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Foreign Travel

Foreign Travel with Computers and Other Electronic Devices

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 US within a year. If you are travelling to a sanctioned or embargoed country, or you have non-retail-grade encryption software installed, or the device includes U.S. Department of Commerce Export Administration Regulations (EAR) or U.S. Department of State International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) controlled technical data, or the hardware is unusually sophisticated, you should check with the Export Control Office for further advice.

Traveling outside the US with laptops, tablets, smart phones or storage devices involves special considerations and may require an export license:

Hardware. Generally speaking, computer hardware is not subject to tight restrictions, as long as the hardware returns to the US. There are limitations on “high performance” computers exported to sanctioned or embargoed countries.

Software. Most commercial and public domain software is often already licensed for export—this can be confirmed by checking with the vendor (e.g., The most significant restrictions pertain to encryption software. Commercially available software (including Drexel VPN) can be installed on devices that otherwise qualify for the exemptions listed below. Non-commercial encryption software in source code or object code is likely to be restricted; please check with the Export Control Office if you have questions.

Controlled data. If you are working on a project that involves EAR or ITAR controlled technologies, your device may contain controlled technical data that cannot be shared with foreign parties without a license. It is strongly recommended that you not take a device with such data outside the US. If you do, it is critical that you inform the Export Control office if such data may have been compromised while traveling due to the device being lost, stolen, or outside your control.

Other private data. Aside from export control laws, University policies regarding protection of student, financial, and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)-controlled data recommend that such data not be stored on devices taken outside the US.

Check with the Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control for the most up-to-date sanctioned destinations.

If the computer or other equipment is owned by Drexel University, the equipment as well as any pre-loaded encryption software may be eligible for License Exception TMP (Temporary Exports). To qualify for this 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 personal possession or in a locked hotel safe (a locked hotel room is always not sufficient).
  • Must be returned to the US (or destroyed) within 12 months.
  • May not be taken to sanctioned or embargoed countries

If you personally own the equipment, it may qualify for License Exception BAG (Baggage). To qualify for this exception, the equipment and pre-loaded 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 sanctioned or embargoed countries.

You should not take with you ANY of the following without first obtaining specific advice:

  • Data or information received under an obligation of confidentiality or is otherwise classified.
  • Data or analyses that result from a project for which there are contractual constraints on the dissemination of the research results.
  • Computer software received with restrictions on export to or on access by foreign nationals.
  • Devices or equipment received with restrictions on export to or on access by foreign nationals.
  • Private information about research subjects
  • Devices, systems or software that was specifically designed or modified for military or space applications.

Beyond export laws, you should also be aware that traveling with electronic devices may result in unexpected disclosure of personal information. Certain countries are known 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. Homeland Security personnel may also decide to inspect your laptop upon return to the US, in which case everything on the device is subject to inspection. In the US, the inspectors may take possession of those items for various periods of time, and even permanently depending upon the circumstances. The inspectors in other countries might do so as well. You should be wary about including 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 device contains controlled software or sensitive data—particularly data that may be controlled under ITAR or EAR regulations—we strongly recommend that you do not travel with it, especially internationally. If a laptop is to be used only for making presentations, consider taking a memory stick or storing the presentation on a cloud-based server instead. If you are using a 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?


Technical data—including technical discussions about controlled technology projects—should not be transmitted, discussed or attached in email, whether international or domestic. If you have a mission-critical need to share information with your approved project team members, you should consult with the Drexel University Information Security about the possibility of special arrangements.


Encrypting your files, or the complete hard disk, is generally considered a best practice for data security. However, doing so when travelling internationally can create an additional set of issues. Some countries restrict the import of encrypted devices, and US regulations prohibit the export of an encrypted device to sanctioned or embargoed countries. That is another reason to consider travelling with a "clean" device with only minimal software and no restricted data.

Visit the US Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security for more information on encryption.

General Examples:

  1. You plan to travel to France to do research on early French literature and would take a laptop computer and flash memory storage device with you. It is very likely that the export regulations would not require that you maintain effective control of the computer and memory, according to the guidance given above.
  2. You plan to travel to Japan to present a paper on the latest results of your research on a basic issue of physics. You plan to take a laptop computer and copies of some published papers with you. You do not have any information or computer software that was received under an obligation of confidentiality or a need to exclude the use of the software by foreign nationals. It is very likely that the export regulations would not require that you maintain effective control of the computer and memory, according to the guidance given above.
  3. You are planning to travel to Brazil to study some ancient ruins. You would like to take with you a laptop computer, a portable storage device, standard surveying equipment that is easily available throughout the world, and a PDA with GPS capabilities. You might need to maintain effective control over the PDA. If you do not feel you can maintain effective control, you should seek advice as noted above.
  4. You plan to bring a number of smart sensors to Australia for use in a research project to monitor stresses in a structure. Each smart sensor includes an acceleration sensor, a relatively low speed microprocessor and a low speed wireless communications capability. You would also take a laptop computer with communications capabilities to interact with the smart sensors. The export regulations likely would not require that you maintain effective control over them; but you should seek advice as noted in the first paragraph above in case there is an issue. You should not take with you any information or computer software received under an obligation of confidentiality or with restrictions on access by foreign nationals.

