Lots to Love at USA.gov
The United States government offers a vast amount of online information, but these resources can’t help you if you can’t find them. Which is exactly why you’ll want to get acquainted with USA.gov — the official Web portal for the U.S. government. USA.gov contains an exhaustive index of government agencies, services, and activities, and makes it faster and easier to get where you need to go.
The predecessor of USA.gov was a portal called Firstgov.gov, which was introduced years ago and met with a lukewarm response. Instead of using the cumbersome Firstgov.gov, people flocked to Google and other commercial search engines to find government agency information. Clearly, a change was needed. So, after an extensive process of improvements and refinements, USA.gov was born. It’s straightforward, heavily indexed, and easy to navigate. You can start your search in any number of ways and still end up at the right destination.
USA.gov connects you to all aspects of federal business, and provides access to reports, guides, and tools to help you find the answers you need. Each webpage of links is more specific than the last, so you can quickly drill down to your particular area of interest. For example, click on “Benefits and Grants” on the homepage, and you’ll go to a list of more than sixty links about topics including “College Student Loans and Grants” and “Weatherization Assistance.” Choose the former and be taken to studentaid.ed.gov, a site with a wealth of advice on how to pay for a college education.
Frequently on lists of “can’t do without” sites, USA.gov receives approximately 342,000 visits on any given day and those numbers climb significantly during major news events such as hurricanes. Find out why this portal is so popular by taking a tour through some of its highlights in the following paragraphs of Website Compass.
USA.gov Search Options
1. Español | Other Languages
There’s a complete version of the portal in Spanish, GobiernoUSA.gov, as well as links to federal resources in dozens of other languages.
2. 1-800-FED INFO
If you have trouble finding the answers you need and prefer to speak to someone by phone, USA.gov maintains a call center for questions.
3. USA.gov RSS Feeds
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, and the content is called a feed. It’s an easy way for you to keep up with news and information by having it delivered directly to you. USA.gov offers a variety of RSS feeds including News and Features, Popular Government Questions, Money News, Health News, and Consumer News.
4. Tutorials: Find Government Info
Check out the tutorials for step-by-step help finding government information online. Choose the five-minute overview tutorial on searching USA.gov, or one of the mini-tutorials on subjects such as Get It Done Online with Government, Shop Government Auctions and Sales, and Find Government Benefits and Grants.
5. Subscribe To E-Mail Updates
Enter your e-mail address here to receive an e-mail every time a particular section of USA.gov is updated. This is a convenient way to stay current on issues of concern to you, such as changes in government benefit programs.
6. Local Government
Want to find out where to go for in-person help in your community? Click here for links to government offices and services such as local motor vehicle offices, post offices, and nursing home facilities.
Visit this section to find helpful information on topics of current interest.
8. Connect With Government
In addition to following USA.gov on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, you can also connect via the Gov Gab blog and access Web Chat for live personal assistance.
9. What’s FREE This Month?
Look here for changing offers of free materials.
10. Government Information By Topic
Many USA.gov visitors find these directories to be the best place to start a search. You can typically go quickly to the information you seek (and you’ll probably find other related resources of value to you as well).
11. Get It Done Online!
You may be surprised at how many U.S. government services you can access from your computer, making short work of the tasks that used to require a trip to an office somewhere.
12. Tabs For Different Audiences — For Citizens, etc.
Searches on USA.gov can also be structured by audience. Click on the group that applies to you and be directed to a wide variety of resources that fit your unique interests, challenges, and requirements.
13. Search Box
If the directories are not helping you find what you’re looking for, click on the “Search” button to access the Advanced Search help page. You’ll be able to frame your search with some pretty strict parameters here.
Get It Done Online!
When you think of government-related tasks, what comes to mind may be a drive to an out-of-the-way building, long lines, stacks of paperwork, and the ever-present possibility of being sent to another office. Fortunately, now there’s a better way. Thanks to USA.gov, you can begin — and in some cases, complete — many of these tasks online. Start at the “Get It Done Online!” box on the home page. Each link points to other sites that will help you get those forms filled out faster.
