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Traveling Abroad With a Laptop? Here's What Employees Should Know

By William Vogeler, Esq. on July 07, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Traveling abroad? Don't forget your passport, your laptop, and your export license.

Wh-what export license? Oh, maybe your company attorney didn't tell you that your laptop requires an export license.

That's right, the United States requires a license for certain technology and software going abroad. It's not just to control weapons technology, either.


Under Export Administration Regulations (EAR), the U.S. government controls the release of a broad range of technology. A sales executive, for example, may be stopped at the border without a license for certain technical information, software, or encryption items.

"We sometimes encounter a misconception that only military or very sensitive technology is subject to export controls," said Michelle Schulz of the International Trade Group with Gardere.

She said companies often do not realize when they are crossing the regulated export line. For example, oil and gas related product specifications, electronics information, chemical formulas and design software are regulated.

Even technology transmitted via email or during a telephone conversation may be subject to export laws.


International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) focuses on military manufacturers, exports, and brokers of defense articles, defense services and related technical data. It won't apply to most companies, but it's a good idea to run through the checklist to be sure.

Both EAR and ITAR provide fines and penalties that may catch the unaware. Elsa Manzanares, co-chair with Shulz of the International Trade Group, says employees need to know.

"We can't underestimate the importance of employee training on this topic," she said. "Each traveler needs to think about what they are doing that might cause an unauthorized release of software or technology."

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