Role of State Department in a Crisis

What the State Department Can and Cannot Do in a Crisis


How can I get updates during a crisis?

We encourage all U.S. citizens traveling abroad, especially citizens who plan to be overseas for a significant amount of time, to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). We strongly encourage you to enroll with us at It is important that you keep your contact information up-to-date so that we can notify you or your designated emergency contact of developments and provide valuable information.

Be sure to monitor our website,, for updates, as this is our primary tool to disseminate important information during a crisis. Our Facebook and Twitter accounts are also good sources of information.

Can I be evacuated during a crisis?

The actions the U.S. government takes depend on the nature of the crisis. In some instances, we may only need to provide information on conditions in the country, such as warning about areas of unrest, how and where to seek help, and other useful advice. In more serious situations, we may help arrange departure assistance through commercial sources.

Can I be picked up from my home during an evacuation?

It is almost impossible for the U.S. government to provide in-country transportation services to individuals or specific groups during a foreign crisis. You should therefore pay close heed to our travel and safety information for the country you are traveling to or residing in, monitor local conditions, and have a plan of action in case of emergency.

Is the evacuation process free?

Departure assistance can be expensive. U.S. law requires that any departure assistance be provided on a reimbursable basis. Generally, normal commercial travel is less expensive and more comfortable than what the U.S. government can provide during an emergency.

Can my friends and non-U.S. citizen family be assisted during a crisis?

During a crisis, our priority is assisting U.S. citizens. You should not expect to bring friends or relatives who are not U.S. citizens on U.S. government chartered or non-commercial transportation. Exceptions may be made to accommodate special family circumstances, such as when the spouse of a U.S. citizen is a legal permanent resident, or “green card” holder; however, it is the non-U.S. citizen’s responsibility to be sure he or she has appropriate travel documentation and a visa for the destination location.