Identifying High-Risk Destinations

Categorizing or quantifying risk is difficult, particularly for individual travelers and unique locations. The university uses the U.S. Department of State Travel Advisories as a baseline for initial identification of high-risk destinations. 

The university values Department of State expertise. University staff review and consider advisories and warnings as an experienced source of information. At the same time, travel advisories address travel at a basic level. Consequently, the university assesses identified destinations on a case-by-case basis (see Approving Travel to High-Risk Destinations).

Understanding Department of State Advisories

The U.S. Department of State assesses destinations from Level 1 (Exercise Normal Precautions) to Level 4 (Do Not Travel). The levels are assigned based prevailing indicators and degree of risk. The country and regional advisories, as well as the risk indicators, are explained below. For more information, please visit the U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Frequently Asked Questions.

The U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory system has four advisory levels, each with a corresponding color. Every country receives an advisory. Regions and cities may also receive an advisory level. Remember: Conditions and advisory levels may change at any time.

  • Level 1 - Exercise Normal Precautions (Blue): This is the lowest advisory level. There is risk for all international travel but travelers should be able navigate these risks.
  • Level 2 - Exercise Increased Caution (Yellow): Be aware of heightened risks to safety and security.
  • Level 3 - Reconsider Travel (Orange): Avoid travel due to serious risks to safety and security.
  • Level 4 – Do Not Travel (Red): This is the highest advisory level due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks. During an emergency, the U.S. government may have very limited ability to assist travelers. The U.S. Department of State advises that U.S. citizens not travel to the country or to leave as soon as it is safe to do so.

The U.S. Department of State assigns a Travel Advisory Level to countries, but risk (and the associated advisory) may vary within a country. For instance, an advisory may advise travelers to “Exercise increased caution” (Level 2) in a country, but to “Reconsider travel” (Level 3) to a particular region or city based on specific hazards.

  • Read the travel advisory. This is preferred as travelers must understand the affected area, the associated risk, and potential mitigation advice. Travel Advisories with regional differences clearly state “Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire advisory.” The advisory lists and describes the variations.
  • Review World at a Glance Map. The map displays each country by color. (Countries with no color are Level 1, Exercise Normal Caution.) Countries with a diagonal crosshatch (//////) have a region with elevated risk higher than the country designation. Travelers to these countries must read the Travel Advisory to understand the elevated risk.

Travel Advisories at Levels 2-4 contain clear reasons for the level assigned, using established risk indicators and specific advice to travelers who choose to those destinations.

C – Crime: Widespread violent or organized crime is present in areas of the country. Local law enforcement may have limited ability to respond to serious crimes.

T – Terrorism: Terrorist attacks have occurred and/or specific threats against civilians, groups, or other targets may exist.

U – Civil Unrest: Political, economic, religious, and/or ethnic instability exists and may cause violence, major disruptions, and/or safety risks.

H – Health: Health risks, including current disease outbreaks or a crisis that disrupts a country’s medical infrastructure, are present. The issuance of a Centers for Disease Control Travel Notice may also be a factor.

N – Natural Disaster: A natural disaster, or its aftermath, poses danger.

E – Time-limited Event: Short-term event, such as elections, sporting events, or other incidents that may pose safety risks.

D – Wrongful Detention: The risk of wrongful detention of U.S. nationals by a foreign government exists.

O – Other: There are potential risks not covered by previous risk indicators. Read each country’s Travel Advisory for details.

Graduate and Undergraduate Students: Identifying High-Risk Destinations

The identification of high-risk destinations is the same for all University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign students. International Safety and Security monitors insurance enrollments and attempts to assist students in identifying high-risk destinations but responsibility remains on the student.

  1. Open the Department of State’s Country Information webpage and select the advisory for each country to be visited.
  2. On each country page, observe two things:
    • Color and Advisory Level. Observe the color of the country banner (blue, yellow, orange, or red) and the associated level (Exercise Normal Precautions, Exercise Increased Caution, Reconsider Travel, or Do Not Travel).
    • Areas of Higher Risk. In the first two lines of the advisory, look for: “Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.”
  3. The destination is high-risk if:
    • The country color and advisory level is Orange (Level 3) or Red (Level 4).
    • The country color and advisory level is Blue (Level 1) or Yellow (Level 2) but the advisory for the intended destination (city or region) is Reconsider Travel or Do Not Travel.
  4. Travelers that identify the destination (country, region or city) as Level 3 (Reconsider Travel) or Level 4 (Do Not Travel) submit a travel request as explained at Approving Travel to High-Risk Destinations.

Note: If a country is Level 1 or Level 2 with areas of higher risk (Level 3 or Level 4) that will not be visited, the travel is not to a high-risk destination and no further action is required. It is only travel to a high-risk destination if a traveler intends to visit a destination identified as Level 3 or Level 4. If unsure, the traveler should contact International Safety and Security to discuss the situation.

Faculty-Staff: Identifying High-Risk Destinations

The university encourages faculty and staff to review the risks associated with their intended destinations and plan accordingly. International Safety and Security is available to consult with travelers on any destination. While the university affords faculty and staff significant personal discretion for travel, some destinations have significant risk that makes travel of interest to the university for the well-being of the traveler.

Consequently, International Safety and Security works with faculty-staff to identify travel to high-risk destinations during enrollment in the university-approved international insurance. However, we encourage faculty-staff to review the travel advisory for each intended destination to plan their travel. Travel advisories can be reviewed at the Department of State’s Country Information webpage.

For questions regarding a Travel Advisory or university approval, contact International Safety and Security for more information.