Foreign Travel Issues

Policies and Guidance

Foreign Travel Issues

Foreign travel raises a number of issues for researchers, as any trip outside the United States has the potential for the researcher to export both items and technical information that may be controlled.  For these reasons, it is recommended that you review Harvard’s Global Support Services travel tools page, and keep in mind a few simple points while traveling abroad:

  1. Shipped v. Carried Items:  First, the export-control laws do not distinguish between an item that is shipped and an item that is carried. Thus, if it is unlawful to ship an item to a certain country without a license, it is also unlawful to take it with you. Although laptops are ordinarily licensed by the manufacturers for export to most countries, you may not be permitted to bring the same equipment to an embargoed country without first securing a license.
  2. Destination:  Second, the destination of a researcher determines what export controls or regulations apply. There are several websites that researchers should check in advance of their departure.
  3. Money:  Third, particularly if you are traveling to an OFAC-sanctioned country, you may need a license to spend certain funds in that country. As an example, under the Iranian embargo, you are permitted to spend money on hotels, food, or transportation without a license, but you may need a license from the Treasury Department in order to contract with local individuals and purchase certain supplies for research.
  4. Sharing of Information:  Fourth, travel abroad always involves meeting new people; researchers are no exception. Export control issues can arise, however, when a researcher interacts with people during scientific discussions or conferences in which controlled technical information may be exchanged. There is no export control issue if the researcher is presenting research results that have already been published. However, if the data have not been published, the researcher must ensure that there is no technical information included that may be controlled. Although you are eligible for the fundamental research exclusion when you are studying on campus at an accredited university in the United States, the fundamental research exclusion does not apply when you are abroad. Although you are eligible for the fundamental research exclusion when you are studying on campus at an accredited university in the United States, the fundamental research exclusion does not apply to new research conducted abroad even if that new research takes place at an educational institution (including Harvard facilities) abroad.
  5. Restricted Individuals/Business Entities:  Fifth, travel abroad may also involve engaging in transactions with individuals or business entities which may be restricted.
  6. Electronic Devices and Encryption Software:  If you are traveling 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 export control regulations. Some foreign governments have regulations that permit the seizure of travelers’ computers and the review of their contents. U.S. Customs officials are also authorized to review the contents of travelers’ a laptops without probable cause and can be held until your return.

Other Resources

guidance_on_travel_to_iran.pdf71 KB
international_travel_pamphlet.pdf215 KB