With the holiday season fast approaching, I know that many of us are finalizing our end of year travel plans. For the snowbirds among us, travelling can mean getting away to Mexico or the Caribbean as we seek to escape the cold. For others, travelling can mean heading to Europe, Asia, or pretty much anywhere else in the world, including travelling inside Canada. Many of us will also be travelling from the U.S. to Canada this year. While we often look back at this part of the year with fond memories of time well spent with loved ones reconnecting with our cultural roots and traditions, some among us are brought back to a time when lost passports, misplaced wallets, and missed flights have resulted in unsettling and unpleasant flashbacks of misery and discomfort.
As the American Ambassador in Canada, I have no more important responsibility than the welfare of American citizens living in and travelling to Canada. Realizing that there are about a million dual U.S.-Canadian citizens in Canada, and many other Americans who frequently travel to Canada, I strongly encourage all Americans expecting to travel this winter to sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). If you enroll in STEP the data you choose to provide will help us best assist you in the event that misfortune strikes.
Through STEP, you can access information about the country where you will be traveling as well as information about Canada. You can also receive updates, including Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and other important information regarding your plans.
When I think of STEP, I’m reminded of a French comedy called “Lost in Transit.” In the movie, a traveler who has lost his passport gets stuck at a Paris airport without any assistance from his government and with no way to contact his friends or family for help. Over the course of the movie he runs into other travelers in the same helpless state looking for a way out of their predicament. I don’t want to spoil the movie for you, but I do want you to know that if those travelers had been American Citizens enrolled with STEP, their troubles could have been greatly eased or even avoided because their embassy or consulate would have been fully prepared to help with obtaining new passports, contacting relatives, or simply being a friendly face in an unfamiliar place.
While I’m comforted by the knowledge that millions of Americans travel abroad every year and encounter no difficulties, I’m also aware of the fact that embassies and consulates assist nearly 200,000 Americans each year who are victims of crime, accident, or illness, or whose family and friends need to contact them in an emergency.
So, if you’re planning on travelling to visit family, explore ancient Mayan ruins, scuba dive the Caribbean, or just get away this year, I strongly encourage you to enroll in STEP. Our friendly and discreet consular officers are there to help you when you need them, so please, put down your travel guide and map for a few minutes and take the time to sign up. Enrolling in STEP could turn out to be the most valuable time you spend during your travel planning this year.