Encryption & International Travel

May I take my encrypted laptop when traveling internationally?

It depends.  Because encryption products can be used for illegal purposes, including terrorist activity, the United States and many of the countries that you may visit may ban or severely regulate the import, export and use of encryption products.  So, taking your laptop with encryption software to certain countries without proper authorization could violate U.S. export law or the import regulations of the country to which you are traveling, and could result in your laptop to be confiscated, in fines or in other penalties.

A group of nations negotiated a set of rules attempting to facilitate traveling with encryption software known as the "Wassenaar Arrangement."  One of its provisions allows a traveler to freely enter a participating country with an encrypted device under a "personal use exemption" as long as the traveler does not create, enhance, share, sell or otherwise distribute the encryption technology while visiting. Click here to view the countries that support the personal use exemption.

What countries have encryption important and use restrictions and how can I obtain an import license?

Since laws can change at any time, please check with the US Department of State before traveling internationally to ensure that you have the most up-to-date information. Many nations do not recognize a "personal use exemption."  Before traveling to these countries with an encrypted laptop, you will need to apply to their specified governmental agency for an import license. Additional information about international encryption controls can be found at the following websites:

The Wassenaar Arrangement

Bureau of Industry and Security, U.S. Department of Commerce - Export Administration Regulations

Bureau of Industry and Security, U.S. Department of Commerce - Encryption FAQs

What U.S. export regulations do I need to satisfy when leaving the country with my encrypted laptop?

The encryption functionality within McAfee's Data Protection Suite, has been granted an “ENC/Unrestricted” license exception with the U.S. Department of Commerce. This exception allows us to transport or ship a University-owned or personally-owned computer that has one of our approved encryption products installed to any country as long as the computer remains under our effective control, EXCEPT for the countries defined in the Department of Commerce’s Export Administration Regulations (Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria).

If you must travel to one of the five embargoed countries, you may be able to obtain the appropriate export license, but the process can take, on average, a ninety days for review.  The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security and the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) within the U.S. Department of the Treasury accept applications for licenses to export encryption products and technologies. If you cannot obtain an export license, see the section below.

What can I do if I cannot satisfy encryption export or import control requirements?

If you are not able to meet the import or export requirements for a country you are about to visit, we recommend one of the following two options:

  • If you are a member of the University's faculty or staff, you can request a "loaner laptop" from OIT.  A loaner laptop is a computer that is preloaded with standard University software, but does not contain data that could put the University at risk if the laptop is lost or stolen.  Click here for more information about the laptop loaner program.
  • Remove the encryption software from your laptop prior to traveling.  Please note that if you choose this option, your laptop must be scanned by a member of OIT or your support staff to ensure that no confidential or highly confidential University information resides on the laptop's hard drive.  Any confidential or highly confidential information found on your laptop must be removed before your hard drive is decrypted per the University's Information Security Policy.