On January 10, 2018, the United States Department of State introduced a new travel advisory system for sharing information with U.S. travelers.
Instead of travel warnings and travel alerts, every country will have an overall Travel Advisory level, with levels of advice ranging from 1 to 4.
A U.S. Department of State press release offers the following descriptions for each level of advice:
Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions
This is the lowest advisory level for safety and security risk. There is some risk in any international travel. Conditions in other countries may differ from those in the United States and may change at any time.
Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution
Be aware of heightened risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.
Level 3: Reconsider Travel
Avoid travel due to serious risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.
Level 4: Do Not Travel
This is the highest level, due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks. During an emergency, the U.S. government may have very limited ability to provide assistance. The Department of State advises that U.S. citizens not travel to the country or leave as soon as it is safe to do so. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.
A Level 4 travel advisory is not a ban on travel, but advice. North Korea is currently the only country under a geographical travel restriction.
While an overall travel advisory level will be issued for every country, levels of advice may vary for specific locations or areas within a country. For instance, the Department of State may advise U.S. travelers to "exercise increased caution" in a country, but to "reconsider travel" to a particular area within the country.
The travel advisories will also provide clear reasons for the level assigned, and will be updated based on changes to security and safety information. Risks, conditions and circumstances will be indicated with icons:
U: Civil Unrest
H: Health Issues
N: Natural Disasters
E: Time-limited Events
Additionally, U.S. embassies and consulates will now issue alerts to replace the current emergency messages and security messages. The alerts will inform travelers of specific safety and concerns in a country, such as weather events.
"We've come to recognize that sometimes our various documents were not readily understood ... we needed to make it more accessible to people," said Michelle Bernier-Toth, Bureau of Consular Affairs Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Overseas Citizen Services in a briefing.
Written by Cassie Westrate, staff writer for Groups Today.