US Issues Level 4 Advisory For All International Travel

Filed Under: Travel

This isn’t unexpected, but the US Department of State has just issued a Level 4 (“Do Not Travel”) advisory for all international travel.

With this, US citizens are advised not to travel internationally, and if they’re outside the US, they should arrange for immediate return back home, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.

Here’s the full advisory:

The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19. In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period. U.S. citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel. Many countries are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders, and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice. Airlines have cancelled many international flights and several cruise operators have suspended operations or cancelled trips. If you choose to travel internationally, your travel plans may be severely disrupted, and you may be forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite timeframe.

On March 14, the Department of State authorized the departure of U.S. personnel and family members from any diplomatic or consular post in the world who have determined they are at higher risk of a poor outcome if exposed to COVID-19 or who have requested departure based on a commensurate justification. These departures may limit the ability of U.S. Embassies and consulates to provide services to U.S. citizens.

If you decide to travel abroad or are already outside the United States:

  • Consider returning to your country of residence immediately using whatever commercial means are available.
  • Have a travel plan that does not rely on the U.S. Government for assistance.
  • Review and follow the CDC’s guidelines for the prevention of coronavirus.
  • Check with your airline, cruise lines, or travel operators regarding any updated information about your travel plans and/or restrictions.
  • Visit to view individual Travel Advisories for the most urgent threats to safety and security.
  • Visit our Embassy webpages on COVID-19 for information on conditions in each country or jurisdiction.Visit the Department of Homeland Security’s website on the latest travel restrictions to the United States
  • Visit Keeping workplaces, homes, schools, or commercial establishments safe.

Bottom line

It was just a few days ago that the US issued a “Level 3” advisory, and now we’re seeing a “Level 4” advisory. It’s not known if this is just a general recommended precaution given the uncertainty around the globe, or if we’re about to see the US completely close borders (or something).

  1. Australia did this several days ago. Then announced closure of borders to non-residents and non-citizens. Told all citizens to get home ASAP. Qantas have advised they will shut up shop
    Internationally with the exception of some flights to help people repatriate. NZ has done the same.

  2. What does this mean legally speaking though?

    Lets say I’m a really headstrong stupid american who does not take kindly to what the gubmint can or cannot tell me to do, I doubt the US Govt can legally ban a citizen from going or coming back (assuming they are able to get a commercial flight out and back), can they?

    More seriously – I’m someone who has a genuine need to travel outside the country (terminally sick loved one and this will be the last time I’ll be able to ever see them alive or hug them, they’re dying anyways so corona isn’t an issue). Is the govt really going to tell me I cannot meet my loved ones abroad? What if I do and find a commercial flight back home, they won’t let me back in seriously? Sounds unlikely.

  3. Ben,

    For all the cuts in service, I’m still surprised how many flights are still going….Out of curiosity I clicked on United seat maps for remaining transatlantic and transcontinental flights out of Dulles….many planes appeared to have rows and rows of empty seats in all cabins.

    I assume it’s the same from other hubs….How can they financially continue to do that, do you think, and why in these circumstances do they continue to try?

    They must be losing hundreds of thousands of dollars for each of these long haul flights.

  4. If only the US State Dept would give us a guess on the Level 4 timeframe. August 2020? September? October?

  5. @John I think they being incentivised to still fly to get people home. I was on an SQ flight on Wed (SIN to MEL). There were 7 pax in business on an A350 and economy looked empty too. I think it served 2 purposes – one get the Aussies home and (2) get the Singaporeans back to Singapore. Qantas will stop international flights at end of March but have said “Some additional services may be considered to assist with repatriation”.

  6. @ John VS and BA are bringing Brits and US citizens home, they are phasing the flying schedule down over the next 7 days.

    Interesting related item authorities at MCO have banned VS and BA flying in empty planes to repatriate holiday makers now insisting they need to fly them home via JFK.

