Everything You Need to Know About the State Department’s New Travel Advisory System

The improvements will provide U.S. citizens with “clear, timely, and reliable safety and security information worldwide.”

Everything You Need to Know About the State Department’s New Travel Advisory System

The State Department’s new interactive map color-codes countries by travel warning level.

Courtesy of U.S. Department of State

On January 10, the U.S. Department of State unveiled a new-and-improved travel advisory system in an effort to make its rankings more easily understandable to the public.

The new system gives every nation in the world a travel advisory ranking from one to four. Level 4 indicates “do not travel”; Level 3, “reconsider travel”; Level 2, “exercise increased caution”; and Level 1, “exercise normal precautions.”

In addition, an interactive map color-codes countries by their official ranking: red for 4, orange for 3, and yellow for 2. Countries with a level 1 ranking are not color-coded.

“While we will issue an overall travel advisory level for every country, levels of advice might vary for specific locations or areas within a country,” the State Department said in a statement. “For instance, we might 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 will also now provide clear reasons for the level assigned, using the established risk indicators below:

C (Crime): Widespread violent or organized crime is present in areas of the country.

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.

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. (In this case, you can read the country’s travel advisory for details.)

While the State Department has changed its system for communicating travel advisories, it has not changed its methods for determining the country-specific threats.

“How we assess the threat level in a country hasn’t changed,” acting deputy assistant secretary for overseas citizen services, Michelle Bernier-Toth, confirmed in a statement. “It’s how we describe those conditions and set those levels that has changed.”

The State Department’s newly redesigned hub for traveler information, travel.state.gov, will host all travel advisories and alerts for each country.

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