DOS Information

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) is responsible for communicating important information about travel destinations that is relevant to U.S. citizens traveling abroad.

They communicate this information in two key ways: 

  • Travel advisories
  • Security messaging and STEP notifications

In January 2018, the DOS transitioned from a travel warning and alert-based system in which guidance was only provided for select countries or regions, to an all-encompassing advisory system in which each country is assigned a level based on a four-tier scale. 

  1. Exercise Normal Precautions
  2. Exercise Increased Caution
  3. Reconsider Travel
  4. Do Not Travel
  • Level 1 cautions about universal risks. Levels 2 though 4 have additional risk indicators assigned which help travelers understand the nature of the risks they may face in a given location.

    • C – Crime
    • D - Wrongful Detention
    • E – Time-limited Event
    • H – Health
    • K – Kidnapping
    • N – Natural Disaster
    • O - Other
    • T – Terrorism
    • U – Civil Unrest

    Level 3: Reconsider Travel is the level at which the DOS begins to introduce strong language such as “avoid.” Level 4: Do Not Travel is the highest level advisory and contains very strong cautionary language. The DOS advises that U.S. citizens not travel to countries or regions with an active Level 4 designation or encourages those who are in a Level 4 area to leave as soon as it is safe to do so.

    • Embassies and Consulates
    • Destination Description
    • Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements
    • Safety and Security
    • Local Laws & Special Circumstances
    • Health
    • Travel and Transportation

    Travel advisories can change at any time. Additionally, specific regions within a country may possess a higher level advisory than the assigned country-wide level. It is important to read travel advisory information carefully, as context and details matter.

    Security alerts and messages are posted by the local U.S. embassy or consulate and are shared through STEP. 


Enrolling in STEP

All travelers are strongly encouraged to enroll in the U.S. Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive important security updates during their international travels. Oftentimes this advice relates to planned protests, union strikes or other events which can impact logistics and travel itineraries.

Communications with headings such as “Message for U.S. Citizens” typically relate to administrative updates.

Communications with headings such as “Security Message for U.S. Citizens” alerts travelers to security situations to which they should be aware and provides specific guidance on areas to avoid. 

Communications with headings such as “Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens” warns of imminent threats to safety or security and contains instructions and specific actions travelers should take to remain safe.

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Non-U.S. Citizens Traveling Abroad

Travelers who are not U.S. citizens or individuals who do not have a U.S. passport may still enroll in the Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in order to receive local security alerts and updates that may impact travel plans.

While you can receive security messages put forth by the local U.S. consulate or embassy in your destination, please be advised that U.S. embassies and consulates are unable to assist non-U.S. citizens in the event of an emergency. Instead, during your pre-departure planning please identify the nearest consulate or embassy of your country in your intended destination. You may also wish to register your travel with them if they offer a similar traveler emergency notification service. 

Note that assistance for U.S. lawful permanent residents is provided by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). U.S. embassies or consulates can only provide limited services for LPRs.

Prior to traveling abroad, Kennesaw State University international students and scholars  on an F-1 or J-1 visa and their dependents must comply with the overseas travel requirements outlined by the International Student and Scholar Services Office. Individuals with other visa statuses should contact their visa sponsor for travel advice. Failure to do so may result in issues at the port of entry including detention by Customs and Border Patrol or being refused entry to the United States.  The university will be limited in its ability to assist a traveler in the event of detention by Customs and Border Patrol.

Kennesaw State students, faculty and staff who have additional questions about international travel requirements or restrictions for non-U.S. citizens are encouraged to contact the International Student and Scholar Services Office.

