If you're reading this blog post some time around the day it was first published, you are reading it while I'm vacationing with my wife in Europe. Although I may be on vacation, I don't want to lose touch with work. That's why I brought my personal laptop and other electronic devices with me on the trip.
Guess what. That's an export, and export control regulations apply. But I'm not too worried; there's an exception for that. If I was traveling for work, on the other hand, I might have more reasons for concern.
Export Regulations: Business vs. Personal Travel
When you’re traveling internationally for personal reasons, you’re probably not bringing anything that will violate U.S. export regulations. Even in cases where your personal laptop has a higher level of encryption, it shouldn’t be much of an issue thanks to export license exception BAG.
License exemption BAG allows individuals leaving the United States to take personal baggage—including personal effects, household effects, vehicles, and tools of trade—to almost any destination. You can't use BAG for trips to the U.S. embargoed countries of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.
However, if you’re traveling for business purposes, you need to be aware of and compliant with relevant export license requirements. Your business-owned laptop, the work-related items you packed in your briefcase or your luggage, and the electronic information on your cell phone may require an export license.
Export License Requirements
When it comes to export regulations, it makes no difference how your goods leave the United States. If your products and/or technology require a license to ship them to another country, they require a license to hand deliver them as well.
If you aren't sure whether or not your goods are controlled for export purposes, we walk through this process in our article, How to Determine Which of Your Products Are Subject to Export Regulations.
Some examples for business travelers:
- You have blueprints for an item or a product controlled for export purposes. Traveling with that information requires a license if you plan to share it with others.
- You’re bringing physical product samples and handouts to a trade show.
- You work for a company that sells machinery to other companies. You’re going overseas to do repairs on equipment, and the technology involved with the machinery is controlled.
- You’re bringing tools and replacement parts on a business trip to repair items that were previously exported. In this situation, you may be eligible to use the TMP (temporary) or RPL (replacement) license exceptions under very specific circumstances outlined in Part 740—License Exceptions—of the EAR.
In addition to traveling with goods, you are also liable for the information you bring along on business travel under the deemed export rule. The deemed export rule is the release of controlled technology and information to a non-U.S. person regardless of where the export takes place. (A non-U.S. person can be a foreign national, a foreign government entity, a foreign company, a foreign military, or anyone who is not legally considered a U.S. person under the terms of the EAR and the ITAR.)
Once the technology is released to the foreign national, the U.S. government considers it "deemed" to be an export to the individual’s home country. In our global marketplace, working internationally is unavoidable; however, business travelers transferring a computer with controlled information, as well as the oral exchange of controlled information, is considered a violation. For this reason, it’s important to know exactly what files you’re carrying, what information you’re presenting, and what subjects you’re permitted to discuss when you travel for business.
Applying for an Export License
Once you have determined that you need an export license, and if it falls under the jurisdiction of the Commerce Department, you can go to the Bureau of Industry and Securty (BIS) SNAP-R website and begin the process of registration. (If your goods are defense related and they fall under the jurisdiction of the State Department's Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC), you'll find details of the export licensing process on the DDTC website.)
You first have to register for SNAP-R by getting a Company Identification Number (CIN) and activating a user account. Follow the procedures listed on the website to get started. If you have questions or need help, you can call the SNAP-R Help Desk at (202) 482-2227.
Once you’re registered, you can access SNAP-R and apply for your license.
Penalties for Export Compliance Violations
Before you hop on a plane (or on a boat or in a train or in your car) and leave the country, it's important to understand how export regulations impact your trip. Failing to understand and comply with those regulations can lead to severe consequences.
Civil penalties can reach up to $250,000 per violation or twice the value of the transaction, whichever is higher. You could be denied export privileges. And in criminal cases, you could face fines of $1 million per violation and up to 20 years in prison.
Don’t risk it! Do your research, follow the regulations, and seek assistance if you have a question about export regulations.