Level of Advice US Embassy Issues and Their Meaning

The U.S. Embassy regularly publishes updates on advice to its citizens recommending for or against travel to countries, and with good reason.

On October 4, the embassy issued its final advice to Kenya – a level two – asking its citizens to be extra careful when traveling to the country.

America issues four types of advice, categorized from levels 1 through 4, with the associated risks increasing with each level.

“We provide a general travel advisory level for a country, but the advisory level may vary for specific locations or areas within a country,” notes the US State Department.

An undated image of the entrance to the US Embassy in Gigiri, Nairobi.

Capital Group

The Level 1 Consulting is known as the ‘Exercise Normal Attention’ Level. At this level, US citizens are exposed to the fewest risks and can be given a tip on what to do in case of danger.

A Level 2 advisory requirements that citizen exercise more caution. This means that the US government has determined that traveling to the earmarked countries will expose citizens to heightened security risks.

Therefore, the consulate provides regular updates on the security situation, as conditions in each country can change at any time.

Level 3: Ainvalid travel – urges citizens not to travel to the host country unless deemed necessary due to serious security risks. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides additional advice for travelers in these areas.

In particular, the highest advice against travel is: Level 4: Don’t travel, and is issued when the risks involved are life-threatening.

“The State Department is advising US citizens not to enter or leave the country once it is safe to do so and provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in its Travel Advisory,” the International Travel Guide explains.

The recommendations are indicated by blue, cream, amber and red respectively. They are also accompanied by letters explaining the associated risks as follows:

C – Crime: Widespread violent or organized crime is widespread and present in parts of the country, and law enforcement agencies have limited capabilities to respond to serious crimes.

T – Terrorism: Terrorist threats and/or attacks have taken place against civilians, groups or other targets.

You – Civil unrest: There is political, economic, religious or ethnic instability that can lead to violence, major disruption or security risks.

A file image of business magnate and US ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman


H – Health: The issuance of a notice by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) against a disease, hhealth risks, including current disease outbreaks or a crisis disrupting a country’s medical infrastructure, are present.

N – Natural disaster: A natural disaster, or its aftermath, poses a threat.

E – Timed Event: Short-term events, such as elections, sporting events, or other incidents that may pose a security risk.

K – Kidnapping or Hostage: Criminal or terrorist individuals or groups have threatened and/or have threatened to seize or detain and threaten to kill, injure or continue to detain individuals in order to compel a third party (including a government organization) to do or to fail as a condition of release.

D – Unjust detention: There is a risk of wrongful detention of US citizens by a foreign government.

O – Other: Potential risks are not covered by previous risk indicators. Read the country’s travel advice for more information.

terrorist violence

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