Export Licensing Exemptions for Physical Exports: Travelling with a Laptop or Other Tool of the Trade
UCM faculty, researchers, and staff often travel internationally in conjunction with their University responsibilities. In recent years, there has been increased government concern regarding University research activities and national security. It is important that the UCM community demonstrates awareness of foreign travel risks when traveling abroad on behalf of the institution.
You may incur significant risk as a researcher if you choose to travel to embargoed or sanctioned nations without first obtaining a license. Please contact the Office of Research Compliance and Integrity before traveling internationally or check the list of currently embargoed/sanctioned countries to determine if you will need a license.
Travelers are responsible for knowing how export controls apply when taking equipment, devices, software or technical data outside the US. In most situations, licensing is not required to take UC Merced owned items abroad under the TMP “tool of trade” license exception. However, items such as laptops must remain under the traveler’s effective control during the trip. Additionally, information and data taken on laptops, PDA’s or storage devices must qualify as public domain. Other items such as research samples and devices, systems or software originally designed for military or space applications (such as a camera with a focal plane array or a high-end GPS), the technology associated with strong encryption and controlled biological agents will not qualify for this exemption.
If U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials suspect that a regulated item or defense article has been or will be exported without a license, they may examine files and software on laptop computers as well as baggage. In addition, inspectors in other countries may detain and copy hard drives. Prior to leaving the U.S. international travelers are encouraged to back up their hard-drives, remove all non-essential data from their devices.
To qualify for the “tool of trade” exception, the export must:
- Be for less than one year.
- Be a piece of equipment that people in the traveler’s discipline would generally recognize as a “tool of trade.”
- Be under the traveler’s effective control. This means that the item must be kept in the traveler’s physical possession at all times, or secured in a hotel safe, a bonded warehouse, or a locked conference facility.
- The travel cannot include a sanctioned country (Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria or Sudan).
Travelers should not take ANY of the following without first obtaining specific advice:
- Data or information received under an obligation of confidentiality.
- Devices, equipment or computer software received with restrictions on export to or on access by foreign nationals.
- Devices, systems or software specifically designed or modified for military or space applications (even if these items are used in an academic research setting).