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American travelers should have an easier time figuring out which countries are safe to visit since the State Department switched over to a color-coded system that labels the nations of the world from least to most dangerous.

“We wanted to make it clear what our advice was and improve our communication with US citizens,” State Department spokesman Kevin Brosnahan told the Washington Post.

Countries will be categorized from Level 1, represented by blue, for those places US travelers have least reason to be concerned traveling in, to Level 4, with a red theme, which the US government will strongly advise travelers not to visit at all. (Just because a country is listed as Level 4 doesn’t mean that Americans are actually prohibited from going there, though.) Level 2, or yellow, will come with the caveat to “exercise increased caution,” while Level 3, orange, will ask Americans to reconsider visiting.

Currently, the State Department issues travel alerts or travel warnings for each country individually in a system that’s widely considered confusing and vague. (Travel alerts are for short-term risks, while travel warnings are for countries with longer-term issues that the State Department asks you to reconsider going to.) The new system is the result of a yearlong reassessment by the department.

In addition to the colors and levels, each country’s entry on the State Department website will display icons detailing why the security level is appropriate, like if the country is experiencing political unrest, a natural disaster or an epidemic, or if it recently suffered a terrorist attack.

The list of every country’s security level hasn’t been finalized, but Brosnahan said Canada and North Korea would be likely examples of Level 1 and Level 4 nations. Countries may also receive more than one security rating from the State Department if internal regions vary in safety. For example, if a northern province borders a lawless war region, that area might get a Level 3 rating while the safer capital region gets a Level 1 or 2.

Levels will be assigned purely by security considerations for travelers, not as punishments or enticements for diplomatic or political reasons, Carl Risch, assistant secretary of state for consular affairs, told CNN.

The new system won’t affect the Smart Travelers Enrollment Program, which issues notifications directly to travelers for specific countries.

Featured image by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images.


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