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State Department makes changes to travel warning system

The U.S. State Department on Wednesday rolled out a new system that seeks to clarify travel advisories for Americans overseas.

The US State Department on Wednesday issued new methodology for issuing worldwide travel advisory with Afghanistan placed along with about a dozen countries not fit for travel, while Pakistan was ranked among countries where travelers were asked to reconsider their plans.

"For instance, we may advise USA citizens to "Exercise Increased Caution" (Level 2) in a country, but to "Reconsider Travel" (Level 3) to a particular area within the country", the statement said.

The travel advisory further points out high-risk areas in the country that citizens should avoid.

This category includes countries like Iran, North Korea, Iraq and Syria.

"We already recommend people not to go to these countries", Bernier-Toth said of the level 4 nations.

Days after President Donald Trump halted all aids to Pakistan terming it "terror safe heaven", the USA has issued a new travel advisory to its citizens asking them to "reconsider" tour to Pakistan.

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Cuba, for instance, where the State Department has previously advised against travel, was listed as a Tier 3, rather than Tier 4, country.

Officials in the Kenyan government and the country's tourism industry are likely to welcome the changes initiated by the Trump administration. This stems from the recent update of how the US Department of State shares information with US travellers on January 10th.

United States citizens are advised not to travel to the eastern DRC and Kasai provinces under the new system, which sometimes has separate, higher tier rankings for particular regions within a country.

The new rankings replace the vague and often confusing system of issuing "travel alerts" for short-term dangers posed by events such as epidemics or mass protests, and "travel warnings" for long-standing concerns such as armed conflict or political instability.

"So it's going to be very obvious", Bernier-Toth said. She noted that even some of her colleagues had difficulty understanding the difference between "travel alerts" and "travel warnings" under the previous system. According to Michelle Bernier-Toth, Bureau of Consular Affairs acting deputy assistant secretary for overseas citizens services at the state department, the change came about about because travelers found the previous system hard to understand.

"We have been heavily investing in security", Esponda said.

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