International Travel

Export controls affect whether items can be taken out of the country and what documentation is required to accompany them. In addition, be aware of how your destination and intended activities may be affected by export controls.

Before traveling, remember:

  • Everything that crosses the border is an export
  • Export control applies to tangible items, software and technology (know-how)
  • Material doesn’t have to be dangerous to be controlled
  • Interactions with certain international entities and persons are restricted

Screen institutions for restricted parties

Before traveling, screen any institutions you’re visiting for restricted parties. If an institution is identified as a restricted party, contact MIT Export Control.

Notify MIT personnel of travel to OFAC-sanctioned countries

In general, travel to an OFAC comprehensively-sanctioned country is prohibited. Contact Todd Holmes (Program Manager, International Safety and Security) ahead of any risky foreign travel. 

  1. Read the MIT International Travel Risk Policy. If traveling to Cuba, review Cuba Travel Guidance.
  2. Contact MIT Export Control to discuss entities visited or items you wish to take with you.
  3. Sign MIT’s travel form and file with your department head and the Office of Insurance ( before traveling. 

Ship research-related items

You should always ship research materials and specialized equipment in advance instead of hand-carrying them. The documentation expectations for shipped goods are clearer – get the paperwork right and the item will probably make it. Even if the item does draw attention for detailed inspection, it won’t disrupt your travel.

Prepare documentation for baggage 

Anything you take out of the US is an export, including data on laptops and cell phones, and is subject to US export control. Though export licenses are time-consuming to apply for and not always granted, some items, including personal items, may qualify for license exceptions, depending on your destination.

  • Personal items

    Personal items, such as clothes, articles of personal adornment, toiletries, medicine, their containers, etc., can be taken to most countries using the BAG (baggage) exception. Contact MIT Export Control to learn about documenting license exceptions.

    Personal electronic devices

    Personal electronic devices, such as a laptop, tablet, PDA, or flash drive can be taken to most countries using the BAG (baggage) exception (if personal items). If they will be returned to the US in less than a year, you may be able to use the TMP (temporary export) exception. Contact MIT Export Control to learn about documenting license exceptions.

  • If you cannot ship items in advance, contact MIT Export Control. They will advise on whether items can be taken out of the country and what documentation you should bring to accompany it (for example, a letter signed by your DLC head explaining you are taking this material out of the country on MIT business). 

Prepare electronic devices

You may not take ITAR-controlled material out of the US. Before traveling, remove any ITAR-controlled, highly restricted, or EAR-controlled technical data from your laptop and cell phone. 

US Customs officials are authorized to search or retain electronic devices, even without probable cause, to look for violation of export control regulations as well as other laws and regulations. To prepare for this possibility:

  • Don’t carry data you don’t want others to see: medical records, data files from your research, financial information, photos, etc.
  • Don’t carry the only copy of data you can’t afford to lose.
  • Have a “Plan B” if there is data you will need when you reach your destination.
  • Consider taking a minimal device (e.g., a loaner laptop) equipped with only ordinary, recognizable software and minimal data so any search can be fast and the consequence of a loss less disruptive
  • Do cooperate fully with Customs and Border Protection. Give them your device password when asked. 

It is best to keep your electronic items under your effective and immediate control. Do not put in your checked baggage, and lock them up in your hotel safe if you’re not carrying them on your person.

Understand what international activities fall under export controls

When traveling abroad, use caution before providing services or transferring technology, which may include:

  • Accepting awards
  • Being a keynote speaker
  • Troubleshooting equipment
  • Speaking at industry seminars
  • Detailed responses to Q&A at conferences
  • Teaching abroad
  • Rendering nuclear assistance
  • Training on equipment

If you anticipate engaging in any of these activities, contact MIT Export Control

Assess and mitigate risk

Review Assessing and Mitigating Risk to understand whether your travel poses risks to you or your research program.