to ASHG hotels.


San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI): MUNI provides transit within the city and county of San Francisco 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can buy a Visitor Pass for unlimited rides on MUNI, including cable cars (good for 3 or 7 consecutive days).


Historic Street and Cable Cars (operated by MUNI):  San Francisco’s vintage electric streetcars run along the F-line. Stops can be found every few blocks on Market Street and The Embarcadero between the Castro District and Fisheman’s Wharf (often near glass bus stop shelters). The cable streetcars run along Powell Street to Hyde or Mason. If you are unsure what the difference is between cable cars and streetcars, remember: a street car has a trolley pole connected to an overhead wire, while a cable car runs on street rails and has no overhead wires.


Taxis: Using taxis is a great way to get around quickly. San Francisco can be challenging with its steep hills and attractions scattered around the city. The average price for a taxi from the airport is between $40 and $45, plus 15% tip. Regardless of what taxi company you select, rates are set for all companies by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA).


Walking: San Francisco is a great city to walk and explore the unique neighborhoods. All hotels in the ASHG hotel block are within a short walk of the Moscone Center.


Parking: The Moscone Center provides information according to the City’s traffic management philosophy, which encourages the use of public transit first. View the Convention Center’s parking map to find a nearby parking garage. You can also visit the SFMTA Web site for information on parking around the city.



Visa and Passports

Click here for passport information and announcements.


Requests for Letters of Invitation
Customized Letters of Invitation can only be issued to confirmed registrants, defined as those who have paid the meeting registration fees. After you have registered, within your confirmation you will find a Web page link that automatically generates your customized letter of invitation. For security purposes, letters of invitation cannot be sent if you have not registered for the ASHG 2012 Annual Meeting. If you have questions, please e-mail them to:


International Visitors
Visitors traveling to the U.S. must present a valid passport. It is suggested that your passport have at least six months left before it expires from the date that you will be traveling abroad. Before entering the U.S., all foreign visitors are responsible for ensuring that they have the required documents necessary, whether they are traveling through to another country or returning to their country of origin.


Procedures for International Visitors
Visitors traveling to the United States from all foreign countries (including the visa waiver countries) are required to register their personal details online at least three (3) days in advance of travel. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is a free, automated system used to determine the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States. It collects the same information as the paper I-94W form you usually complete enroute to the U.S. ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel. An ESTA authorization generally will be valid for up to two years. DHS recommends that travelers submit an ESTA application as soon as they begin travel plans. Click here for further details.


ASHG 2012 Meeting attendees are encouraged to apply for visas as early as possible. Registration refunds will not be issued for denied visas. As part of security procedures, applications for visas are sent to the U.S. State Department for a security review. For further information, visit the State Department Web site [Note: ASHG advises scientists traveling to the U.S. to apply for a visa as early as possible -- at least six months before the visa is needed. Please check with your local U.S. consulate or embassy to find out the earliest that you may apply for a visa. For more information or to look up your local U.S. embassy or consulate, please click here.  


Important points to keep in mind to assist you with the visa application process:


  • Start Early: Register for ASHG 2012 as soon as possible so that your customized letter of invitation can be generated.
  • Apply for your visa four (4) to (6) months in advance of traveling. You should provide your entire trip itinerary, including travel to any countries other than the United States, at the time of visa application.
  • If completion of travel plans is contingent upon early approval of the visa application, specify this at the time of the application.
  • Provide proof of scientific status (for example, proof that you submitted an abstract for the meeting). Do not wait until you receive notification that your abstract has been accepted before applying for a visa. It is very rare that ASHG denies an abstract. If your abstract followed the rules and guidelines, it will be accepted and programmed.
  • Provide evidence that you are intending to return to your country of residence. This includes such information as:
    • family ties in current country of residence
    • property ownership
    • bank account
    • an employment contract or statement from an employer showing that your position will continue after the dates of the meeting
  • Requirements vary by passport-issuing country and citizenship (not merely residency).


NOTE: Some consulates may have backlogs in scheduling visa interviews so applicants should first contact their local consulate to determine what wait times are for visa interviews. Click here for the current list of visa interview and processing wait times by country.


Visa Problems
For applications that have not been approved 30 days after the visa interview, you should complete an online questionnaire. You will be asked to name the meeting (ASHG 2012) and explain the purpose of your visit.


Visa Waiver Program (VWP): Some foreign meeting participants may not need visas if they are citizens of any of the countries on the Visa Waiver Program. ALL citizens of the Visa Waiver Program are required to have Machine-Readable Passports (MRP) in order to travel to the United States without a visa. Without an MRP, you will be required to apply for a visa. All foreign visitors (including Visa Waiver Program travelers) will be fingerprinted and photographed upon arrival in the U.S. Click here for more information about the VWP.


U.S. Visa Policy Resources – Please click here for more information.  



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