State Department Releases New Travel Advisory System

Earlier this month, the State Department released a new travel advisory system and website. The program’s most significant overhaul in quite some time replaces the confusing system of travel warnings and travel advisories. Instead, the new program establishes a four-tier ranking for advisories.

New Travel Advisory Rankings:

Travel Advisory RankingsLevel One – Exercise Normal Precautions: This ranking indicates the lowest level of safety and security risk and acknowledges that any international travel poses some amount of risk.

Level Two – Exercise Increased Caution: This advisory is issued when a country presents heightened risks to traveler safety and security. At this level, the State Department will provide travelers with additional suggestions within the advisory.

Level Three – Reconsider Travel: Travel to a Level Three-designated area poses serious risk to safety and security, and the State Department recommends avoiding travel to the country. In addition, travelers in these areas will receive additional advice within the travel advisory.

Level Four – Do Not Travel: The highest advisory level, Level Four is declared when an area presents an increased likelihood of life-threatening danger. At this stage, the U.S government may experience a limited ability to assist travelers. In addition, travelers are advised to avoid Level Four countries or to leave whenever it’s safe to do so. When possible, the State Department will provide additional advice to travelers via the travel advisory.

NOTE: While Level Four’s categorization is severe, it is not a ban: the U.S will not prevent travelers from visiting countries with this assigned level.

Travel advisories Level 2 or higher include a clear rationale for the designation. The reasonings are based on an established set of risk indicators:

Crime (C): Presence of widespread violent or organized crime; local law enforcement may have limited ability to respond to serious crimes.

Terrorism (T): Terrorist attacks have occurred and/or specific threats against civilians, groups, or other targets may exist.

Civil Unrest (U): Political, economic, religious, and/or ethnic instability exists and may cause violence, major disruptions, and/or safety risks.

Health (H): Health risks, including current disease outbreaks or a crisis that disrupts a country’s medical infrastructure, are present. A Travel Notice issued by the Centers for Disease Control may also be a factor.

Natural Disaster (N): A natural disaster, or its aftermath, poses danger.

Time-limited Event (E): Short-term event, such as elections, sporting events, or other incidents that may pose safety risks.

Other (O): Potential risks not covered by previous risk indicators; read the country’s travel advisory for details.

U.S. Department Of State — Bureau of Consular Affairs

While countries receive an overall rating, specific areas can have a separate rating. For example, a Level Three (Reconsider Travel) country could have a particular area designated as Level Four – Do Not Travel.

All designations can be viewed on an interactive Travel Advisory map.

Travel Advisory Determinations

Each country’s advisory designation receives a review on a regimented basis: Level One and Level Two countries after a minimum of 12 months, with Level Three and Four areas evaluated every six months.

These changes have been in the works for over a year, with the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs gathering feedback from both U.S and international stakeholders. While the State Department expects a learning curve, the organization is confident the new system and website provides greater clarity and makes a designations’ rationale more obvious to travelers.

To view the changes, visit the Department of State International Travel webpage.

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