Bureau of Consular Affairs Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary For Overseas Citizens Services
January 10, 2018
This is, in our world, a very exciting day, we are launching our new travel advisory program, this is a revamping of our Consular Information Program – which is the cornerstone of our efforts to keep U.S. citizens safe while they travel or live abroad. The purpose of the Consular Information Program does not change. It’s again, to provide information to people to make timely decisions about their travel plans and their activities while they’re overseas.
But over the years, we’ve come to recognize that sometimes our various documents were not readily understood. So about a year ago we began a very intensive analysis of our Consular Information Program and all the Travel Warnings, the Travel Alerts, how we conveyed information to the public, and we realized we needed to do a couple of things.
First, we needed to make it more accessible to people. And that’s why in November we went to a mobile-friendly design for our website. We also needed to make sure that the information was more easily understood, putting it into plain language, making it clearer why we were ranking countries, why we were citing them as a threat or a risk, and making that very obvious to people. And finally, making the information more actionable. We often got questions from people saying, “Well, I’ve read your Travel Warning, but what does it mean? What am I supposed to do?”
So in the new Travel Advisories, we’ve done away with Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts. We’ve done away with emergency and security messages – because, again, that was something that people didn’t always understand the difference – and we have gone to a Travel Advisory for every country, including Antarctica. And within that Travel Advisory, we have gone to a four-level ranking system, starting with a Level 1, which is “Exercise normal precautions.” Level 2 is “Exercise increased caution,” Level 3 is “Reconsider travel,” and level four is “Do not travel.”
And for each country that has a Level 2 or above, we will specify what we think those risks or threats are, why is it that we’re telling people to consider – reconsider travel or to exercise caution or not to travel at all. And those risks and conditions and circumstances are going to be very clearly spelled out with icons – C for crime, T for terrorism, U for civil unrest, H for health issues, N for natural disasters, E for time-limited events such as elections or major sporting events, and O for other, which is our catch-all for the things that don’t fit into those other categories. So it’s going to be very obvious.
We have interactive maps that you can look at and sort of see where things are. The new Travel Advisories will continue to provide what we used to call the country-specific information about things like entry requirements, special circumstances, health issues perhaps, road safety issues and things like that. That’s still all there, but again, it’s laid out in a format that is much more readily accessible, much more easily understandable, and I think far more actionable than our old Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and other documents.
We issue a Travel Advisory for each country of the world. Travel Advisories follow a consistent format and use plain language to help U.S. citizens find and use important security information. Travel Advisories apply up to four standard levels of advice, give a description of the risks, and provide clear actions U.S. citizens should take to help ensure their safety.
The Travel Advisory appears at the top of each country page, with a color corresponding to each level:
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 Departments 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 to 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.
We issue an overall Travel Advisory level for a country, but levels of advice may vary for specific locations or areas within a country. For instance, we 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.
Travel Advisories at Levels 2-4 will contain clear reasons for the level assigned, using established risk indicators and specific advice to U.S. citizens who choose to travel there. These are:
- 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 also be a factor.
- N – Natural Disaster: A natural disaster, or its aftermath, poses danger.
- E – Time-limited Event: Short-term event, such as elections, sporting events, or other incidents that may pose safety risks.
- O – Other: There are potential risks not covered by previous risk indicators. Read the country’s Travel Advisory for details.
An interactive map is on each country page. Click on “View Larger Map” to see countries color coded with the Travel Advisory levels. Countries with varying levels of advice will be striped to indicate you should read the whole travel advisory for more details.