Crime Mitigation Strategies

    • Many crimes are a factor of three elements: Desire, Ability and Opportunity. By minimizing Opportunity through the employ of good crime mitigation strategies in conjunction with situational awareness, travelers can help promote their own personal safety and welfare while abroad.
    • In many destinations, foreigners are assumed to be wealthy (Desire) and may pose a prime target for petty theft.  In addition to maintaining situational awareness, a good way to minimize your risk of theft is by avoiding public displays of wealth. Leave valuables at home, especially if you do not need them.  A simple wristwatch can easily function in lieu of a smartwatch for the purposes of telling time. Similarly, designer luggage may be a cue for opportunistic baggage handlers, taxi drivers or others targeting foreign arrivals at airports. Employ Situational Awareness and be cognizant of your belongings at all times.
    • Also employ security measures when using ATMs. Criminals often target individuals using ATMs to withdraw funds, tamper with ATMs to receive information from ATM users or, in some countries, target the physical ATM machines themselves.  It is best to use ATMs in secure locations and always take precautions to prevent others from viewing PIN numbers or other important information.
    • Separate your documents and keep duplicates of important paperwork, such as a photocopy of your passport and visa (if applicable). Leave a copy of your credit or debit card information with someone you trust at home in the event that you lose your cards and need to cancel them.  Similarly, keep cash, credit cards or transit cards in separate locations. If your hotel has a safe, use it to store valuables during the day while you are out and only take what you anticipate needing.
    • Phone case wallets, while popular and convenient, are not well suited for use while traveling abroad.  Smartphones are very popular targets for thieves, and it is common in metro areas in some countries for individuals on mopeds to target exits or entrances to subways or other metro stations for individuals using these devices whilst emerging for drive-by grab-and-go opportunities.
    • It is recommended to have a small wallet for day-to-day use for storing small amounts of cash and which can act as a “mugger’s wallet” in the event that you are approached by an assailant.  If approached by an assailant, do not assume that the individual is unarmed or rational; instead, comply with demands to hand over a bag or wallet. Do not resist or attempt to fight back. Items can be replaced and credit cards canceled; they are not worth the risk to your safety.  
  • Situational awareness consists of being aware of one’s own surroundings and environment, identifying and assessing potential threats or dangerous situations. It is a mindset that can be adopted by anyone who wishes to proactively mitigate their risks and take control of their safety and wellbeing. 

    When traveling to a new environment, you may not have the some understanding of the resources or lay of the land as locals do. It takes a while to build up familiarity to be able to gauge what may be normal or unusual, or whom to trust.  During these times, it is best to keep your situational awareness higher than you might on a day-to-day basis at home.

    Upon arrival, get to know the lay of the land and build an emergency action plan; that is, establish a plan for communicating with others and know local emergency resources.

    • Do I know the local version of 911?
    • Do I know how to contact my program leader/students/travel companions (if applicable)?
    • Do I know how to contact CISI?
    • Do I know where my nearest embassy or consulate is?
    • Do I know where the local medical facilities are?  The pharmacy?
    • Do I know where the local police station is?
    • Do I have copies of my important documents (i.e. passport, visas, insurance card)?

    A few key elements to employ while practicing situational awareness are as follows:

    • Recognize that threats to your personal health, safety and security do exist. This is true even while traveling in locations considered “safer” than others.
    • Understand that you are ultimately responsible for your own security. Resources of governments and first responders are finite, particularly during major events. Look out for yourself as well as engage in bystander intervention by looking out for the wellbeing of any travel companions.

    Trust your gut. Your subconscious can often notice subtle signs of danger that you may not be able to fully articulate or comprehend consciously in a given moment. It may be inconvenient to trust your intuition, but if you suspect you may be in danger following your instincts can help you avoid a more serious complication or situation.

IT Security

    • If you can do without it, leave it at home. This is especially true in the instance of smart watches that may be dependent on other devices to get the full scope of use and have separate charging requirements.
    • Back up your data and leave it in a secure location prior to departure.
    • Use OneDrive for all data storage.
    • Make sure your software is up to date, especially antivirus and antimalware software.
    • Make sure your passwords are strong (unique, complex, random, as needed).
    • Assume your credentials were compromised while you were abroad. Upon your return, reset all the passwords that you utilized while out of the country.
    • Clear your browsing history.
    • Return all borrowed/loaner equipment to the Help Desk.
  • Specifically, if you are traveling to a country with a DOS Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution travel advisory or above, UITS recommends the following:

    • Obtain a Duo Mobile key fob - the UITS Service Desk will provide a key fob to use in lieu of a Duo push.
    • Copy needed data to your KSU OneDrive share.
    • Utilize the KSU Global Protect VPN software installed on the laptop. Never sign in to public Wi-Fi and connect without using a VPN.
    • Keep your devices with you at all times. Do not leave them in your hotel room, even in a safe, unattended. You should use this precaution, regardless of your travel destination.
  • Travelers should familiarize themselves with the following policies prior to travel.

