If you have ever traveled abroad and lost your passport or had it stolen, you know exactly how devastating it can be. One of your first questions is “where can I go for help?”
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free program for US citizens residing abroad or traveling overseas, to register their contact information with the State Department. In case of an emergency, the State Department can then contact your family or whomever you indicated as your contact person. You may recognize this program by its previous name, the Registration with Embassies program. The State Department changed the name to encourage more US citizens to avail themselves of the services.
The program provides benefits to you while you are traveling abroad, by enabling you to obtain information and assistance from the closest embassy or US Consulate. They can assist you with any legal, medical or financial problems that may occur during your time abroad. Consular officers are available for emergency assistance to US citizens 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
While the officers are not lawyers, they are able to provide you with the names of local attorneys and doctors, and they also can furnish you with a loan if you are destitute. In addition, they assist families trying to contact you in situations where communications have been compromised by weather or other situations.
Another convenient service the embassies and consulates provide is current information regarding any dangerous situation in your area, political, environmental, or otherwise. They can also assist you with absentee voting, selective service registration, filing tax forms, and receiving federal benefits. They are authorized to notarize documents, issue passports, and register US children born abroad.During the recent earthquake in Haiti,they assisted with the evacuation of 16, 700 US citizens.
If you would like to register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, you can do so on their website by clicking on” create an account” and filling in the required fields. You do not have to enter all the fields, unless you choose to do so, as they are not all required. The program is a service of the Bureau of Consular Affairs, a division of the Department of State. Their main mission is to protect the lives of US citizens while traveling or living abroad. They have a Facebook page as well as a Twitter presence.
All information that you voluntarily provide to the State Department through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is subject to the Privacy Act provisions. The State Department will not disclose this information to third parties without your written permission.
For more detailed information on your specific area of interest, you can check the website specific for the embassy of that particular country.