Export Control Laws

Export control laws (ECLs) are a complex set of federal regulations designed to protect U.S. national security; to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; to further U.S. foreign policy including the support of international agreements, human rights and regional stability; and to maintain U.S. economic competitiveness.  ECLs govern how information, technologies, and commodities can be transmitted overseas to anyone, including U.S. citizens, or to foreign nationals in the U.S.

University research is subject to ECLs, including the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), implemented by the U.S. Department of State, and the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), implemented by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), which is part of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is responsible for administering and enforcing economic and trade sanctions against certain nations, entities, and individuals.  ECLs may apply to research activities on campus, to the temporary export of controlled University owned equipment including laptop computers containing controlled software or technical data, and to the shipment of research materials to foreign collaborators. Failure to comply with ECLs can result in severe consequences for the University as well as the individual researchers, including fines of up to $1 million per violation, up to 20 years imprisonment, and debarment from future exporting activities.

Since 9/11, the U.S. government has increased its scrutiny of universities to make sure they are complying with these often-complicated regulations.  Even though most research conducted on campus and travel abroad on University business will not be subject to export control restrictions, it is important for the university community to be aware of the these regulations.

Primary responsibility for compliance with export control laws lies with each individual faculty or staff member.  Questions regarding the applicability of export control laws should be directed to the Office of General Counsel.

Compliance with export controls must be considered and achieved before traveling, engaging in science or technology-based research, or engaging in any other activity that may be export controlled.  In most cases, this will simply involve confirming that the travel/research falls within an exception to the export control laws.  In the few cases where the activity does not fall within an exception, the Provost, as the University's “empowered official” will determine whether the University will pursue an export license from the relevant governmental agency or whether it is not feasible to engage in the export.  The license process can take up to six (6) months - therefore it is wise to plan ahead.

Travel to Certain Countries

If you are traveling abroad, the first thing to know is whether you are visiting a country that has been sanctioned by the U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control (“OFAC;” see list here: https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Pages/default.aspx).  Travel to these countries is heavily regulated, and in some instances prohibited. 

Anyone seeking to travel to one of these countries on University-related business or research should consult with the Office of General Counsel.

Travel With Laptops, GPS, Cell Phones, and Other Common Items

Generally speaking, and provided that you are not traveling to an OFAC-sanctioned country, you may likely take laptops, GPS devices, cell phones, and other common, personal use technological items as long as:

The device, including any software installed on it, does not contain encryption technology (be aware that encryption is becoming more and more common on certain devices and software programs);
You own the device or are using a University-owned device;
You will return to the U.S. with the device within one year;
The device is for personal use or is a type of device that is usual and reasonably used within your profession;
You will maintain control over the item at all times (e.g. by keeping in your possession or locking in a hotel safe)
The device, its software, and underlying technology will not be put to military use, used in outer space, or used to develop weapons of mass destruction.


Most research conducted at the University will fall within an exception to the export control laws.  Generally speaking, if the resulting research is published and generally accessible to the public (or shared broadly within the scientific community), the research is likely exempt from export control laws.  However, be aware that these exceptions are lost if you accept certain contractual terms concerning:
Foreign nationals;
Publication restrictions or pre-publication review; or
Access or dissemination controls.
Thus, it is imperative that you carefully review any contract - including a grant - you might sign in connection with your research.  If you see terms addressing any of the above issues, you are advised to contact the Office of General Counsel.