US unveils new travel advisory system

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Story highlights

  • The existing guidance system will be replaced by a four-tiered advisory system
  • The changes are the result of a year-long review process

(CNN)The State Department unveiled Friday a new system for communicating security risks associated with foreign travel in an effort to reduce confusion and protect US citizens abroad.

"The Department of State is improving our communications with US citizen travelers to provide clear, timely and reliable safety and security information worldwide," Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Carl Risch said, outlining the new advisory system to reporters ahead of its implementation next month.
The existing guidance system will be replaced by a four-tiered advisory system, whereby every country will be assigned one of the following security levels:
    • Level 1 - Exercise normal precautions
    • Level 2 - Exercise increased caution
    • Level 3 - Reconsider travel
    • Level 4 - Do not travel.
    The levels are meant to communicate the risk of travel to each country, but are advisories only. Citizens will not be forbidden from traveling to Level 4 countries unless otherwise barred by the US government.
    Risch insisted the levels will be "strictly based on security conditions," and not political or diplomatic considerations.
    The specific risk factors the State Department will consider and highlight are: Crime, terrorism, civil unrest, health, natural disaster and time-limited events such as elections or protests. Other factors may be noted as well.
    The changes are the result of a year-long review process, said Risch, which found that members of the public were confused by the current system, and unsure how to respond to the various alerts and warnings issued by the State Department.
    "We wanted it to be an easier to understand system," Risch said.
    The process to assign levels to countries is ongoing, and will be unveiled sometime in January.