A new service has been rolled out by the U.S. Government designed to help travelers should they run into passport problems on the road. It’s called STEP or Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. According to the State Department website when you enroll you’ll “automatically receive the most current information…about the country where you will be traveling or living.” It also makes you privy to any travel warnings and alerts for those countries should there be any.
Perhaps the most useful aspect of the STEP program is that consulates and embassies will be better able to assist you should you lose or have your passport stolen, which, as anyone who’s had this happen will tell you, is no day at the beach.
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They go on to say:
The travel and contact information you enter into our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program will make it easier for consular officers in U.S. embassies and consulates around the world to contact you and your loved ones during an emergency — including situations where your family or friends in the U.S. are having problems trying to contact you.
Of course before you run off and throw a bunch of personal information into the government’s hungry little fingers, one should be aware that while privacy is taken seriously at the State Department there are many people who vehemently disagree with their privacy policies. It’s also not terribly difficult to cynically misread their privacy disclaimer:
[The Privacy Act of 1974] prohibits us from sharing the information with anyone without your written authorization. Certain exceptions exist, such as when we need to share information on a limited basis in order to protect your safety and welfare in extreme circumstances. (Emphasis mine)
It’s always a good idea to always know your rights as a citizen and world traveler. PapersPlease.org is a good place to watch for identity rights activism. Also Edward Hasbrouck has long been fighting for the common traveler where national (and international) government infringement on travelers is concerned.
To register for the STEP program on the State Department’s website or to read more about it, go ahead and click here.