If you are a United States citizen planning a trip abroad, you may wonder if there is any way to get information and help if an emergency occurs in your destination country. For many years, the US Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs has offered travelers a way to register their trips so that embassy and consulate employees can find them if a natural disaster or civil unrest might be imminent. This program, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), has three components.
Personal Profile and Access Permission
The first thing you must do to register your trip with the State Department is to set up a personal profile, which includes your name, address, telephone number, email address, points of contact and a unique password. You will also need to decide who else might need to find you or access your contact information in case of an international emergency.
You can choose any combination of family, friends, legal or medical representatives, members of the media or members of Congress. You must provide at least one telephone number or email address that the State Department can use to contact you in the United States in order to participate in STEP.
Tip: If you do not authorize the disclosure of your contact information prior to your trip, US State Department employees will not be able to tell anyone where you are because the terms of the Privacy Act prevent them from doing so. This means that you should authorize the disclosure of your personal information to at least one person besides yourself so that someone at home can find you through STEP if a disaster occurs. Also, if you need to get help from your embassy or consulate while you are traveling abroad, you will need to provide proof of US citizenship.
If you wish, you may enter information about an upcoming trip as part of the STEP registration process. This information will enable State Department employees to find and help you if a disaster or uprising happens or seems likely to occur. They will also send you Travel Alerts and Travel Warnings for your destination(s).
You may register multiple trips. In addition, you can register a group of travelers under one traveler's name if you list your fellow travelers in the "accompanying travelers" field. Family groups should sign up in this way, but groups of unrelated adult travelers should register separately so that the State Department can record and, if necessary, use emergency contact information for each person.
By registering your upcoming trip with the US Department of State, you will be able to receive timely, destination-specific emails that will alert you to current developments in the countries you plan to visit. If security issues arise, the State Department will proactively contact you so that you do not need to rely exclusively on news reports to find out what problems might be occurring at your destination.
Tip: You will not be able to enter your trip information if 1) your destination country does not have a US embassy or consulate or 2) you cannot provide local contact information, such as a hotel address or the telephone number of a friend, when you register your trip.
Travel Warning, Alert and Information Update Subscription
If you wish, you may also sign up to receive email updates, including Travel Alerts, Travel Warnings and country-specific information issued by the State Department. You can do this either as part of the trip registration process or as a separate email subscription.
Can Non-Citizens Enroll in STEP?
Legal permanent residents (green card holders) may not enroll in STEP, but may participate in similar programs offered by the embassies and consulates of their countries of citizenship. However, legal permanent residents of the United States are allowed to register with STEP as part of a group of US travelers, provided the main point of contact for the group is a US citizen.
The Bottom Line
Registering your trip will help the US Department of State let you know about potential travel-related issues and come to your aid if problems occur in your destination country. The process is quick and easy, particularly once you have set up your personal profile. Why not visit the STEP website and get started today?