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Evaluating the U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory System


Many colleges and universities, including Northwestern, pay close attention U.S. Department of State (DOS) consular announcements, which are disseminated to the public to help assess travelers’ risks. It’s important for travelers to understand the different announcement types and sources.

The Consular Travel Advisory System

Under new DOS Travel Advisory system every country is assigned a color-coded risk rating from one to four, defined as:

These new travel advisories replace previous Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts.

Additional country-specific information is provided in each advisory, including clearer, actionable steps for that travelers can take to mitigate risk. (See Risk Indicators below). The DOS will update the advisories as needed, based on changes to security and safety information.

Risk Indicators

By using established risk indicators, the Travel Advisories at levels 2-4 provide clear reasons for the level assigned:


U.S. embassies and consulates will now issue Alerts to replace the Emergency Messages and Security Messages. Alerts will inform travelers of specific safety and security concerns in a country and will be labeled according to their issue: Security Alert; Health Alert; Weather Alert; or Demonstration Alert. Recent Alerts for a country appear below the Travel Advisory. Alerts can also be found on individual embassy or consulate websites.

Click here for an example of an embassy Alert message.

Additional Information

For an even more detailed description of these terms, please see the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) document, “Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.”