Careful planning and common sense are two of the best ways to stay safe when traveling, security situations can change very rapidly in foreign countries and if you’re not carefully following the news, you might miss an important update. In the recent years, the travel community has been shaken by attacks of various size and scope, from Turkey to France. And while most of the destinations that were targeted are most likely no more dangerous than they were before the attack, it pays to be prepared when you’re heading to a country, regardless of when or where you travel.
One of the most helpful resources the U.S. State Department have developed is Smart Traveller Enrolment Program (STEP), in this program users who register trips will get messages relevant to their area and dates of passage.
What is Smart Traveller Enrolment Program STEP?
The Smart Traveller Enrolment Program (STEP) is a free service that allows U.S. citizens traveling or living abroad to enrol their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for receiving latest security updates about the locations they travel.
The sign up for this program is completely free and customisable. You can enter a trip and receive updates and messages for that trip, then delete it when you get home, and add a new trip when you’re ready to go again. You need to sign up only one time.
Who Should Register for STEP
The primary purpose of STEP is to keep American citizens safe. While you probably don’t need to register if you’re taking a weekend trip to Canada. The following 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 long) where you may have limited internet 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 even require participants to enrol.
Importance of STEP
The geo and political situations of every country is changing every minute. It is the responsibility of the state to protect the life as well as the security of its citizen who is traveling abroad. Protecting the lives and interests of U.S. citizens abroad is a core mission of U.S. Embassies and Consulates. They encourage all U.S. citizens travelling or residing overseas to notify the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate of their contact information so that, in an emergency, the consulate can contact them to provide important safety and security information, or support during a crisis.
Benefits of enrolling STEP
Deliver Country specific Travel Advisories to Your Inbox
When you have a Smart Traveller Enrolment account, you enter your country destinations and get reports that detail current social climate and security threats before you ever leave home. While traveling, you’ll get updated fact sheets and emergency messages for the countries you’re visiting delivered right to your e-mail. You can make the best travel decisions based on the facts.
Expedite Passport Recovery and Emergency Services
Smart travellers make passport security their number one priority while traveling, but unexpected things still happen despite your best efforts. With your account, your passport and identification information will be securely stored in case your passport is lost, stolen, or destroyed while traveling. Make it easier for the American Embassies to better help you in any kind of emergency.
Assist in Your Own Evacuation
With a Smart Traveller Enrolment account, you’ll be in a database of U.S. citizens visiting a particular country in the event of a natural disaster or security threat. Having this connection can prove invaluable in a time of crisis. Consular officers at Embassies and Consulates can assist U.S. citizens who encounter serious legal, medical, or financial difficulties overseas. Past emergencies include the evacuation of U.S. citizens following devastating earthquakes, tsunamis, and hurricanes; and, during civil unrest, like in Lebanon and South Sudan.
Receive Urgent Information from Home
Occasionally, the crisis is on the other end of travel: home. Your Smart Traveller Enrolment account provides a means for consulates across the globe to contact you when there is an emergency. While it’s great to escape the day-to-day with travel, the smart traveller always has a backup means of communication in case of a real emergency.
How to enrol for STEP?
Infrequent travellers can enrol a single trip on the STEP homepage by selecting the Traveling option and enrol a trip option. Those who travel often can create an account by clicking the frequent traveller. Then create an account option. An account allows travellers to quickly modify their travel information and enrol additional trips in the future. A large group of travellers can be enrolled by selecting the Create Organization/Group Account option at the bottom of the STEP homepage.
The registration process is broken down into two steps. First, you’ll have to create an account and fill in your personal information (Name, Date of Birth (DOB), passport info), contact information and provide emergency contacts. This process is incredibly straightforward and can be completed in a matter of minutes.
Once your account is set up, you’ll need to log in and register each specific trip or residence abroad. You repeat this process for each new trip if you’d like to receive STEP alerts. You’ll then be prompted to fill in information about your upcoming trip and select the nearest US consulate to where you’ll be staying. Note that “destination” refers to the country, not specific city, state or territory, and the available options will auto fill as you type.
You’ll then fill in the dates of your trip, the reason you’re traveling and how you can be reached while abroad. The entire process takes less than 60 seconds, after which you’ll be brought to a page of specific information for your country. You have to keep in mind that just because you enrol in STEP does not mean you should close your eyes and stop paying attention to developments around you.
The security programs like STEP help the US consulate to track the citizens. If any sudden emergencies like terrorist attach happen in any country. This programme has played an important role for the consulate to coordinate and implement emergencies when the terrorist attack on France and London took place. Some travellers avoid STEP as a part of their data protection. Those travellers can follow the U.S. State Department’s alerts and warnings. They can also follow services like France’s SAIP app and Facebook’s Safety Check feature.