  7. This, along with the proposed shutdown of the Mexico border, really concerns me. If the virus got bad in the US, I had hoped that there would be a way to escape to a safer country. Not it seems that they want to lock Americans in and make it where one cannot escape? How does not allowing people to escape help in the fight against the virus in the US?

    I am surprised that more Americans did not flea the country for a safer region.

    Unfortunately, most of the countries that I had wanted to escape to have closed their borders as well.

    With community spread already in the US, does closing the border actually reduce the number of cases (especially to a country like Mexico with few cases)?

  8. This is a great move. US will be the most cotaminated country in a few days, so it would reduce the spread of the virus. The virus needs to be contained in the US.

  9. Bit surprised that the Australian and qantas directives haven’t made it to this blog, even now other than the comment from MDA.

  10. Not clear why one would be better off returning from a country that has a relatively low risk to the US.

  11. Have an award flight booked using AS miles on EK for May 13 and return on May 23 on Egypt Air using UA miles to South Africa. Should I cancel now? How long can I wait?

  12. I’m in Mexico, and I think we may be about 3-4 weeks behind the U.S. Hopefully, longer. Glad I’m down here. At least I can leave if necessary, so far 🙂

  13. @Rodents

    I will be jealous. If business keeps going down like this for few months I don’t know when will be the next time I could fly EK First. I hope by then their 777 has showers or their 380 has the new suites.

  14. The US govt is locking people in the US and if you can still find a commercial plane or otherwise to take you wherever you can leave. What they are saying is that you’ve been warned. If you end up somewhere and they close the borders and there’s no flights. The cavalry won’t be riding to save you. The embassy staff will be curtailed and flights won’t be available. You have a right to return, so if you can go and come back, they will let you in, but you will quarantine.

  15. California’s governor said that more than half of his states population could become infected. At this point is the disruption to public life and the economy worth it?

    It may be better to resume life, lift the restrictions, encourage people to resume their pre COVID lifestyles and let the virus burn through the global population.

  16. @Mjolnir22

    You will probably not be able to fly the way things are going right now with travel bans, but as it’s miles cancelling last minute will be way easier than with a cash ticket.

    Unless you are concerned about any last minute cancellation fees I would say keep it.

  17. @John

    Because of the extreme overload it places on the hospital system?

    Sure it’s mostly the elderly and those with health issues that die and good riddance you could argue if you belong to the Mengele school of medicine, it won’t effect me because I’m healthy and young.

    The problem is that plenty of otherwise healthy 30-50 will end up in hospital and unless they get proper care they might also die.

  18. The AF hit on my CSR and Amex plat at the same time. Both cards need to go unless lenders want to waive AFs I don’t see any reason to pay to hold these cards in the current environment.

  19. And no flight will not stop totally, because of airfreight.

    Not enough pure freighters too keep things going on it’s own, you need the extra space offered by airliners.

  20. The more I think about the advice to return home immediately the less sense it makes. Would anyone have thought it had been a wise decision to return home from Tahiti to Northern Italy just before infections skyrocketed?

    The right answer has to be that a decision to return to the US depends upon whether you are safer where you are or back home. That’s not an easy question because its a function of your likelihood of getting infected for each place and your quality of care you’d get at each if you become infected and are in need of intensive care.

    From trend lines Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Singapore look to be safer places to be that the US.

    They kept infections to a small number of cases, their medical systems are functioning (and appear to have adequate supplies) and they are highly motivated to stay on top of the problem. So you are less likely to get ill in the first place but if you do they have the equipment and trained people to take care of you.

  21. I just cancelled a golf trip to Ireland because of this. One golf course has a 28 day cancellation policy. Full refund if canceling more than 28 days, none if less than 28 days. My visit is 55 days out and they refuse to refund. Saying the policy is based on normal circumstances not extraordinary. Carne Golf Links is the course fwiw. Beware the thieves out there.

  22. @Greg I would not fly overseas even if a loved one was terminally ill. I would message them some meaningful photos and relive a happy memory together. And FaceTime.

