How the Improvements to the US Dept. of State Travel Warning and Alert System Impact Your Study Abroad Program

The Bureau of Consular Affairs of the US Department of State has announced updates to the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts Systems to take effect in mid-January of 2018. The improvements come shortly after the release of the new travel.state.gov website in December of 2017 which greatly enhanced the user-interface and mobile accessibility of the site.

The "Improved Consular Safety and Security Messaging" system will provide a clear classification of every country based on the level of caution needed when traveling. It will include the specific danger present in each of these regions including crime, terrorism, civil unrest, health, natural disaster, time-limited events and more. It will even indicate specific regions of heightened concern. This will enable higher education institutions to better tailor their study abroad and travel programs and policies to ensure safety for their students and faculty.

Improvements to the travel alert system will include:

  • Standardized travel advisories for every country ranked by level of caution.
    • Level 1 - Exercise Normal Precautions (blue color bar)
    • Level 2 - Exercise Increased Caution (yellow color bar)
    • Level 3 - Reconsider Travel (orange color bar)
    • Level 4 – Do Not Travel (red color bar)
  • Specific details or warnings for regions within a country.
  • Risk indicators that cause the advisory level and advice for citizens who chose to travel to these areas.
  • Clearly written and easy-to-understand information.
  • Alerts for specific safety/security concerns including weather conditions and demonstrations.
  • Color-coded interactive map.
  • General travel information including local laws, customs, health conditions and more.

As your higher education institution plans its study abroad and travel programs, it is important to take into careful consideration the new information and new format of the Travel Warnings and Alert System. Institutions should consider adjusting their own travel policies to match the new four-level state department classifications. Additionally, institutions should use the new information to assess all of the existing and future-planned programs— as a country with a more ambiguous warning in the past may be on the “Do Not Travel” list in the new system.

It is always a good idea to confirm how any insurance for international travel, workers’ compensation, global medical and even life insurance may be impacted by existing or changing travel warnings in advance of your departure.

To learn more about the changes and to stay abreast of the latest developments go to the Improved Consular Safety and Security page on the US Department of State website.

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