The Department of State utilizes this program to inform U.S. citizens/nationals of potential threats to their health or safety abroad. U.S. law requires that the Department share information with U.S. citizens that will assist them in making prudent decisions about their own safety. The Bureau of Consular Affairs is responsible for issuing Travel Alerts, Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets on behalf of the Department of State. All these documents are posted on the State Department’s internet site, travel.state.gov. Our embassies and consulates are responsible for sending information to Americans resident abroad through what we refer to as Warden Messages. If the Warden Message concerns a threat to safety or security of U.S. citizens, it must be approved by the Department before release unless immediate notice is critical to the security of U.S. citizens/nationals.
The “No Double Standard” Policy
In administering the Consular Information Program, the Department of States applies a “no double standard” policy to important security threat information, including criminal information. Such information, if shared with the official U.S. community (generally defined as Americans working for the U.S. government abroad), must be made available to the wider American community if the threat applies to both official and non-official Americans.
Types of Documents
There are three main types of documents issued through the Consular Information Program:
- Travel Alerts (including Worldwide Caution Travel Alerts and regional Travel Alerts): Travel Alerts are issued to inform the American public quickly about relatively short-term conditions posing imminent risks to the security of U.S. citizens/nationals. Examples of events that might prompt a Travel Alert include terrorist attacks, coups, election-related demonstrations or violence, or demonstrations related to an international conference or sporting event.
- Travel Warnings: Travel Warnings advise U.S. citizens about the risks of travel to countries where conditions are dangerous or unstable and/or where the U.S. government’s ability to assist its citizens is constrained because of an Embassy draw-down or closure.
- Country Specific Information: The State Department provides basic information to enable travelers to make an informed decision about travel to a particular country. For example, this information will include (among other things) entry and exit requirements, road safety, crime information, health conditions, customs information and the contact information of the U.S. Embassy in that country.
The Consular Information Program also includes Warden Messages issued by posts abroad, Fact Sheets issued by the Department to address topical issues (for example, avian influenza) and travel brochures.