How the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program could help you on your next trip abroad

6 October 2023

Editor’s note: This post has been updated.

Though careful planning and common sense are two of the best ways to stay safe when traveling, security situations can rapidly change in foreign countries.

That’s why the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs has created the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to help keep you up-to-date on relevant security updates from the nearest U.S. consulate, wherever in the world you happen to be.

Here’s how to sign up for STEP.

Who should register for STEP?

US STATE DEPARTMENT

The primary purpose of STEP is to keep American citizens safe. Here are a few reasons to consider signing up:

You’re traveling to an area that’s politically unstable or prone to violence.
You’re taking an extended trip (several weeks or months) where you have limited Wi-Fi access.
You’re traveling for a major event, summit or conference (like the World Cup) that might become the target of protests or attacks.
You’re a minority traveling to an area where you might be targeted as an outsider.
You’d like an additional safety resource during your trip, no matter the destination.

Some group trips or programs may require participants to enroll. For instance, I had to enroll when I studied abroad in college.

In the event of a rapidly deteriorating situation, such as a coup or natural disaster, STEP can connect you with evacuation efforts or provide important safety information and help you take care of yourself.

How to register

To register, create an account and fill in your personal information and emergency contact details.

Once your account is set up, log in and register each specific trip or residence abroad. You’ll repeat this process for each new trip to receive STEP alerts.

US STATE DEPARTMENT

You’ll then be prompted to enroll any upcoming trips to receive STEP notifications. Select the nearest U.S. consulate to where you’ll be staying. Note that “destination” refers to the country (not a specific city, state or territory), and the available options will auto-fill as you type.

Next, fill in the dates of your trip, the reason you’re traveling and how you can be reached while abroad. If there are any timely alerts specific to your destination, you’ll also be alerted of that information at this point.

US STATE DEPARTMENT

Bottom line

It may be helpful to think of STEP like travel insurance: If all goes well, you won’t need to use it, and you might even forget you have it.

However, if things go wrong while you’re traveling abroad, your local U.S. embassy is the quickest way to get help; the embassy’s goal is to ensure all Americans in its jurisdiction are safe and accounted for. This is when STEP notifications can become incredibly important.

The entire sign-up process takes less than five minutes, and the trip registration process takes about 60 seconds.

For additional resources, be sure to follow the State Department on Twitter and bookmark its international travel page for the latest country alerts.

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The difference between CDC and State Department travel warnings
Confused by State Department travel advisories? Here’s what they mean
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Need Help?

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