What is the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program and why do you need it?

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and many countries post record daily or weekly cases, the US State Department is now warning that US citizens traveling abroad may face unexpected challenges linked to the coronavirus when they attempt to return to the United States or travel. from one foreign country to another.

One of those challenges is simply staying on top of the travel restrictions of various countries.

That’s because governments around the world continue to implement new requirements and even impose new travel restrictions as they work to keep the tally of COVID-19 cases in their own countries. The problem, however, is that changes are often implemented quickly with little notice, which may surprise travelers.

The good news is that the State Department offers a service that helps U.S. citizens and nationals stay informed about changing conditions in the countries they are visiting or considering visiting.

the Smart traveler enrollment program (STEP) is a free service that allows U.S. citizens and U.S. nationals traveling and living abroad to register their trip with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. This way, they can quickly receive important information from the United States Embassy on security conditions in their destination country, which helps them make informed decisions on their travel plans. Another benefit is that listing a trip in STEP makes it easier for the U.S. Embassy to contact travelers with important information about natural disasters or civil unrest in their destination country, or to contact the traveler in the event of a family emergency.

Here’s a rundown of what you need to know about STEP before your next international trip.

Created to help American citizens

Consular officials at U.S. embassies and consulates can assist U.S. citizens who experience legal, medical, or financial difficulties while visiting other countries. For example, if a U.S. citizen’s passport is stolen while traveling, staff at an embassy or consulate can help that traveler obtain a replacement passport. They can also provide the names of local English-speaking doctors or lawyers, as well as information about unsafe conditions.

“In a crisis situation such as a natural disaster or severe political instability, the State Department often plays an active role in providing information and assistance to American citizens in the affected area,” the State Department Explain. “We encourage all US citizens traveling or residing overseas to notify the nearest US Embassy or Consulate of their contact details so that in an emergency we can contact them to provide important safety information. and safety, or assistance in the event of a crisis. Signing up for STEP is a simple way to send us your details online.

In addition to travel advisories, US embassies and consulates often send alerts on emerging situations in a country. It is important to enter your international trip in STEP as these alerts are written specifically for a traveller’s travel and destination dates.

You can find out more about the STEP service here and create an account to register a trip here.

Know before you go

If you are planning an international trip, the State Department has two other suggestions for you. The first is to visit its Country Information webpage so that you can find out more about your destination.

“We provide safety and security information for every country in the world to help you assess the risks of travel on your own. Each country information page contains travel advisories, alerts, and other important country-specific details that could affect you, ”the State Department explains. “Pay close attention to entry and exit requirements, local laws and customs, health conditions, and other details when deciding if traveling to this country is right for you.”

The State Department’s country information web page can be found here.

The State Department’s second suggestion is to visit its traveler’s checklist webpage, which can be found at here.

This page includes information on how to find out about conditions in a country you plan to visit and make sure you have all the necessary documents. It also provides information on three types of insurance: health insurance, evacuation insurance and supplemental insurance for unforeseen expenses such as those resulting from an interrupted or delayed trip and lost luggage.

While you’re thinking about international travel, be sure to read all of our travel news coverage as well as our COVID-19 coverage, including 6 things the State Department says you should do if you’re traveling to the. abroad and 21 expert tips for traveling. Internationally at the moment.