The State Department has overhauled its system for issuing travel advisories to make them easier to understand

The US Department of State today announced a new system for issuing travel advisories to Americans. Under the new system, every country in the world will have a standing advisory with a numerical level, ranging from 1 to 4, to indicate whether there are any safety concerns. If a country is ranked at a level two - "exercise increased caution" - or above, the score will be accompanied by a reason for the increased risk.
 
The change comes in response to persistent general confusion over the meaning of warnings issued under the previous system, according to a State Department spokesperson. Under that system, the department would issue either a "travel alert" or a "travel warning" when it deemed prudent, which generally included a briefing as to the reason.
 
But, the difference between the two types of advisory was not always clear. While alerts were generally shorter-term or related to specific events, and warnings were intended to be stronger, the new system is designed to provide additional clarity and guidance.
The levels are as follows, as described in a fact sheet shared by the State Department:
 
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 advisory 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.
To check each country's level, you can visit a newly updated State Department Travel Advisory website . There's also a color-coordinated map that you can browse.
 
Some examples of countries listed at level two at the time of publication include Mexico, due to crime in certain areas, and the United Kingdom, due to elevated risks of terrorism. Level three countries include Russia, due to civil unrest in certain areas, and Venezuela, due to crime and a limited ability of the US to provide assistance to citizens. Level four countries include Iraq, Iran, and Libya.
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