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International travel and data protection
Know before you go
The University of Nevada, Reno encourages and supports its faculty, staff, and students to participate in University-related international activities, including international study, teaching, and research. However, international travel can also present a range of legal and safety issues. If you are considering international travel, please read the information below. You will find helpful information to ensure compliance with federal regulations regarding export controls and economic sanctions. If you have any questions that aren't addressed below, please contact the University's Export Controls Officer, Michele Dondanville, at (775) 784-6360 or email@example.com.
The University International Travel Policy (UAM 1,404) states that all faculty, staff, volunteers and students participating in international travel sponsored by, related to, or affiliated with the University shall submit an International Travel Authorization Request Form at least 30 days prior to travel. International travel is not approved until the traveler receives an email confirmation from BCN Risk Management. Visit Human Resources | International Travel Information for the form and additional information about the international travel policy.
Federal export control laws prohibit the unlicensed export of specific commodities, software, technology, and services to certain countries and individuals, and for certain end uses. In addition, economic sanctions laws prohibit unlicensed transactions with certain countries and individuals. University travelers are required to comply with all U.S. export control and economic sanctions laws when traveling abroad, regardless of the reason for the trip. These laws can be complicated and penalties for violation can be substantial. Therefore, the Office of Sponsored Projects reviews all international travel requests with the goal of identifying any compliance issues in advance and assisting with obtaining licenses, or documenting license exceptions, if required.
Licenses or advisory opinions can take several months to process. Please contact Michele Dondanville at firstname.lastname@example.org or (775) 784-6360 well in advance of your departure if you have any questions.
When planning your trip, think about where you are going, what you plan to take with you or ship ahead, how you will protect the items and technology, what services you will be providing, and with whom you will be meeting. Then read the sections below to determine if you will need to apply for a license.
Where are you going?
Through federal regulations administered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in the Department of the Treasury, the United States imposes economic and trade sanctions against targeted foreign countries and regimes for reasons of national security and foreign policy. Because the list of sanctioned countries is subject to change at any time, consult OFAC's "Sanctioned Programs and Country Information" webpage prior to arranging foreign travel. If you are planning on traveling to a country with sanctions, contact the Office of Sponsored Projects well in advance so an evaluation can be done. Examples of countries subject to sanctions and embargoes are Cuba, Iran, Syria, Sudan, and North Korea.
Most countries have their own import and export regulations that could also impact what you can take with you or bring back to the United States. Researching your destination's laws before you go is advisable.
The U.S. Department of State issues periodic travel warnings and travel alerts when a country is potentially dangerous or unstable. If you are traveling to a county with a travel warning you will need to complete a risk management plan with BCN Risk Management.
International travelers are also advised to sign up for the U.S. Department of State's "Smart Traveler Enrollment Program" (STEP). Enrolling in this free service will help the government provide assistance in case of an emergency while you are traveling.
What are you taking and bringing back?
When traveling outside the United States, everything you take with you is subject to U.S. export controls laws. This includes tangible items (laptops, cell phones, equipment, samples, paper documents, etc.) and intangible projects (information, trainings, know-how, files, data, etc.). In some circumstances, the services you provide can also be controlled for export and may require a license. It is important to note that while most of the items that University travelers take with them or ship ahead do not require export licenses, lists of controlled items are subject to change and a careful evaluation should be made prior to each trip. Please read the following information about common foreign travel exports and possible license exceptions.
The vast majority of research that takes place at the University is considered "fundamental research", the results of which are excluded from export control regulations. This includes information and software that is published, or publishable without constraints, and generally accessible to the general public. Also excluded from export controls is published educational material. If the information you plan to bring with you was created through fundamental research, is already published, or has been taught in a catalog-listed course, you usually do not have any export control concerns. However, if the University or its researchers have accepted restrictions on the free dissemination of the information received or generated in the course of a research project, or has agreed to restrictions on who can work on the project (usually on the basis of nationality), then export control regulations apply and an export license may be required prior to taking the information out of the United States or discussing/sharing it with foreign nationals.
Laptops and other portable storage equipment
In general, you can bring your laptop as long as it does not contain any export-controlled documents or non-commercial, special purpose encryption software. If the laptop contains only the commercial encryption software that is standard for the computer, then you do not have an export controls issue (unless you are traveling to an OFAC-sanctioned country). If you have something other than standard commercial encryption software, or are traveling to an OFAC-sanctioned country, contact Michele Dondanville. Be aware that some foreign governments have regulations that permit the seizure of travelers' computers and the review of their contents. Therefore, if you do not need the information on your computer, it is advisable to remove it prior to international travel.
Encryption: most commercially available encryption software has been granted a license exception that allows the transport of a University-owned or personally-owned computer to most non-embargoed countries as long as the computer remains under the traveler's effective control and the traveler does not create, enhance, share, sell or otherwise distribute the encryption technology while visiting. Most University-developed encryption software is not subject to export controls if it was developed as fundamental research. It is important that researchers make available any encryption code developed during the course of their research on a publicly-available website as quickly as possible. "Strong" encryption software (EAR 5A002 and 5D002) has separate export control requirements and may require a license to export, even temporarily.
Finally, remember that everything you export from the U.S. is considered an import to another country. Some countries restrict the import of encrypted devices and require a license.
Biological and chemical materials
Taking biological or chemical materials with you on an international trip constitutes an export under U.S. export control laws. For example, materials that could be used for the manufacture of biological or chemical weapons, chemicals that are used as propellants and high explosive materials may require specific export licenses depending on the country of destination. Also, there may be specific health and safety requirements to follow in order to safely transport these materials. If you are planning on traveling with biological or chemical materials on an international trip, contact the Office of Sponsored Projects and Environmental Health & Safety.
