State Department revamps travel advisories to make them easier to understand

Saturday, 13 Jan, 2018

The State Department had on Wednesday launched improvements on sharing information with USA travelers to provide clear, timely and reliable safety and security information.

Tom Squitieri of Talk Media News reports, the four-level ranking system starts with Level 1, which is "Exercise normal precautions", then increases in danger to Level 2 - "Exercise increased caution", Level 3 - "Reconsider travel", and Level 4 - "Do not travel".

India has been placed at Level 2, which pertains to "exercising increased caution".

The threat level in a country is determined through a collaborative process that involves security experts, the intelligence community, host governments, our embassies and consulates.

The State Department recommends travellers to be aware of heightened risks to safety and security. Countries categorized under No. 4 advisories include Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

In September, the agency stated in a travel warning that, "numerous U.S. Embassy Havana employees have been targeted in specific attacks", suffering "significant injuries as a outcome of these attacks".

It also added that the USA government has "limited ability" to provide emergency services to its citizens in rural areas of eastern Maharashtra and northern Telangana through western West Bengal, where Maoist extremist groups are present, since they require special authorization to visit.

In the past, governments of countries where the State Department has issued travel warnings have complained vociferously, usually out of concerns about their tourism industry.

Mexico, a level two country, has complained in the past that United States alerts hurt tourism, but the site gives a detailed breakdown of areas to avoid because of drug cartel violence.

New rankings replace the vague and often confusing system of issuing "travel alerts" and "travel warnings".

As well as Slovakia, Australia, Canada, Austria and the Czech Republic are in this group.

"We needed to make it more accessible to people".

That was a message echoed by Bernier-Toth on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, alerts, such as hurricane warnings, demonstration alerts and other considerations, will continue to be released from the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Turkey, Russia and Venezuela are considered Level Three. According to Michelle Bernier-Toth, Bureau of Consular Affairs acting deputy assistant secretary for overseas citizens services at the state department, the change came about about because travelers found the previous system hard to understand. The one exception is North Korea, where the State Department has prohibited citizens from using their USA passports to visit without first obtaining a waiver.

"We have been heavily investing in security", Esponda said.