When traveling internationally as an employee, student, principal investigator, or fellow of The University of Chicago (“UChicago”), you need to know your responsibilities under U.S. export control regulations. Traveling abroad and taking certain items, providing certain services, or meeting with certain people can present export control problems. This document provides guidance on how to avoid running afoul of U.S. export control regulations when traveling internationally.
Travel to most countries does not present an export control problem; however, travel to some countries may present a problem. However, those issues can easily be addressed, if we create and maintain records, which demonstrate that the travel was exempt from the export control regulations. Even so, when an export control license is required for travel, it is crucial that we obtain it prior to the trip as violations of U.S. export control laws carry severe civil and criminal penalties for both UChicago and the offending individual.
Please review the information below to learn about activity specific restrictions.
Certain foreign parties – including specific people, businesses, research institutions, universities, government and private organizations, and other types of legal persons – may be subject to federal U.S. prohibitions. Such prohibitions may include prohibitions on research collaborations, and may require specific licensing, even for educational exchange. Such prohibitions are specified on several federally maintained restrictive lists. It is important to review these lists and understand compliance responsibilities and limitations before collaborating, or sponsoring an employee or visiting scholar of a university listed therein. UChicago uses Visual Compliance™ to expedite screening of the restrictive party lists.
Educational exchange, including travel to any entity on any of the restrictive lists has specific license requirements and exemptions typically do not apply; the government has a policy of denial for licensing many of the entities on the lists. Before you travel, visit both The Office of Foreign Assets Control’s (“OFAC”) and The Bureau of Industry and Security’s (“BIS”) websites to determine whether you will be visiting a sanctioned country, or contact the Manager of Export Control Compliance (“MECC”) for further guidance.
Purpose of the Trip
Presentations & Seminars: In general, travel outside of the U.S. to attend a conference - not to present - does not require an export control license. However, if you present at a conference, the material must be limited to topics that are not related to export-controlled items or technologies, unless that information is already in the public domain. Open seminars are usually not problematic unless they take place in a sanctioned country or involve restricted parties. Exchanges of technical information including academic discussions could require a license.
Foreign Collaborations & Exchanges of Technical Information: Publically available information or fundamental research can be shared with foreign colleagues as long as the recipients are not employees or representatives of the government of a sanctioned country, or restricted parties. This collaboration includes normal academic peer-review or publishing processes.
Research & Instruction Outside of the U.S.: Research and course instruction conducted outside of the U.S. may not qualify for the fundamental research exclusion and therefore may require an export control license. For instance, when interacting with foreign persons, you cannot provide a “defense service” which includes providing technical “know-how” related to the design, development, production, manufacturer, assembly, operation, repair, testing, maintenance or modification of a defense article or dual-use technology. Export control regulations may apply until the work is published or is otherwise in the public domain. Before teaching a course or disclosing information outside of the U.S. it is important to ensure that the information is not subject to export control laws and regulations.
Furnishing Financial Assistance: OFAC regulations prohibit providing material financial assistance or anything of value, including services, to any blocked or sanctioned country, individual, entity or organization, including a government agency of a sanctioned country. This can involve subcontracts, international vendors or payments to research participants. For example, a professional presentation, whether or not it contains materials controlled under International Traffic in Arms Regulations (“ITAR”) or Export Administration Regulations (“EAR”), is a “service” and “something of value” provided to the recipient audience, under OFAC regulations. Contact the MECC for guidance and clearance before proceeding with this type of transaction.
Export of Equipment or Data
Any tangible items that you take to a foreign country are considered “exports” by the U.S. Government, even if you are planning to bring the items back upon your return.
Even the technical information located on your laptop’s hard drive is considered to be an export of technology/technical data, once the laptop or notebook leaves the U.S. If you are traveling abroad with your laptop or any other electronic devices, these items along with the underlying technology, any data on your device, proprietary information, confidential records, and encryption software are all subject to U.S. export control regulations. Some foreign governments have regulations that permit the seizure of travelers’ computers and the review of their contents.
You need to comply with U.S. export regulations whenever you take such equipment and data outside of the U.S. Items that could have a “dual-use” (both commercial and military or proliferation applications), proprietary information, or items that are considered defense articles (even if used in an academic or research environment) are generally prohibited from export without an export control license. Export control regulations will generally not restrain you from taking commercially available laptop computers and standard software to most countries.
Further, items may be exempt from the license under the temporary export exception (TMP) as a “tool of trade.” To qualify for the “tool of trade” exception, the export must:
Remain under the effective control of the exporter (or the exporter’s employees) by retaining physical possession of the equipment at all times or securing the item in a secure environment;
Consist only of reasonable equipment of the trade (equipment that people in your discipline would generally recognize as a ”tool of trade”);
Not be to an embargoed country (Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria or Sudan);
Be carried with the exporter or shipped ahead within 30 days of exporter’s travel
Be data that is within the public domain; and
Be for less than one (1) year.
You should not take ANY of the following items, abroad, without first obtaining specific advice from the MECC:
UChicago-owned scientific equipment (other than a sanitized laptop computer, PDA or electronic storage device);
Data or information received under an obligation of confidentiality including private information about research subjects;
Data or analyses that result from a project for which there are contractual constraints on the dissemination of the research results;
Devices, equipment or computer software received with restrictions on export to or on access by foreign nationals;
Devices, systems or software that was specifically designed or modified for military or space applications; or
If U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials suspect that a regulated item or defense article has been exported without a license, they may, for example, on your return examine files and software on your laptop computer as well as your baggage. For this reason, international travelers are encouraged to “sanitize” electronic devices by removing all non-essential data prior to leaving the United States. Inspectors in other countries may detain and copy your hard drive. Alternate safeguard methods include taking a blank laptop with only public domain files needed for the specific international trip or encrypting and then e-mailing to yourself any information you may need while overseas. Do not retrieve the e-mail until you have reached your destination, and remember you will need to remove it completely prior to returning to the U.S. or prior to crossing any international border.
When traveling internationally:
Use your best judgment in communicating with foreign nationals, and be alert to situations that may result in inadvertent, inappropriate, or illegal disclosure of controlled information or data;
Avoid situations that lead to providing advice or assistance outside of fundamental research parameters;
Do not discuss controlled or sensitive information (for example, proprietary information that you may happen to have) in public places;
Always keep controlled or sensitive items, information, or data secure;
Maintain a “need-to-know” policy when discussing work related information with others;
Do not leave equipment, documents, or data in your hotel safe.
Working with the Manager of Export Control Compliance well ahead of your international trip is the best way to ensure that your travel is permitted and/or that your materials and data can be taken abroad without a license or without violating export control laws and/or regulations.