International Travel

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Before You Go

Consular Information Frequently Asked Questions

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How will U.S. citizen travelers be notified of changes to the Travel Advisory levels and receive new Alerts for a country?

We will post updates to Travel Advisories and Alerts to travel.state.gov and send them to U.S. citizens who choose to receive updates by enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP.state.gov). Some Travel Advisory updates may be sent out via social media. Follow us on Twitter (@travelgov) and Facebook (facebook.com/travelgov). 

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How do you determine the overall level for a country?

We consider many factors to determine the Travel Advisory level for each country, including crime, terrorist activity, civil unrest, health, natural disaster/weather,  and current events. We clearly explain the reason for the Travel Advisory level and describe the safety and security concerns. 

The information used to formulate Travel Advisories is collected from a range of sources, such as crime statistics and other information that is publicly available, information gathered from U.S. government sources, as well as assessments by our embassies and consulates. Travel Advisories also take into account decisions made to protect the security of U.S. government personnel overseas and ensure that U.S. citizens receive appropriate security information. This analysis is undertaken without regard to bilateral political or economic considerations. Travel Advisories represent our commitment to protect U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad by providing them important safety and security information.

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You just updated the Travel Warning for some countries. Why are you changing it again?

Our new consular messaging strategy includes issuing a Travel Advisory for every country. As we developed the new system, we did not delay providing important information that U.S. citizens needed to know in a timely fashion; instead, we released Travel Alerts, Travel Warnings, or messages as information became available.  With the new system, all existing information will be converted to the new products, ensuring a consistent, worldwide standard for information. 

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Why does a country now have a Travel Advisory even though it never had a Travel Warning before?

We would like all U.S. citizens to review our information before deciding on travel to or within any foreign country, not just the ones considered the most dangerous. With that goal, we issue Travel Advisories for all countries and assign levels of advice to allow U.S. citizens to make more informed travel decisions. This new format helps travelers see specific areas where extra precautions may be necessary and what actions they should take.

Most Travel Advisories are at Level 1 – Exercise Normal Precautions – or Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution. Travel Advisories at Levels 2 - 4 provide clear reasons for the advice, use common risk indicators, and state specific actions U.S. citizens should take if they decide to travel to or reside in that country. The new format highlights areas within a country that are of particular concern and provides specific advice for U.S. citizens who decide to travel to those areas.

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What happened to Regional Travel Alerts? Are regional trends no longer tracked by the Department of State?

The safety and security of U.S. citizens abroad is a top priority. When transitioning from Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, we did away with Regional Travel Alerts so that each country has a Travel Advisory with the most relevant information for that particular country. 

Information previously covered in Regional Travel Alerts is included in appropriate Travel Advisories or on country information webpages found on travel.state.gov. Travel Advisories allow us to be more specific about where there are conditions that might pose risks to U.S. citizens and what actions U.S. citizens should take. An interactive map visually depicts Travel Advisories around the world. 

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Whom do you consult in deciding the Travel Advisory level for a country?

We work directly with experts to consider many factors to determine Travel Advisories, including crime, terrorist activity, civil unrest, health, natural disaster/weather, and current events. We clearly explain the reason for the Travel Advisory level and describe the safety and security concerns. We consult closely with personnel in embassies and consulates throughout the world, security and intelligence experts, and with other agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control.     

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I see that other countries provide different information to their citizens about the dangers of traveling to certain countries. Why is that?

Our mission and our priority is the safety of all U.S. citizens abroad. We provide an assessment about the conditions in any given location in the world based on the threat to U.S. citizens, without regard to other countries’ assessments for their citizens.

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How often will you review Travel Advisory levels for each country?

We will review and update a Travel Advisory as needed, based on security and safety information. We will otherwise review Level 1 and 2 Travel Advisories at minimum every 12 months and Level 3 and 4 Travel Advisories every six months. 

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Do political considerations impact the Travel Advisory level that a country receives?

Travel Advisories are based on safety and security conditions that could affect the lives and interests of U.S. citizens abroad, not on political considerations.

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Does the Department of State consider the potential economic impact on a country when deciding its tier level?

The safety and security of U.S. citizens and their interests abroad are a top priority for the Department of State. Travel Advisories are based on conditions in a country that could pose risks to the safety and security of U.S. citizens. Travel Advisories also take into account decisions made to protect the security of U.S. government personnel overseas and ensure that U.S. citizens receive appropriate security information. This analysis is undertaken without regard to bilateral political or economic considerations.

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Why is the Department now advising U.S. citizens not to travel to certain countries?

After a careful review of the security situation, we advise U.S. citizens not to travel to a country as U.S. citizens face a greater likelihood of life-threatening risks in that country. In some countries with a Level 4 Travel Advisory, we have no U.S. embassy or have a very limited diplomatic presence, so our ability to help U.S. citizens is limited. We advise U.S. citizens who decide to travel to a country with a Level 4 Travel Advisory to write a will, have custody arrangements for children, prepare security contingency plans, and have plans if taken hostage or detained. For more information, see Travel to High-Risk Areas on our travel.state.gov website. 

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Does the Department of State plan to restrict travel to countries with Level 4 Travel Advisories?

Effective September 1, 2017, the U.S. Department of State placed a geographical travel restriction on all U.S. citizen nationals' use of a passport to travel in, through, or to the DPRK (North Korea). Individuals seeking to travel to North Korea for certain limited humanitarian or other purposes may apply to the Department of State for a special validation passport.

There are currently no other restrictions in place for U.S. citizens’ travel abroad, but the State Department advises against travel to countries with a Travel Advisory of Level 4 as a matter of safety and security. If a U.S. citizen decides to travel there anyway, we strongly urge them to read our information on high-risk travel and heed our advice on how to prepare.

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How does this affect the Worldwide Caution – does that continue?

As part of the Department’s efforts to provide U.S. citizens traveling and living abroad with information about safety and security events, we produce the Worldwide Caution with information on universal travel risks, including the threat of terrorism against U.S. citizens and interests abroad. The Worldwide Caution will continue to exist in a more streamlined format while the Travel Advisories will provide more detailed information.