Understanding Export and Import Restrictions

The export or import of certain goods, services, information and materials, including some fairly common items, is restricted by the laws of the U.S. and other countries. 

The application of export and import regulations to a university research setting is complex.  Before sending goods or information across borders, Contact the Director of International Agreements and Export Control Licensing (Office of Grant and Contract Administration) for assistance.

When would these restrictions apply to you?

Items which may be affected by export and import restrictions include, but are not limited to:

  • laptops and other electronic devices
  • certain kinds of technologies, including software and other know-how
  • research or technical data (see "Deemed Exports")
  • art, artifacts and antiquities
  • hazardous materials
  • animal and plant materials

Select the topics below for more information about certain kinds of export and import restrictions and for more information about the regulation of exports and imports. 


Keep in mind that both U.S. and other countries' laws may apply to your activities.  For help with determining what requirements apply to your work, contact the Office of the General Counsel or the Director of International Agreements and Export Control Licensing (Office of Grant and Contract Administration).  You may also use the Contact Us to request assistance.

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Country-specific restrictions

U.S. Government economic sanctions and trade embargoes can result in export restrictions specific to certain countries.  See the section on Export Controls in Understanding Country-Specific Restrictions for more information.

Deemed exports

A deemed export is the release of information or technical data concerning controlled equipment, materials or items to a foreign entity or foreign national in the U.S. 


The release may occur as a result of

  • visual inspection,
  • verbal exchange, or
  • by email or internet. 

An example of a violation of the deemed export rule would be emailing technical data related to classified research to a graduate student from another country working in a lab at Yale. 


Yale policy prohibits any restrictions on the participation of foreign students, faculty and scholars in our research activities.  For assistance in complying with the deemed export rule, contact the Director, International Agreements and Export Control Licensing or use the Contact Us link on the right.

Taking laptops and other electronic devices outside the U.S.

In most cases, you can bring your laptop or other electronic device to another country. However, in certain situations, taking a laptop computer or other electronic device outside the U.S. may be regarded as an “export” subject to regulation by the U.S. government under the U.S. export control laws. Such “exports” may require a license from the U.S. government, particularly if you are traveling to a country with which the U.S. has an embargo or your device contains encryption software, unpublished data covered by a technology control list maintained by the U.S. government, data with potential military use or data relating to weapons of mass destruction.

So long as you are not traveling to an embargoed country and do not have encryption software, a license should not normally be required if your electronic device is of a type that is generally available for sale from commercial vendors, is kept under your immediate control when outside the United States and is brought back to the United States within one year of the initial departure.

Additional guidance on this topic is available at Export Controls and Electronic Devices in International Travel. Contact donald.deyo@yale.edu to request assistance with export control requirements.

Traveling with encrypted electronic devices

Encrypting laptops and other portable devices is an effective way to protect sensitive data.  Unfortunately, many countries, including the US, restrict or prohibit the use of encrypted devices. Under U.S. law, an encrypted device such as a laptop can be brought overseas but it must return to the U.S. within one year and during the overseas trip, the owner "must retain effective control and ownership."  Furthermore, under U.S. law, you cannot bring an encrypted device to certain countries such as Cuba and Sudan.  

Other countries may restrict your ability to bring and use an encrypted device in the country (e.g., China).  It is possible that any encrypted devices you bring without advance permission from said country may be confiscated upon arrival.  

Consider one of the following alternatives if you are traveling to a country with encryption restrictions:  

  • Leave your encrypted laptop or other encrypted portable device at home.  Ask if your school or department can loan you an unencrypted laptop for the trip.  Be sure the device's hard drive does not contain sensitive information prior to departure and ensure that any data you save on its hard drive during your travels is removed immediately upon your return.
  • For longer-term trips, it may be possible to obtain permission from the foreign country to bring in an encrypted device.  In China, for example, visitors may apply in advance for licenses to bring in and use an encrypted laptop.  Licensing can take several weeks to complete, so must be researched and initiated well ahead of departure.

To learn whether your travel destination restricts or prohibits the use of encrypted devices and/or whether it is possible to apply for permission to bring an encrypted device, contact the Office of the General Counsel at (203) 432-4949.

