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U.S. Department of State Information

U.S. Department of State Advisories and Messaging

The U.S. Department of State issues travel advisories, travel alerts and additional safety and security messaging for specific circumstances.

Travel Advisory

Travel Advisory Levels

The U.S. Department of State issues a Travel Advisory for each country. The advisory assigns one of 4 levels of travel advice for the entire country:

  • Level 1 – Exercise normal precautions
  • Level 2 – Exercise increased caution
  • Level 3 – Reconsider travel
  • Level 4 – Do not travel

The Travel Advisory and country information contain specific information on safety and security concerns written by consular officials. Ohio State encourages all travelers to read and consult this information when preparing for travel.

In general, a Travel Advisory is updated whenever Consular Affairs determines there is a significant or long-term change to the security environment in the country. However, protocol dictates that each advisory should be updated at least once annually, so an updated advisory does not automatically imply that the U.S. Department of State has raised its advisory level or significantly altered the travel advice.

  1. Nuanced Ratings: The advisory can assign a higher rating to specific regions, cities, locations or activities. Even countries assigned an advisory Level 1, may contain regions where the advisory is Level 3 or Level 4.
  2. Risk Indicators: If there is a Level 2 or higher rating for the country or a specific region, the advisory will include specific risk indicators providing a rationale for the elevated rating. The risk indicators may prompt additional considerations in travel preparedness, including:
    • Deferring travel to certain locations
    • Not using certain forms of transportation
    • Avoiding traveling after dark
    • Implementing specific crime mitigation strategies
    • Employing other mitigation strategies
  3. Ohio State Risk Designated Scale: The U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory is one input into Ohio State’s risk designation for each country. Given the nuance in advisory levels and the variation in risk indicators, the Ohio State risk designated tier can be higher or lower than the corresponding Travel Advisory level. The Ohio State risk designation serves as the primary indicator if student travel to a country requires additional review, assessment or curtailment.

In addition to the safety and security content in the Travel Advisory, travelers are advised to read all seven sections of the country information with specific focus on:

  • Safety and Security: Areas of instability; awareness of common crimes, scams, targeted locations and mitigation strategies; concern for sexual harassment and violence; activities with increased risk (e.g. swimming; trekking); and the regulatory environment of the tourism industry.
  • Local Laws and Special Circumstances: Prohibited items or activities; criminal penalties for alcohol or drugs; natural disasters; and specific concerns for accessibility assistance, women, LGBQT, and faith-based travelers.
  • Health: Standards of medical care, traveling with prescriptions, prevalent diseases and locally specific health concerns (e.g. altitude sickness, air quality).
  • Travel and Transportation: Road safety conditions and consideration of forms of transportation, including potential advice to avoid common options.

Travel Alerts and Embassy Messages

U.S. embassies and consulates abroad issue Travel Alerts to inform U.S. citizens of specific short-term safety and security concerns in a country, such as demonstrations, crime trends, and weather events. Travelers enrolled in the STEP system will receive periodic updates from the local U.S. embassy or consulate in the area to which they are traveling. In addition, all messages are posted on the Country Information page and the U.S. Citizens Services page for the respective U.S. embassy or consulate.

Travel Alerts come in various forms. In general, a Travel Alert assumes that travel will continue, but travelers may need to enhance their situational awareness, practice increased vigilance or make temporary modifications in travel.  Ohio State presumes all travelers are enrolled in or have access to the STEP notification system. Ohio State does not update travelers of each alert. Individual travelers are advised to follow the recommended advice in the alert.

Types of Alerts

  • Emergency Notification - Informs travelers about imminent threats that can impact their personal security, and which may require the traveler to take immediate action in order to remain safe. These may include political disturbances, natural disasters, terrorist attacks or the cessation of consular services. An emergency message prompts travelers to take immediate action, which may include sheltering-in-place, deferring travel or departing an area or country.
  • Security Alert - Provides critical awareness of current security-related issues. These may include notices about increased crime, civil unrest or violent protests. A security alert prompts travelers to be aware and make plans. It may prompt travelers to avoid travel to a specific location or implement enhanced situational awareness. In some instances, the alert may contain restrictions on travel for U.S. government personnel. Ohio State travelers are advised to observe similar restrictions until international risk management can assess the impact on their travel.
  • Safety Alert - or general “Alert” - Provides awareness of public events (festivals) or notices (curfews, closures) that may impact travel plans.
  • Health Alert – Informs travelers of elevated health concerns (air quality, disease outbreak, water shortage). It may require individual travelers with specific health conditions (respiratory conditions) to take preventative action or encourage all travelers to engage in extra prevention (insect bite prevention).
  • Demonstration Alert - Provides awareness of public strikes, demonstrations and protests, with general advice for travelers to avoid the area of the activity.
  • Weather or Natural Disaster Alert – Updates on significant weather disturbances (hurricane, typhoon) or natural disasters (earthquake, volcanic activity) concerns that may impact travel plans. While generally precautionary, they may contain information on restricting travel to specific locations, disruption of public services and infrastructure (road or airport closures).
  • Message for U.S. Citizens – Administrative notice or reminder about voter registration, changes to local immigration requirements or other matters that may require some travelers to complete or file additional paperwork.

Worldwide Caution

The Worldwide Caution has been in place for more than 15 years. The context of the Worldwide Caution is related to the outlook and concern for global terrorism. It is reviewed and renewed approximately every six months.

How U.S. Department of State Messaging Impacts Ohio State Travel Guidance

Pre-departure

The Travel Advisory is factored into the Ohio State risk designated scale.

During Travel

Ohio State presumes all U.S. citizens traveling are enrolled in or have access to the STEP notification system which provides registered travelers with updates to the Travel Advisory and the issuance of Travel Alerts for their destinations of travel. Non-U.S. citizens may access updates via the local U.S. embassy page. International risk management does not automatically notify travelers of each update or alert.

  • Travel Advisory – An update to an advisory may prompt notification to travelers if it significantly alters the travel advice or elevates the Ohio State risk designation for the country.
    • Updates will be posted to the OIA Travel Alerts page.
    • Updates that may require alterations to current itineraries or require certain restrictions or stipulations on travel will be communicated by email to the travelers OSU email.
  • Travel Alerts – An Emergency Notification or Security Alert may alter the advice of the original Travel Advisory. In such instances, international risk management may send precautionary information to all travelers via their OSU email.
  • Worldwide Caution: Ohio State advises all travelers to be aware of the content. Notifications of updates to the Worldwide Caution are posted to the OIA Travel Alerts page.

Travel Guidance Applies To

Faculty and staff traveling on university business: Advised to follow the recommendations of the U.S. Department of State messaging and consult the Ohio State risk designated scale and OIA Travel Alerts. 

Student travel on Ohio State education abroad programs or other university supported travel: Advised to follow the recommendations of the U.S. Department of State messaging. In addition, U.S. DOS messaging may prompt international risk management to adjust program itineraries, restrict travel to specific locations or submit a recommendation to the International Travel Policy Committee to curtail current or planned travel.