Traveling internationally is an exciting way to learn about other cultures, conduct research, collaborate with colleagues, and expand your education. While you’re planning your trip, it’s important to be aware of the specific rules and regulations that your destination countries may have in place. These regulations may affect what you plan to take with you, what activities you may participate in while abroad and with whom you will be visiting/collaborating. When traveling abroad, WSU faculty, staff and students should be familiar with the impact of export control regulations. Researchers need to make sure that any information discussed or items taken out of the U.S. are either not controlled, or if controlled, the proper licenses are in place.

In order to protect WSU, your research, and yourself, it is important to consider the following BEFORE your trip:

  •  Where are you going?
  • What are you taking with you?
  • What will you be doing and who will you be interacting with?

In general, travel to most countries is not a problem. Tighter export controls are in effect for countries that are comprehensively sanctioned or have restrictions on trade enforced by various departments of the U.S. government. Travel to comprehensively sanctioned countries will require advance planning and coordination with the Office of Research Compliance. Comprehensively sanctioned countries currently include: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. Please contact the Office of Research Compliance as soon as you anticipate travel to one of these countries.

Travel to Cuba

While significant changes have been made to the sanctions regime in recent years, a significant portion of the Cuban embargo is still in place. This means there are substantial restrictions on travel to Cuba from the United States for all American citizens and U.S. Residents. Travel to Cuba is regulated by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). 

For more information on travel to Cuba and to find out if your travel would be authorized, please contact the Office of Research Compliance. PLEASE NOTE: TRAVEL TO CUBA WILL REQUIRE A LICENSE WHICH MAY TAKE SEVERAL MONTHS TO OBTAIN. YOU ARE ADVISED TO PLAN ACCORDINGLY.

While not comprehensively sanctioned, WSU has determined that travel to certain countries carries additional risk with regard to research compliance. WSU’s country classification is based on guidance from numerous resources including, but not limited to: U.S. Department of State, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and U.S. Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control. Additional factors may include criteria from government, health risks, and insurance and other country-specific factors.

Countries with Increased Risk    





Burkina Faso



Central African Republic




Congo, Democratic Republic of

Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)




El Salvador



















Myanmar (Burma)




North Korea



Sierra Leone


South Africa

Papua New Guinea

South Sudan, Republic of








West Bank or Gaza



 Please contact the Office of Research Compliance as soon as you anticipate travel to one of these countries for further review and instruction.


Items & Equipment
When taking items abroad, everything you take with you is considered an “export” under U.S. export control regulations (including scientific equipment, laptops, encryption software, cell phones, tablets, flash drives, cameras, and GPS units). Before traveling, you need to verify that the items are not export restricted based on your travel destination(s). When transiting between countries you may be asked to provide an Export Control Classification Number (ECCN) for each item you take.  Contact the Office of Research Compliance for assistance in determining your ECCN numbers. 

 Most commercially available basic software (such as Microsoft Office) is EAR99 and can be exported either individually or on your device without a license.   However, proprietary software, software that includes encryption, and/or other complex software may require an export license and should be reviewed by the Export Compliance Office.  Please contact the Office of Research Compliance if your device includes any of the above software.


Items That Require Export Control Review Before You Travel

Do not travel with any of the following items without first obtaining specific advice from the Office of Research Compliance, as these items may require an export license:

  • Devices, systems or software that are not standard, off-the-shelf products generally available to the public
  • Devices, systems, or software that are specifically designed or modified for military or space applications
  • Data or information received under an obligation of confidentiality
  • Data or analyses that result from a project that has restrictions on the dissemination of the research results
  • Classified information
  • Export controlled information

Items That You May Be Able to Take with You

WSU employees and students may be able to use a “Tools of Trade” license exception to travel temporarily out of the U.S. and hand carry or ship ahead certain types of hardware, software and/or data. This license exception may be used by WSU employees and students traveling with personally-owned or WSU-owned hardware, software and data provided the terms of the license exception are met. This exception does not apply to items, technology, data, or software regulated by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). Please contact the Office of Research Compliance if you would like more information on using this exception when traveling internationally.

If your hardware, software or data are not eligible for the “Tools of Trade” license exception, the Office of Research Compliance will discuss other options with you. There are other less frequently used license exceptions that may apply, and if no license exception is available, you may be able to work with the Office of Research Compliance to apply for an export license.


Items That Need to Be Properly Secured for Travel

Whether you are traveling with a personally owned computer, a WSU owned computer, or any other device, you must make sure that you properly secure your hardware, software and data for international travel. WSU ITS has detailed guidance to help you secure your devices before, during and after travel.

Please remember that before you travel with any data or devices, make sure that these items are able to be exported out of the country and taken with you to your intended destination.

 Contact the Office of Research Compliance as soon as possible if any of the following factors are involved with your research:

  • Providing payments of any kind to a foreign person, university or organization;
  • Purchasing or obtaining items or materials from international sources;
  • Planning to bring back samples;
  • Sending equipment, materials, or information from the U.S. to a foreign destination; or
  • Potential or existing non-disclosure agreements or restrictions on the publication of research results.