Research-related export considerations

Export activity that occurs in the course of travel, research collaborations, or expenditures (as well as the actual transfer of research results, data, equipment or materials) outside of the U.S. may create export control concerns for the University and members of the University community. Export controls are U.S. laws which regulate the “export” of certain controlled technologies, services and information to foreign nationals, foreign entities or foreign countries for reasons of national security and foreign policy. An export could be the actual shipment outside of the U.S. of controlled equipment or materials or the disclosure of information or technical data related to controlled equipment or materials outside the U.S or inside the U.S. to a foreign national. “Technology transfer” activities which could trigger export control concerns include scientific, engineering and academic exchanges, and international meetings and visits.

The U.S. also regulates export activity through targeted restrictions administered by the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Controls (OFAC).  Certain kinds of transactions with certain individuals, entities, and countries (currently Burma (Myanmar), Cuba, Iran, N. Korea, Sudan, Syria and Zimbabwe, and in certain circumstances Iraq and Liberia) are prohibited without a license from the U.S. government, unless an exception applies.

The University has administrators in Grants and Contracts Administration (contact donald.deyo@yale.edu), who can help faculty and staff determine if their research and educational activities involve technologies or transactions subject to U.S. export and OFAC controls.

For specific guidance please go to Guidelines on Export Controls. For information on international shipments of hazardous materials go to Yale Environmental Health & Safety.

Please be aware that the laws of countries other than the U.S. may govern your activities and may provide additional import or export restrictions. It is your responsibility to obtain relevant information applicable to your activities and then to follow up with Grants and Contracts Administration or the Office of General Counsel for advice. Click here to read more on the exporting and importing of antiquities and works of art.

Importing materials, information and goods from another country

The importation to the U.S. of biological, chemical or hazardous materials may require permits and compliance with certain regulations. For example, the importation of certain etiological agents, hosts or vectors of human diseases requires a permit from the CDC. If you wish to import a select agent or toxin, you need to register with the CDC and comply with the regulations governing the use, transfer and possession of select agents and toxins.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) controls the importation of many items, such as live animals and animal embryos. Import permits from APHIS are required for the importation of plant pathogens (bacteria, viruses, fungi, mycoplasms and nematodes) as well as for any fruit and vegetable samples.

In addition to U.S. legal requirements, the country from which material or samples are exported may require that a permit be obtained. Many countries are increasing their surveillance and other enforcement activity in areas where exports implicate national cultural or financial interests. Faculty and staff should research these requirements prior to conducting any collection, excavation or other research activities in the relevant country.

Faculty and staff should also be aware of the ethical and legal issues related to the acquisition of significant works of art, artifacts and antiquities from countries outside the U.S. Several international treaties address these issues including:

  • The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, 1954
  • The UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, 1970
  • The UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects, 1995

Guidance on the import of biological, chemical or hazardous materials can be obtained from Yale Environmental Health & Safety. Please direct other questions to the Office of General Counsel at (203) 432-4949.

Transport and shipment of specimens and samples

In general, it is unsafe and often unlawful to travel with scientific samples, specimens, or other research material on your person or in your luggage, to or from your destination. 

Export safety laws may apply to research materials that are closely regulated in the United States, such as chemicals, biologics, and radioactive materials.  They may also cover many types of scientific samples and specimens, genetic elements of pathogens, vaccines, diagnostic material, animals, insects, plants, soil, personal protective equipment, certain metals and alloys, as well as research equipment such as certain centrifuges, fermentors, and oscilloscopes.

Information and guidance:

  • Contact Yale Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) in advance to identify shipping/import/export restrictions and options, and the need for permits or licenses. 


Material Transfer Agreements:

Transferring art, artifacts and antiquities across borders

Faculty and staff should be aware of the ethical and legal issues related to the acquisition of significant works of art, artifacts and antiquities from countries outside the U.S.  Several international treaties address these issues including:

Specific host-country laws may also regulate or restrict the movement of art, artifacts or antiquities internally or across borders.  To request assistance in identifying regulations that may apply to your activities, use the Contact Us link on the right.