  23. Guys, listen to your Governments advice whether you are young or old .
    Things are moving very fast . Here is what happened to my wife and I who are retired ,I am 73 years old .
    We were on holiday in Thailand since Jan 28th , escaping the winter in Cyprus where we live .
    We had EK booked Bangkok/Larnaca to go home on 17th March and then on 15th Cyprus government imposed restrictions on entry . We are British , but have a permanent residence permit in Cyprus as retirees . We have our residence permits with us , but on 16th EK cancelled our flights Dubai/Larnaca . The Cyprus government had requested a Thai government hospital health certificate to say we have no virus , which was not possible to obtain because any doctor cannot know what is in the future !!
    So, we were locked out of our Cyprus home .
    We came to Hong Kong which has suffered for 2 months and now improving , a city we know from last 40 years , and have rented an Airbnb flat until end April and will see how it goes .
    My advice would be to go home and accept that a lockdown is necessary to stop this virus spreading .
    In Asia many countries will only allow entry if travellers go into government arranged quarantine for 14 days . This is in holiday camps and requisitioned hotels where government pay the hotel for 70% occupancy and no other guests are allowed . In Hong Kong , some quarantined people have an electronic tag and stay at home , and have to order groceries and delivery food and not go out .

  24. @John – I unfortunately echo similar thoughts. Some models are pushing this to 18+ months. We either need to go full blown totalitarian government style like China did – going door to door taking people’s temperature and hauling them off. Or back to life as normal and unfortunately deal with the aftermath of widespread death of the meager/frail/elderly.

    Interestingly, this portion of the population asymmetrically accounts for a lions share of healthcare expenditures in the US pre-COVID. Plus they are draining social net programs like social security and Medicare. In a sick Darwinian sense, this may decrease overall expenditure in the long run. I read in the post the other day that #boomerremover was trending and when one thinks about it might actually come to fruition.

  25. @John I think some routes are still flying primarily for cargo. AA is actually doing some DFW-FRA cargo only routes this weekend.

  26. As an American that lives in the Primorskiy Krai region of Russia, I can say that I hope this madness resolves sooner rather than later. Thus far, no cases have been reported in this particular region of Russia, but it is slowly creeping eastward, with 3 cases confirmed in Khabarovsk, which is in the neighboring territory. The U.S. State Department recently suspended all operations of the U.S. Consulate General in Vladivostok, and transferred the entire consular district covered by the Vladivostok consulate (which is one of the largest consular districts in the world) to the consulate in Yekaterinburg. As for me, I intend to stay where I am. I’d be much more exposed flying through Moscow and New York to Atlanta than just staying put. (Russia has suspended flights to most Asian hubs, so those are not viable routes for me.) Why risk it, when I’m just safer isolating myself here? And, people here aren’t yet panic-buying everything, so I’ve been able to stock up on everything that I need (even toilet paper 😉 )for an extended quarantine without fighting or waiting in huge lines.
    On another note, I’ve seen first-hand the effect the coronavirus has had on the work of US diplomats, as the US Consulate in Vladivostok had originally agreed to send the Consul-General and Public Affairs Officer to a regional English competition this week that my school organizes and hosts every year, but they had to cancel last week at the directive of the US State Department to avoid large gatherings (we eventually cancelled the last 2 days of the 3-day event due to local government directives).

  27. I think the actual recommendation is “Decide where you are going to spend your next 3-6 months and go there immediately”, whether it’s home or anyplace else.

    You can go to Japan, Taiwan, etc, if you want, but make sure you have mean to pay your medical cost if you happen to be infected in those countries.

  28. @Greg-I can’t speak to legality. I just flew from the USA (born and raised there, lived there for 65 years) to Spain on United and Lufthansa. I am a resident of Spain. I guess the issue you have is the ability to enter the other country since many have blocked to residents and citizens which it doesn’t sound like you are one. My passport and resident card was checked prior to boarding the IAD to MUC segment and again in MUC immigration before access to the gates for MUC to BCN.

