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US State Dept Launches New Travel Advisory System

Beginning this January, the U.S. Department of State has rolled out a new travel advisory. The advisories are issued to help U.S. citizens find and use important security information about their intended travel destinations and the process of traveling itself.  Why the new system? Because many have found the Travel Advisories to be convoluted and hard to understand. The new system focuses on using a consistent format and advisories issued in plain language, so as to be easily understood.

Travel Advisory Levels

The US State Departments aims to provide U.S. citizens with clear, timely, and reliable safety and security information worldwide. Under this new system, every country will have a Travel Advisory, providing levels of advice ranging from 1 to 4. Those 4 levels as displayed on the US State Department website are:

  • Level 1 – Exercise Normal Precautions: This is the lowest advisory level for safety and security risk. There is some risk in any international travel. Conditions in other countries may differ from those in the United States and may change at any time.
  • Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution: Be aware of heightened risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.
  • Level 3 – Reconsider Travel: Avoid travel due to serious risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.
  • Level 4 – Do Not Travel: This is the highest advisory level due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks. During an emergency, the U.S. government may have very limited ability to provide assistance. The Department of State advises that U.S. citizens not travel to the country or leave as soon as it is safe to do so. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.

The System At Work

The Travel Advisories for each country replace previous Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts. The State Department states that it will issue an overall Travel Advisory level for every country. However, levels of advice may vary for specific locations or areas within a country.

The example cited on the website explains that the State Department may advise U.S. citizens to “Exercise Increased Caution” (Level 2) in a country, but to “Reconsider Travel” (Level 3) to a particular area within the country.

Clear Risk Indicators

The detailed Travel Advisories will also will provide clear reasons for the level assigned, using established risk indicators, and offer specific advice to U.S. citizens who choose to travel there. These established risk indicators are as follows:

  • C – Crime: Widespread violent or organized crime is present in areas of the country. Local law enforcement may have limited ability to respond to serious crimes.
  • T – Terrorism: Terrorist attacks have occurred and/or specific threats against civilians, groups, or other targets may exist.
  • U – Civil Unrest: Political, economic, religious, and/or ethnic instability exists and may cause violence, major disruptions, and/or safety risks.
  • H – Health: Health risks, including current disease outbreaks or a crisis that disrupts a country’s medical infrastructure, are present. The issuance of a Centers for Disease Control Travel Notice may be a factor.
  • N – Natural Disaster: A natural disaster, or its aftermath, poses danger.
  • E – Time-limited Event: A short-term event, such as an election, sporting event, or other incident that may pose a safety risk.
  • O – Other: There are potential risks not covered by previous risk indicators. Read the country’s Travel Advisory for details.

Additionally, U.S. embassies and consulates will now issue Alerts to replace the current Emergency Messages and Security Messages. Alerts will inform U.S. citizens of specific safety and security concerns in a country, such as demonstrations, crime trends, and weather events.

Stay Informed

The Department’s newly-redesigned hub for traveler information, travel.state.gov, will host all Travel Advisories, recent Alerts issued for each country, and an interactive map in mobile-friendly formats. Country pages on the site will continue to include all travel information currently available, including details about entry/exit requirements, local laws and customs, health conditions, transportation, and other relevant topics.

Finally, U.S. citizens can receive updates and notices by enrolling their travel plans in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (step.state.gov). Further, travelers can follow them on Twitter (@travelgov) and Facebook (facebook.com/travelgov).