It is important to ensure that you do not accidentally export restricted information or provide any type of assistance or benefit to a sanctioned or blocked entity. Keep the following in mind as you plan your travel activities:

Attending an International Conference or Meeting

Attendance at international conferences and meetings is generally acceptable.  If the conference you are attending is an open conference (generally meaning open to all technically qualified members of the public), any information you receive at that conference is generally considered published, in the public domain, and therefore not subject to export controls. However, keep in mind any information you discuss in sidebar conversations at the conference should also be limited to information that is already in the public domain. Any export-controlled information discussed at a conference could potentially be a deemed export or export if it is discussed with non-U.S. citizens. 

If you plan to attend a conference or meeting in any of the embargoed countries, you must contact the Office of Research Compliance well in advance of your departure to determine whether an export license is needed. If you plan to attend a conference in Iran, you must contact the Office of Research Compliance, as an export license is required to attend the conference. Export licenses can take several weeks or several months to resolve depending on the time it takes the U.S. government to review the license application. It’s best to contact the Office of Research Compliance as soon as possible (even many months in advance) for travel to an embargoed country.


Presenting at an International Conference

Presentations at international conferences are generally acceptable, provided that you do not present any proprietary, unpublished, classified or export-controlled data or information. If you plan to present data that has not been previously published, you should contact the Office of Research Compliance to ensure there is no export controlled technical information included in your presentation. It is important to note that sidebar conversations with conference attendees should be limited to information already in the public domain.

 If you plan to present at a conference in any of the embargoed countries, please contact the Office of Research Compliance in advance of your departure to determine if an export license is required.


Interactions with Foreign Colleagues
As noted above, you are free to openly discuss any published or publicly available information or information generated as the result of Fundamental Research as long as the recipient is not a sanctioned or specially designated entity.

It is important to remember that while the results/information resulting from Fundamental Research are not subject to export controls and can be shared without a license, any items, technology, or software generated under that Fundamental Research would be subject to export controls and may require an export license.


University Research; Collaborating with Foreign Colleagues or Foreign Entity

It is important to understand that under the export control regulations, research conducted outside of the U.S. is handled differently than the same research conducted in the U.S. The results of research conducted outside the U.S. may become subject to U.S. export controls when transferred back into the U.S. This means that the results of research conducted internationally could become ITAR-controlled or EAR-controlled when back in the U.S. This could potentially restrict the U.S. researcher who intended to use the results and could require authorization to export again from the U.S., even back to the researchers who originated the technology

Research that falls within the scope of the ITAR is not considered “fundamental research” when it takes place outside of “accredited institutions of higher learning in the U.S.” This means that research conducted by a WSU researcher outside of the U.S. could be subject to the ITAR. Research that falls within the scope of the EAR is typically “fundamental research,” even if conducted abroad, unless there are restrictions on publication and/or participation.

Please contact the Office of Research Compliance as soon as possible before your travel for assistance. Be prepared to provide the Office of Research Compliance with the names of any foreign colleagues or entities associated with your research so that restricted party screening can be completed prior to your trip.


Receipt of Financial Assistance

To ensure compliance with OFAC regulations prohibiting the University from providing material or financial assistance to any blocked or sanctioned individual or entity: ANY university activity that involves payment to a non-U.S. person, business, or organization (e.g., international subcontracts, purchase of items from international vendors, or payments to research participants) must be verified against all appropriate sanctioned party and entity lists. Contact the Office of Research Compliance for help with screening payees and verifying any international financial transaction(s).


The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

It is illegal for U.S. persons to offer or pay anything of value to a foreign official for the purposes of obtaining, retaining, or furthering business activities, per the federal anti-bribery provisions. For example, making payments to custom officials in exchange for their agreeing not to inspect goods or to release goods held at points of entry would violate the FCPA.


Be Aware

Customs officials in any country, including the U.S., may inspect your belongings, including electronic content of computers, phones, tablets, and storage devices. They may take possession of these items for various periods of time—even permanently.  It is a best practice to only take items with you that are absolutely needed for your trip.

Some countries also have import regulations that specifically prohibit travelers from bringing into those countries encrypted laptops or other mobile devices. Violations of those countries’ prohibitions could result in confiscation of your device by customs authorities and/or fines or other penalties.



Violations of export control laws can result in both civil and criminal penalties, including fines and imprisonment. Although there is a maximum amount for a civil or criminal penalty, the actual penalty can be multiplied by the number of unauthorized exports. Even a single unauthorized export may result in multiple violations (e.g., export without a license, false representation on shipping documents, acting with knowledge of a violation, etc.).

In addition to civil and criminal penalties that may apply under applicable laws to individual University personnel/students and to the institution, violation of export control laws and regulations may subject the violator to remedial or disciplinary action in accordance with applicable institutional policies and procedures for misconduct, up to and including termination or dismissal.