Apply for Government Jobs
This link leads to USAJOBS.gov, the official job site of the U.S. government. There you can explore government jobs in a variety of ways. You can search for a position by entering keywords or by agency, location, or occupation. You can also create an account that allows you to post your resume, send it directly to potential employers, save job searches, and receive job alerts.
In addition, USAJOBS.gov features articles on topics such as the hiring process, interviewing tips, and maximizing search results. Veterans and federal employers will find special sections devoted to their needs.
Apply for Student Aid
Start here to get to the Federal Student Aid website. Federal Student Aid is an office of the U.S. Department of Education that annually distributes over $100 billion in new aid. The site walks students and their parents through the process of applying for college, applying for grants, and applying for and repaying loans. The section on applying for college includes information about financial literacy, how to find the best school, and how to plan while still in high school, or even elementary school. Special interest groups, such as non-traditional students and international students, will find sections that address their needs as well.
Contact Elected Officials
Want to put in your two cents worth online? This link will direct you to places where you can express concerns and share ideas with your elected officials.
- Contact President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at the White House website.
- Search for your U.S. senators and visit their websites.
- Find contact information for U.S. representatives, as well as material about bills, laws, amendments, and debates.
- Find contact information and the website for the governor of each state.
- Find contact information for state legislators of each state.
- Tweet a message to your representatives.
Replace Vital Records
It happens to most of us at one time or another — we lose or misplace an important government-issued document. This link will guide you to the right resources to begin the replacement process. You will be able to:
- Apply for benefits following a hurricane.
- Change your address with government agencies.
- Download forms to replace a lost or stolen passport.
- Download forms to replace a lost or stolen Social Security card. (See instructions below.)
- Download forms to request a copy of a federal tax return.
- Obtain copies of military service records.
- Review information about how to restore flood- or fire-damaged documents.
Shop Government Auctions
When the government purchases more items than it needs or confiscates items due to nonpayment of taxes, the property becomes available for sale to the public. Some items are sold via online auction, and others are available through public auctions, sealed bids, or through a Realtor. This link points to sites that allow you to buy government property; locate state and local surplus auctions; buy government books, souvenirs, gifts, and memorabilia; and find the auctions or sales of a particular government agency. Items available for purchase include office furniture, consumer publications, autos, audio recordings, holiday ornaments, jewelry, electronics, clothing, music, real estate, maps, and travel tickets.
How to Replace a
Social Security Card
You can replace your Social Security card for free if it is lost or stolen. Here’s what to do:
1. Go to www.ssa.gov and download an application for a new card. (Or from the USA.gov homepage, click on “Replace Vital Records” and then select “Social Security Card Replacement.”)
2. Gather original documents or certified copies that prove your citizenship — your birth certificate, passport, or certificate of citizenship — and your identity. Be sure that your ID is current. For a list of acceptable IDs, see www.socialsecurity.gov/ss5doc.
3. Deliver the completed application and documents to your local Social Security office.
4. Keep the card in a safe place with your other important papers. Do not carry it with you. A person using your card or number can get other personal information about you and apply for credit in your name.
USA.gov Services from A-Z
The “Get It Done Online!” section of USA.gov features links to more than a hundred U.S. government services that you can access from your computer. The following list represents some of the services available:
Ask an Information Librarian – Chat with information experts
Benefits and Assistance Tool – Access programs
Copyrights – Search or register a work
Doctor and Dentist Directories – Find professionals, services, and facilities
Energy Audit – Make your home more energy efficient
Farmers Markets – Search in your area
Grants – Find and apply for government grants
Hybrid Car Information – Compare gas mileage
Inflation Calculator – Compare buying power for different years
Job Banks – By state
Libraries – Search for schools, colleges, and libraries
Mortgage Comparison Calculator – Compare monthly payments for different mortgage products
National Park Passes – Purchase annual pass
Organ and Tissue Donor Registries – By state
Podcasts from the U.S. Government – Audio broadcasts
RSS Library – News and information
Stamps Online – U.S. Postal Service
Traffic and Road Closures – By state
U.S. Embassies and Overseas Posts – By country
Voter Registration by Mail – Register to vote from anywhere in the U.S.
Weight Assessment – Get recommendations and assess your risk
ZIP Code Lookup – Search by address, city, or company