    • Data Security
    • Computer Usage
    • Intellectual Property

Protecting Research Data

    • Some countries reserve the right to inspect or copy data from electronic devices from international travelers, including those returning to the United States. Make sure you know what to expect from your destination.
    • Some countries do not permit the possession of material or media that might be politically or nationally critical of the government or country. Avoid storing such media on your electronic devices.
    • It is not uncommon for government agents or officials to knowingly access or copy confidential information.
    • Decide to retain the minimum necessary data, applications, or files on your electronic device. In addition, minimize the total number of devices you bring along.
    • Consider the local telecommunications infrastructure and plan accordingly. For instance, if you use your phone for Duo authentication, and you are traveling to an area without reliable service, arrange for an alternative method (such as a Duo token) that does not rely on a cellular connection.
    • Be aware of any restrictions related to the data for which you are entrusted.
    • Create a new backup of all critical data and files to a university-approved backup device you plan to leave at home.
    • Make sure the software (operating systems, virus protection apps) on your devices are patched and up to date
    • Completely clear your history, passwords, and caches from the browsers that you use.
    • Ensure that your device’s drive is encrypted.
    • Consider using OneDrive to store data/documents while you are abroad.
    • Disable all unnecessary services (e.g. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, when not in use) on your device.
    • Power off your device when not in use.
    • If you are asked to surrender your credentials to search your device, change it as soon as possible afterwards.
    • Always connect to the internet through the KSU Global Protect VPN.
    • Never use your credentials on any public machine.
    • Do not use storage devices given to you or found, such as a USB drive.

*Travelers should also be aware that they may encounter increased scrutiny and screening of electronic devices at ports of entry both in certain destinations as well as upon re-entry into the United States.

U.S. and International Law

All travelers are expected to conduct research into and obey local laws of their destination county(ies).  When traveling abroad, individuals are subject the laws of the country in which they are traveling. Individuals found to be in violation of the host country’s laws, even unknowingly, can face deportation, fines or arrest and imprisonment. See Arrests Abroad for more information.

That said, there are certain U.S. laws which do apply to activities abroad.  These include:

  • Regulations which control technology which can be brought overseas or shared with others. See IT and Data Security or contact University Information Technology Service for more information.
  • Some countries and individuals have limitations placed upon them by the Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) restricting U.S. organizations from conducting business with those under the restrictions.
  • The Clery Act can extend to certain overseas locations. If you are a faculty leading an education abroad program, you are a Campus Security Authority and are required to report crimes of which you become aware while leading your education abroad program. The Office of International Safety & Security works with the Kennesaw State University Department of Public Safety and University Police to fulfill the university’s Clery reporting duties through the collection and inclusion of these statistics in the university’s Annual Security and Fire Safety Report.
  • In many countries, corruption is a significant problem which travelers may face or be expected to engage in as a part of doing business. The U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act applies to unlawful gifts or payments to foreign governments or officials, which can include employees of universities.
  • Similarly, foreign entities may attempt to bribe or otherwise engage travelers whom they see as having sensitive information of great value to the foreign entity or government. Elicitation is the strategic use of conversation to extract information of value without the target knowing they are being interrogated or disclosing information they should not. The FBI provides guidance related to elicitation practices and strategies. Should you be concerned that you are being approached or pressured to divulge sensitive information, please report this to your program leader, the Office of International Safety & Security or the U.S. embassy or consulate.

Changes in Security Environment

The geopolitical sphere is dynamic and constantly changing. As such, travelers should always monitor local events in their destination in advance of departure as well as while abroad, being cognizant of any security concerns that may pose significant logistical challenges or safety issues to any upcoming or current international travel.

In the event of an incident, event or change impacting the security environment of a location, travelers may need to modify itineraries, change intended activities or relocate to a new destination, or cancel travel altogether. 

The Office of International Safety & Security does not restrict faculty or staff traveling for business purposes but may provide additional context or guidance to travelers advising of increased risk profile of reported location(s) of travel.  Faculty and staff traveling for business purposes are highly encouraged to enroll their travel with both On Call International for in-country alerts, as well as with CISI for medical as well as non-medical (political insecurity and natural disaster) emergency evacuation coverage.  Faculty and staff should respond to any and all check-in requests from the Office of International Safety & Security during their business travels abroad.

Student travel, particularly travel to high risk destinations, is subject to review at any time. The International Risk Management Advisory Board (IRMAB) retains the right to rescind approval to student travel due to deteriorating security conditions in-country. The university will work with the CISI insurance provider to assist students who are in-country regarding program relocation or evacuation.

For students participating in education abroad programs, please contact the Education Abroad Office with any questions related to program modification, relocation or cancellation and related policies.