There are two commonly used exceptions to the licensing requirements for traveling outside of the U.S. with export-controlled items, technology and software. These exceptions can only be used under certain conditions and do not apply to all export-controlled items. If your items are not controlled for export, you do not need to utilize an exception.
License exception TMP (EAR 740.9) authorizes the temporary export of institution-owned, EAR-controlled items used as "tools of the trade" that will be returned to the U.S. within one year of the date they are exported. The items must remain under the effective control of the exporter. Effective control means retaining the item(s) in your physical possession or maintaining the item(s) in a secure environment such as a hotel safe or locked or guarded facility. This does not include leaving the item(s) unattended in a locked hotel room.
The use of the TMP license exception must be documented by completing an "Export License Exception (TMP) Certification" form. Request a form by contacting Michele Dondanville at email@example.com.
License exception BAG (EAR 740.14) allows the temporary export of personal items or technology. Restrictions similar to the TMP exception apply.
The TMP and BAG license exceptions are not available for EAR-controlled satellite or space-related equipment, components, or software; technology associated with high-grade encryption products; ITAR-controlled items (i.e. defense articles and services), some EAR-controlled items and technology that were formerly controlled by ITAR; or for exports to embargoed countries such as Iran, Syria, North Korea, Sudan or Cuba.
If your item is controlled for export and a license exception is not applicable, you will need to apply for and receive an export license prior to taking or shipping the item out of the U.S. Contact the Office of Sponsored Projects for license assistance. Please be aware that licenses can take several weeks to process and they may be denied.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
You may want to register items being taken abroad with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to avoid potentially being charged duty taxes when bringing them back into the U.S. Registered items must have a serial number on them. CBP Form 4457 Certificate of Registration for Personal Effects Taken Abroad or Form 4455 for commercial goods can be used. The form must be stamped and signed by a CBP Officer. In Reno, the CBP Port of Entry is located at 2220 Radar Street. Their hours vary, so it is best to call ahead to find out when they are open. Phone 775-784-5585.
Another option for traveling with research equipment that will be returned to the U.S. within one year is to purchase a carnet. Carnets are like passports for items. They assure that you will not be charged import or export taxes as you cross borders with the equipment and when you return to the U.S. If you are interested in purchasing a carnet, please contact Michele Dondanville at (775) 784-6360 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
How will you protect information and electronic data while traveling abroad?
International travel poses unique risks compared to domestic travel. The difference in legal statutes between nations and the process of crossing international borders can frequently render the typical security controls we use to protect sensitive data unworkable. Once in the foreign country, risks can escalate. Digital espionage is a growing concern and university researchers are often targets. The goal isn't always the data you have with you at the time, but also what you may have access to when you return. Please keep in mind the following tips when traveling abroad:
- If you don't need it, don't bring it with you. This includes sensitive contact information. Consider the consequences if your information is stolen.
- Don't use USB flash drives given to you in a foreign country. If a USB flash drive must be used in a foreign computer, assume you've been compromised and do not use that flash drive on any other computer.
- Don't access UNR email or personal email involving UNR-related information from an unsecured network or WiFi connection.
- Be aware that public charging stations can be used to infect your device with spy ware.
- Don't leave electronic devices unattended.
- Sanitize your mobile device to ensure no no sensitive contact, research or personal data is on it. UNR offers sanitized encrypted flash drives that you can take with you if you must bring controlled information.
- Consider leaving your cell phone at home and traveling with a disposable phone.
- Laptops for international travel are available to researchers through @One.
There are many good websites with information on protecting electronic data while traveling, such as
- Traveling with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices
- Checklist: 24 Steps for Data Security While Traveling Abroad
- 5 Steps for Keeping Digital Data Safe When Traveling To China
- The Traveler's Guide to Cybersecurity, courtesy of Syracuse University
What will you be doing and with whom?
Export control and economic sanctions regulations may restrict your activities and the entities with whom you interact in a foreign country.
Limit presentations, seminars, and discussions to topics that are not related to export-controlled commodities, software, or technology unless that information has been published, is currently publicly available or in the public domain, or qualifies as fundamental research. Presenting or discussing proprietary, unpublished, or export-controlled data or information may constitute an unauthorized export. Open seminars are, most likely, appropriate unless they occur in an embargoed or sanctioned country or involve restricted parties.
Sharing the results of fundamental research or publicly available information with foreign colleagues is allowed as long as the colleagues are not prohibited from receiving the information by the federal government (e.g., Specially Designated Nationals, employees or representatives of the government of a sanctioned country, or restricted parties). OFAC regulations may prohibit discussing even published research in some countries as the discussion may be considered providing a service.
Engaging in research, field work, training, or course instruction outside of the U.S. may not qualify for the fundamental research exclusion and U.S. export control laws and regulations may apply. Prior to providing course instruction, training, research or field work outside of the U.S., determine if the information is subject to export controls. Additionally, these activities may be prohibited as providing a service to a sanctioned country.
Payments to or from certain persons, businesses, or organizations may be prohibited. The University must not enter into contracts, conduct business, or otherwise participate, directly or indirectly, in any financial activities with any entity or person found on any government issued restricted, blocked or denied party lists. This may include speaker contracts, international subcontracts, purchases from individual vendors, or payments to research participants. Screening must be conducted to determine if the University is permitted to do business or provide financial assistance to the individual or entity with whom you will be transacting business. The Export Control Officer in Sponsored Projects will assist in determining if the financial assistance or transaction is allowed.