This State Department Change Could Affect The Way You Travel

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The U.S. Department of State has devised a new system for alerting Americans about potential security risks abroad. As Condé Nast Traveler reported, instead of issuing short-term "travel alerts" for concerns like epidemic outbreaks and "travel warnings" for long-term issues, the State Department is now implementing a tiered system for every country in the world. The new system will be in effect in January.

"Travel advisories will give advice to U.S. citizens by following a four-level classification system and providing clear actions to take," Carl Risch, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, said at a Friday briefing.

Countries dubbed "level one" are the safest, while level two means "exercise increased caution." Level three means "reconsider travel." A level four classification signals "do not travel," as there could be life-threatening risks, although Americans aren't necessarily banned from that country. "During an emergency, the U.S. government may have very limited ability to provide assistance" to those countries, Risch said of level four. "Leave as soon as it is safe to do so."

The U.S. issued a travel ban, with few exceptions, to North Korea in September; a travel warning for Cuba later that month; and a holiday travel alert for Europe in November, citing the threat of terrorist attacks. In light of Donald Trump's announcement that the U.S. will recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the State Department issued a security message on December 5 asking U.S. citizens to take additional precautions.

But this latest announcement isn't a response to the Jerusalem news or any other specific incidents, said Risch. "This has been going on even before the change in administration, this exercise to improve the messaging and improve the way that we do this, provide this service," he said during the briefing. "We wanted it to be an easier to understand system."

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