Expatriates may be leaving their home country to live abroad.
But most still want to be able to maintain connection with their families and homeland.
However, depending on where they want to travel, it might be difficult to get in touch with family during emergencies or to receive alerts about life-threatening situations in the area.
That’s why the U.S. State Department created the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which allows travelers to voluntarily provide details about their foreign visits before they leave.
3 Reasons You Should Register with the U.S. Embassy
The government encourages everyone who is traveling abroad to register their trips with the U.S. Embassy. Many colleges and universities even request that students studying abroad to provide their information to the U.S. Embassy.
Registration is not required – you will still be allowed back in the country and if you run into trouble, the U.S. Embassy will still offer you the same level of guidance and assistance.
Think of like an insurance policy. In all likelihood you won’t need it, but when a situation arises you’re happy that you’ve enrolled.
Before you decide to skip your STEP registration, it’s important to understand the importance of participating in the program. Here are three big reasons you should register your trip with the U.S. Embassy.
1. Get Important Notifications While in Foreign Countries
Some countries are safer than others to visit.
When you register your travel with the U.S. Embassy, you’ll effectively be added to an email, text message, or mobile app distribution list, similar to how you might receive weather or traffic alerts from news organizations in the states.
The U.S. Department of State will send you updates and notifications about your destinations including weather, crime, and travel alerts, as well as safety warnings for Americans abroad.
In addition to receiving these alerts during your time abroad, you will also receive notifications prior to your trip so you can make educated decisions about your itinerary.
2. Provide a Way for Family and the Government to Contact You
Let’s face it, not all of the places you might be visiting or living abroad will have easy access to communication.
Internet service may be spotty at best, and cell service may be nonexistent.
If you register your travel information with the U.S. embassy prior to your visit, a government official will have your address and phone number on specific dates during your time abroad and will try to contact you in case of a family emergency. This also allows the government to check in with you in the event of a man-made or natural disaster, civil unrest or terrorist attack.
It’s worth noting that your plans will probably change, especially if you will be out of the country for months or years. You’ll probably plan other international trips that were not originally part of your travel itinerary. Be sure to update your account when your travel plans change so your contact information is accurate.
3. Receive Assistance with Passport and Visa Processing
It happens to the best of us.
You’re traveling abroad and something unexpected happens, and you lose your passport and other vital travel documents.
Registering your travel information with the U.S. Embassy prior to your time abroad makes it easier for you to request expedited passport and visa processing. This is important because when you are traveling internationally, these documents are usually the only identification that will be legally accepted by whatever foreign country you are visiting.
How to Register with the U.S. Embassy
Registering with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate can be done in person, or if you’d prefer you can complete the process in just a few minutes by following several easy steps online.
- Create a username and password on the STEP website
- Fill out your itinerary, including your travel dates, addresses, and phone numbers for every place you’ll be staying while abroad
- Input your passport information (number, date of issue, and expiration date) and add the trip to your account
- Add your email to the appropriate list for each country to which you are traveling
- Confirm your information is correct and send your itinerary to the embassy
Remember, it’s not mandatory to register with the U.S. Embassy.
You just need to consider if you’re willing to take the risk of being more on your own should something unexpected happen.