  29. @Ray- I’m a U.S. citizen but a resident of Mexico. I’m living in Mexico right now, and just waiting for the border to be shut down like it has been in Canada, with the exception of freight. At least, in the future I would be able to still fly back to the U.S. if necessary, even with the borders closed. But, for now, I rather be in Mexico and ride out the coronavirus pandemic.

  30. @Skooby: My decision was preference to being in Spain as well. But the more announcements scheduled, Macron to speak today on 45 isolation, it may get tougher to fly internationally since few options will exist.

  31. @Ray – Good luck to you.

    One thing for certain, and I could be dead wrong, but I can’t see the Mexican government ever trying to impose a lockdown here. Most small business ventures happens on the streets. People would be devastated and be poorer than they already are. The guesthouse I rent has every room vacant…everyone has cancelled their bookings. I believe in the U.S. each state would need an individual lockdown, and the federal government has little enforcement right now on locking down an entire country based on where this pandemic is now. I believe state by state will implement it until the entire country is effectively on lockdown. Crazy times we’re living in.

  32. While I was in the states from March 14-18 it seemed few were honoring the lockdown in So Cal. People were loading up on TP, milk, eggs, frozen foods, over the counter medicines, etc but still going thru life like nothing was wrong. I don’t think they take it serious, maybe still think it is a hoax, and it will hit hard soon. My mom is in an assisted living facility and when I called to make sure they were on lockdown, the lady on the phone was surprised I wasn’t angry that they had closed to visitors and the residents going off premises. She said others had called screaming the couldn’t visit now.

  33. @Ray

    Exactly! It’s going to hit them like a Mac truck. The only people who are taking it serious are the people in ground zero right now. The U.S. will have their own ground zero soon enough. When I was in Dubai the last 3 months, I ordered N95s back then and brought them to Mexico. I have two sets of goggles and even two sets of P100 masks with cartridges if things really get crazy. I wear my N95s anytime I have to go outside and switch them out including my outdoor clothes and let them sit in quarantine for a week in case they have any viruses on them. If I get infected anyway, I know I’ve done everything I knew to do at the time.

  34. @skooby @iamsuu

    You don’t know what your talking about.

    Don’t be mad if America pulls through from this relatively unscathed in comparison to the rest of the world.

  35. @D3KingAmerican: “relatively unscathed in comparison to the rest of the world” means absolutely nothing. You are already looking at a 10k point drop in the stock market and you have just started the slide. The US economy was on unstable legs to start since the growth was triggered by stripping all environmental protections, tax breaks for the rich and corporations, lowering interest rates as the growth had already started. This creating a debt beyond a trillion dollars. You now have zero tools other than plunging trillions more of money that isn’t there into the already debt ridden economy. Let’s just say the US may not see recovery for 20 years if they are lucky. Not sure if unscathed in comparison is something to brag about. And to boot you have an unqualified leader that has zero plan and nobody qualified to start the recovery. You may be feeling above it all, but you aren’t.

  36. @Ray

    Give @D3KingAmerican a break, you can tell this person isn’t even 30 yet. Too young to understand SARS and big recessions. I also think 20 years (if they are lucky????) is way too pessimistic. I give it 3 to at most 7 years. Maybe you are also too young or way too old?

  37. There is so much more involved than just being safe. With family separation, I would walk back to USA if need be, for being with my family during time of crisis! Loving them, helping them is what parents do! The world is at risk, there are no safe zones and either people survive working together or they die alone. Until science finds drug or vaccination, follow the formula to stay alive-………..

  38. We are two mid-70’s ladies in Palenque with flight reservations home to Dallas on Mar 24 on Interjet and American Airlines. Of course can’t get thru to airlines. Any thoughts on whether we’ll be able to get home?

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Reminder: OMAAT comments are changing soon. Register here to save your space.