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
Notify MIT personnel of travel to OFAC-sanctioned countries
- Read the MIT International Travel Risk Policy. If traveling to Cuba, review Cuba Travel Guidance.
- Contact MIT Export Control to discuss entities visited or items you wish to take with you.
- Sign MIT’s travel form and file with your department head and the Office of Insurance (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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, 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
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
- 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.