Travel with Electronics

Thinking of traveling overseas with Univeristy property?

In most cases if you're traveling to another country with a university-owned laptop with typical office productivity software, you will probably not need an export license as long as the equipment is always under your immediate control and returns to the United States. If the travel involves an embargoed county, or you have non-retail-grade encryption software installed, or the laptop includes Export Administration Regulation (EAR-) or International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR-) controlled technical data, or the hardware is unusually sophisticated, you will need to check with the University Export Control Officer for advice on how best to proceed.

Traveling outside the United States with laptops, PDAs, cell phones or storage devices involves special considerations and my require an export license. US export control laws may involve:

  • Hardware. Generally speaking, computer hardware is not subject to tight restrictions, though there are limitations on "high performance" computers exported to embargoed countries
  • Software. US export control laws impose significant restrictions on encryption software. Public domain software is often already licensed for export - this can be confirmed by checking with the vendor (e.g., www.microsoft.com/exporting/). Non-commercial encryption software in source code or object code is particularly likely to be restricted.
  • Controlled data. If you are working on a project that involves EAR or ITAR controlled technologies, your laptop may controlled technical data that may not be shared with foreign parties without a license. It is critical that you inform the University Export Control Officer if such data may have been compromised while traveling due to the device being lost, stolen or outside your control.

If the computer or other equipment is owned by the Unversity of North Carolina at Asheville, the equipment as well as any installed encryption software may be eligible for a License Exception TMP (Temporary Export). To qualify for the exception, the equipment:

  • Must be a tool of the trade
  • Must remain under your "effective control" while overseas. This means that it must remain in your possession or in a loced hotel safe (a locked hotel room is not sufficient) at all times.
  • Must be returned to the United States within 12 months.
  • May not be taken to an embargoed country (e.g., Cuba, Libya, Syria, North Korea and Iran).

Those seeking to travel abroad with a University-owned computer must complete the online Temporary Export Form. When you complete the form, check to identify that you wish to receive a copy of the notification. An email will be sent directly to you upon clicking the submission button. Print off a copy of the email and set it with the item you are taking overseas. This will serve as your temporary export control license. Emails will also go to the Export Control Officer and Information Technology Services. These groups may contact you based on the information presented on the temporary export control form.

If you personally own the equipment, the items may qualify for License Exception BAG (Baggage). There is no form to complete as the University is only responsible for its property. To qualify for the baggage exception, the equipment with retail-level encryption software must be for your personal use in private or professional activities. "Strong" encryption software may also qualify for this exception, unless the travel (or traveler) involves embargoed countries.

Beyond export contol laws, you should also be aware that traveling with electronic devices may result in unexpected disclosures of personal information. Certain countries are noted for accessing files upon entry, so you should be extremely careful about any proprietary, patentable or sensitive information that may be stored on your device. (For certain countries, this includes material that might be perceived as pornographic or culturally inappropriate.) Homeland Security personnel may also decide to inspect your laptop upon return to the United States, in which case everything on the device is subject to inspection. You should be wary about includeing on a laptop that you take overseas any financial or other personal information that you would not want viewed without your permission.

If your university-owned laptop contains controlled software or sensitive data - particularly data that may be controlled under ITAR or EAR regulations - you might consider alternatives. For example, if the laptop is to be used only for housing presentations, can you use a memory stick instead? If you are using the laptop for other purposes (such as email), can you instead take a "clean" computer that does not include the restricted software, data or other sensitive information?

Photograph Credit: QWERTY keyboard.jpg, photograph, Wikipedia, viewed 29 October 2015, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:QWERTY_keyboard.jpg.