Pros and Cons of Smart Traveler Enrollment Program

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Theo
Travel Writer

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The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) allows U.S. citizens to register with the U.S. government to receive notifications during emergencies. It’s helpful if you don’t pay attention to the news much. But not so much so if you have privacy concerns. Keep reading to learn more.

I’ve used the STEP program for several years so far. I want to share some advantages and disadvantages based on my experience.


Summary

  • STEP delivers important safety & security information to your email inbox.
  • The US government will have your email, but you could use an email address you never use.
  • STEP won’t fill your inbox; they email once in a while.
  • You must sign up again when visiting another country.
  • The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is free to enroll.

Pros & Cons of STEP

The following sections will cover the advantages and disadvantages of registering for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.


1. Safety Updates Are Helpful

By enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, you can receive important safety and security information from the U.S. Department of State. This information can include travel warnings, alerts, and emergency messages to help you stay safe during your trip.

I’m in Taiwan. And most updates I’ve gotten are about vaccines during COVID-19, Taiwan military drills, and tips regarding emergency natural disaster preparation.


2. Consular Assistance

If you encounter an emergency while traveling abroad, enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program can help you access consular services. This can include assistance with medical emergencies, legal issues, and other emergencies.


3. Peace of Mind

Knowing that you have enrolled in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program can give you peace of mind while traveling. You will have access to essential information and assistance in an emergency, which can help you feel more secure and prepared.


4. It’s Free & Doesn’t Take Long to Register

It took me around 10 minutes to fill out my information and register for the notifications. Upon signing up, they’ll send a confirmation email.

You also don’t need to pay any money to receive notifications.


5. Makes It Easier for the Government to Find You During Emergencies

You don’t provide the U.S. government with your address in your country, but it can help you reach your local embassy or consulate quicker in an emergency. Though, you could use Google Maps to find your nearest diplomatic building.

You provide them with your contact information, which may make it so the government will let your family know what’s going on during an emergency. They don’t specify whether they do so, though.

However:

If they do, it will prove helpful if, for instance, your country’s had nationwide internet outages.


Cons of Smart Traveler Enrollment Program:

The following sections will cover the cons of the STEP program.


1. Doesn’t Serve as Proof of Citizenship

Though you’re registering your passport number and other personal information, you can’t use it to prove your identity in the country you’re staying in.


2. Have to Sign up Again When Traveling to Another Country

You must sign up for STEP notifications when entering a different country. Signing up for a notification takes less than 10 minutes, but it’s tedious if you’re backpacking across Europe or country-hopping in Asia.


3. Privacy Concerns

Some travelers may be concerned about the personal information collected when enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. This information can include your name, contact information, and travel itinerary.


4. Limited Assistance

While the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program can assist in an emergency, it may only be able to assist with some situations. Most travelers may prefer to rely on their own resources or local authorities instead.


5. Limited Coverage

The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is only available to U.S. citizens and nationals. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you may not be able to enroll in the program and receive its benefits.


What Is the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program?

The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service provided by the U.S. Department of State. The American government designed the program to help U.S. citizens and nationals stay safe while traveling abroad.

By enrolling in the program, travelers can receive important safety and security information from the U.S. Department of State, and access consular services in case of an emergency.


Who Is the STEP Program Best For?

The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is best for U.S. citizens and nationals who are planning to travel abroad.

It’s especially useful for those who fall under one of these scenarios:

  • Staying in a country for an extended period
  • The country frequently has natural disasters
  • Terrorism & crime frequently happens in the country visited

STEP’s also great for anyone who doesn’t pay attention to the local news much. As the U.S. government frequently provides updates regarding regional developments.


How to Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program

Enroll is the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program by visiting step.state.gov/STEP/pages/individuals/newAccountStart.aspx

From there, follow these steps:

  • Read and accept their Privacy Notice
  • Create an account: username, password, & security question
  • Enter your information:
    • Name
    • Birth date
    • Gender
    • Citizenship
    • Comments
    • Contact information
    • Passport number
  • Emergency contact information: all the information in this section is optional
    • Name
    • Contact information
    • Address

Once you have enrolled in the program, you will receive important safety and security information from the U.S. Department of State via email.


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Theodore began first experienced the wonders of traveling when visiting Vietnam. Afterward, he went crazy and ventured to at least… More about Theo