Faculty, researchers, and administrators often travel abroad as a positive part of their ongoing scholarly efforts. While many of these trips pose little legal risk, others may be more complicated. Below is guidance for faculty and staff who should be concerned about equipment or information that they take abroad.
When traveling abroad, any physical material or technical data in your possession is considered by US regulations to have been “exported” from the US to your final destination and any intermediate destinations. For this reason, it is important to understand whether there are any restrictions against exporting the material or data in your possession to your travel destination.
There are exemptions from export licensing available for travelers carrying both university-owned equipment ("TMP") and personal items ("BAG"). These exemptions are intended to cover commercially available computer equipment and other electronic devices used in business or general science applications. These exemptions DO NOT cover technology designed for a military application. Please contact the ORC if there are any questions about application and eligibility of the exemption.
The TMP and BAG exemption have limitations that travelers need to understand:
- Travel to Iran, Syria, Cuba, North Korea and Sudan is not eligible for these exemptions
- Length of trip is limited to 12 months; a license may be required for longer periods
- Items must remain under "effective control" of the traveler at all times which is defined as: "Retaining physical possession of items or keeping it secured in a place such as a hotel safe, a bonded warehouse, or a locked or guarded exhibition facility".
- These exemptions do not cover any hardware controlled under the United States Munitions List (USML) and high-tech encryption products (generally over 64 bit)
- Travelers cannot possess "controlled technical data" defined as "data required for the design, fabrication, operation, or maintenance of military or dual-use technology, and, not in the public domain or otherwise exempt from licensing requirements". Note: This item is of critical importance for faculty engaged in outside consulting activities with technology and defense contractors due to their potential for having access to controlled technical data.
The ORC has prepared a Tools of the Trade: Traveler Certification Letter for international travelers carrying university-owned equipment to confirm and certify that they meet the requirements of the exemption. The letter serves as a document that can be carried with the traveler and shown to US or foreign customs agents in the event that they are questioned about the content of their belongings. While there is no way to guarantee that the letter will prevent searches and seizures, it may demonstrate that the traveler is familiar with the regulations and responsible for the equipment that they are exporting. Similar letters are commonly used in industry and other universities as a mitigating factor against the risks of international travel.
After completion of the letter, please forward a scan to the ORA at firstname.lastname@example.org. This allows the ORA to handle the record retention requirement for using the exemption and will make it easier for the ORA to assist in the event that there are any issues with Customs occurring during the trip.
OTHER TRAVEL TIPS:
Travel Letter: Information for international travelers advising them of the export compliance and information security guidelines.
Travel Clean: If at all possible, it is recommended that departments maintain separate laptops for international travel that can be completely wiped clean prior to and upon return.
Access to Data: Do not store confidential, proprietary, or personally sensitive material on the hard drive of your travel computer. Insecure wireless networks available in many countries allow easy access for hackers. It is recommended that you delete any saved passwords stored on your browser. Avoid insecure networks and use the VPN to access data on the UMD server.
Know the Risks: The Department of State maintains a Current Travel Warnings list on their website which is kept current with the latest travel advisories.
Best Practices for Traveling Abroad: The FBI has brochures and list of best practices for the following groups traveling abroad: