Understanding the State Department’s STEP Program

The U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service that can be a lifeline in case of emergencies or unexpected situations when traveling abroad. Overall, the STEP program provides the traveler with a direct connection to U.S. government support resources while abroad, helping them stay informed, prepared, and connected during unexpected situations. STEP allows you to access valuable resources and information provided by the local U.S. embassy or consulate before and during your trip, helping you plan and prepare effectively.

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program logo

The STEP program helps U.S. citizens traveling or living abroad in these primary ways:

  • Emergency Communication:

    • In case of a natural disaster, political unrest, or personal emergency, the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate can contact you directly with important information and instructions.
    • Helps the U.S. government coordinate potential evacuations.
  • Up-to-date Safety Information:

    • Sends email alerts about safety conditions in your destination country. This includes travel warnings, health alerts, weather warnings, and security information.
    • Provides a way to get in touch with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for specific advice if situations change at your destination.
  • Assistance for Your Family:

    • If a family emergency occurs back home, or your family can’t reach you during a crisis abroad, the U.S. embassy or consulate can use the information you provided to try and contact you.

Graphic for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program

Who Should Register?

STEP is beneficial for any U.S. citizen traveling or living abroad, especially in:

  • Politically unstable regions
  • Areas prone to natural disasters
  • Countries with a high risk of violence
  • Locations with limited internet access (for extended stays)
  • Places where you might be a target due to ethnicity or religion

Applying for STEP is Easy:

Head over to the STEP website (https://step.state.gov/) and create an account. You’ll need to provide basic information about yourself and your trip itinerary.

Once at Your Destination:

There are no specific requirements once you arrive at your destination. However, it’s recommended to keep your STEP registration updated with any changes in your contact information or travel plans.

By registering with STEP, you’re taking a vital step towards a safe and informed journey abroad. Remember, STEP is just one element of smart travel, particularly when traveling to destinations prone to natural disasters or with a higher than average risk of violence.