If you have questions, please check with Export Control at

* Embargoed countries with restrictions on encryption currently include Cuba, Syria, Sudan, North Korea and Iran. Check with the Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control for the most up-to-date information. See FAQ's for more information on encryption.

For more information, see our Technology Guidelines for International Travelers


Exchange Visitor Program

As an academic research institution, Drexel University is designated as a sponsor in the international Exchange Visitor Program ("the Program") administered by the U.S. Department of State and implemented by the regulations set forth in 22 CFR Part 62. The Program aims, in part, to further foreign policy objectives of the United States by fostering the exchange of ideas between U.S. and foreign nationals and by promoting international collaborations in research and education efforts.

Visitors designated as Professors or Research Scholars will be submerged in research, teaching and lecturing in the host country, the goal of which is mutual enrichment. If you or your department is interested in sponsoring a visitor through Drexel's exchange visitor program, please refer to the International Students and Scholars Services (ISSS) J-1 Scholars website for more information and to begin your application.

Export Control Risks Associated With the Exchange Visitor Program

Promoting international collaborations in research and education efforts on campus presents unique risks with respect to maintaining compliance with U.S. export control laws. As such, the Office of Research requires that, during the application phase, each case be reviewed to identify and manage potential risks prior to the arrival of each individual J-1 Visitor ("Visitor") on campus.

To begin an Export Control Exchange Visitor Review, please access, complete and submit the Non-Immigrant Export Compliance Questionnaire. The Non-Immigrant Export Compliance Questionnaire responses will assist the Office of Research in assessing export risk. If properly identified, many risks can be mitigated through open dialog and collaboration between the Office of Research, ISSS, the Sponsor/Department and the Visitor.

Undue Risk Determinations

Importantly, our Export Control Exchange Visitor Review for J-1 Visiting Scholars and H-1B temporary employees may identify certain risks that we believe cannot be effectively managed on campus as proposed and will expose Drexel to undue risk. In such cases, we will notify, in writing, both ISSS and the Sponsor/Department of our determination and provide a basis supporting our final decision.

We look forward to working closely with Sponsors and/or Departments to identify and manage export control risks so that Drexel can continue to internationally collaborate with experts in their field of study while maintaining compliance with U.S. export control laws and reducing reputational risk.


International shipping and exports

Shipping or sending anything—this includes tangible items (laptops, cell phones, equipment, samples, paper documents, etc.) and intangible products (training, know-how, files, data, etc.)—to a destination outside the U.S. is an export, regardless of whether the item is sold, used for research, loaned, or donated, even if only outside of the U.S. temporarily.

Before you export your item(s), please conduct the following review:

  • What is the item, product, or information? Is the export controlled by the Export Administration Regulations or International Traffic in Arms Regulations?
  • What is the destination country? Is it an embargoed or sanctioned country?
  • Does the shipment require a license or the use of a license exception to ship to the destination country or end-user?
  • Who is the end-user, and is that user a restricted party on a U.S. Government export or trade sanctions list?
  • What is the intended end-use, and is that use prohibited?

International shipping must comply with export control laws and regulations. All Drexel University personnel who engage in international shipping are responsible for ensuring compliance with U.S. export control laws and regulations. You may be required to obtain a license from the federal government for your export. Shipping without obtaining the appropriate license or other government approval, or failing to file accurate export or shipping documentation, may result in the confiscation of the shipped items, fines, and/or jail time.

Drexel University is the shipper of record regardless of who prepares the forms (FedEx, UPS, DHL, or the customs broker). The freight forwarder cannot be relied on for Drexel University export control compliance. The freight forwarder relies on the information provided to them by Drexel University.

The Office of Research Compliance is charged with determining whether an export license is required. The Export Control Specialist will assist you in evaluating the need for a license and in preparing and filing export and shipping documentation. In circumstances where the need for a license is unclear or undetermined, the Office of Research Compliance will decide whether to pursue a license.

Shipping biological or hazardous materials?

If you plan to ship biological or hazardous materials, please contact the Office of Environmental Health & Safety and follow their procedures for shipping.

Record retention

Federal regulations require you to keep records of shipments for five years after the date of the shipment. This includes pro forma invoices, airway bills, export filings, and associated communications