A U.S. State Department program that allows citizens to register with them before an international trip has been renamed "STEP" (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program). It was formerly known as "Travel Registration" or "Registration with Embassies."
The free service is now more user-friendly and allows enrollees to receive the latest information on overseas
destinations. Citizens who sign up will also receive travel warnings and alerts for the countries they choose. This information is compiled by consular officers around the world and is kept up to date.
Enrollment with the State Department can be useful in many circumstances. For instance, after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti 16,700 U.S. citizens were evacuated. If the State Dept. is aware citizens are present during times of civil unrest or natural disasters (typhoon, tsunami, etc.), the appropriate U.S. embassy or consulate will contact the traveler to offer assistance. They will also be of help in the case of a stolen or lost passport, or if family in the States cannot locate the traveler to give them urgent news.
The U.S. State Department advises their role in international travel:
"U.S. consular officers assist Americans who encounter serious legal, medical, or financial difficulties. Although consular officers cannot act as your legal counsel or representative, they can provide the names of local attorneys and doctors, provide loans to destitute Americans, and provide information about dangerous conditions affecting your overseas travel or residence. Consular officers also perform non-emergency services, helping Americans with absentee voting, selective service registration, receiving federal benefits, and filing U.S. tax forms. Consular officers can notarize documents, issue passports, and register American children born abroad. Most embassies and consulates have web sites with more information."
Travelers only need to register one time on the new site. Trips can be entered, amended and deleted. Users will also receive reports on possible risks and security threats to the countries they have entered.
For anyone worried about shared information, following is the State Dept. policy for the STEP program:
"All the personal information you provide to us is protected under the Privacy Act of 1974. This law prohibits us from sharing the information with anyone without your written authorization. Certain exceptions exist, such as when we need to share information on a limited basis in order to protect your safety and welfare in extreme circumstances."
Do you register, or have you ever registered, with the State Dept. before an overseas trip? Why or why not? Please comment below!
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