Consular Closings Update and Travel Warnings15 Aug 2013
As was widely reported in the media, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) temporarily closed twenty-two embassies and consulates in early August 2013, due to al-Qaida related security concerns. Nineteen posts were closed through August 10, 2013. Subsequently, nearly all of the embassies and consulates reopened. Security threats and other hazards in many parts of the world make it incumbent upon travelers to remain aware of travel warnings and alerts when they plan to be abroad.
Recent Closures in Yemen and Lahore, Pakistan
The DOS issued a Worldwide Travel Alert on August 2, 2013 regarding potential terrorist attacks in the Middle East and northern Africa. The perceived risk of attack diminished, so that by August 11, 2013, only the Embassy in Yemen and the U.S. Consulate in Lahore, Pakistan remained closed. While the DOS warnings are aimed at U.S. citizens, the information is helpful for anyone with travel plans to the affected regions. Such warnings are available on the International Travel section of the DOS WebSite. The DOS has three tiers of information available online, to help individuals make informed decisions about whether or not to travel to a particular area. Worldwide Travel Alerts, fortunately, are less common than country-specific travel warnings and alerts.
Country-Specific Travel Warnings
Travel Warnings are issued for situations that are severe enough that the DOS wants individuals to carefully consider whether to travel to the particular country. As explained by the DOS, Travel Warnings are issued for matters such as government instability, civil war, intense crime / violence, or frequent terrorist attacks. The DOS wants travelers to be aware of these situations and to consider avoiding travel to such areas. These warnings may stay in place for extended periods of time.
Country-Specific Travel Alerts
The DOS issues Travel Alerts for temporary conditions that should be taken into consideration when making travel plans. These matters can include health or severe weather alerts, volatile election seasons with disturbances and demonstrations, or heightened risk of terrorist attacks. For example, at the time of this writing, Travel Alerts in place include hurricane season warnings for the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, as well as election-related warnings for Mali and Iran. The DOS cancels these more short-term alerts when the particular condition passes or is resolved.
The DOS also provides a wealth of country-specific information for travelers. This information is likely to be helpful in facilitating smoother travel, even for those planning trips to common vacation locations. The DOS lays out entry and exit requirements, health facility information, potential scams, high crime areas within the particular country, and other useful travel information. For those planning trips abroad, it is worthwhile to review this information in order to become aware of details and issues that may not have otherwise been considered.
The DOS provides helpful information and a broad range of global travel- and country-related information that goes well beyond emergency warnings. Those who are considering travel are advised to check the DOS WebSite, not just for visa-related matters, but to also become informed about document requirements, health warnings, crime risks, and other important travel-related details.
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