Export Control

Export controls are U.S. laws that regulate the distribution to foreign nationals, entities, and/or countries of strategically important technology, services and information for reasons of foreign policy and national security.

Any transfer to a citizen or permanent resident of a foreign country, regardless of where the transfer occurs, is deemed by the United States government to be an export to that country. Exceptions of who can receive a transfer are permanent United States citizens, i.e., foreign nationals with "green cards, or "protected individuals," i.e., foreign nationals granted political asylum in the United States. Export controls apply to all activities — not just sponsored research projects.

Two major U.S. export control laws are:

  • Export Administration Regulations (EAR)
  • The International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR)

Export Control Screening

Export controls involve multiple research areas, but particularly research that may have a military application and research that involves certain sanctioned countries. Faculty members in the sciences and information system areas, faculty who involve international students in research, and individuals planning to travel to certain designated countries must ensure that they are in compliance. When an export control regulation is triggered by an activity, a license must be obtained before any export or information transfer occurs. Note that publication of research usually eliminates the need for a license. However, faculty members who are engaged in consulting activities should be aware that the research exemption generally does not apply to their work. It is critical that faculty members refer to the tools below, disclose any possible activities that may require review, and work with the OSPR to obtain a license if needed.

International Travel

When you travel outside the U.S., you become an “exporter” subject to US export control and sanction program regulations. Depending upon your destination, you may need a license to take certain tangible items and technical information (hard copy and electronic) with you. A license may also be required to discuss certain technical information in a foreign country, and in some cases even to provide or receive certain non-technical services and information. One cannot assume that a license is not required for their international travel simply because the focus of their work involves, for example, basic science, public health, or the humanities. Please verify that your trip is unlikely to involve restricted exports.

  • Any tangible items that you are taking to a foreign country are considered "exports" by the United States Government, even if you are planning on bringing the items back upon your return.
  • Technical information located on your laptop's hard drive or in a hard copy notebook is considered to be an export of "technology" or "technical data," once the laptop or notebook leaves the U.S.
  • Even "technical know-how," or technical knowledge, if shared with a foreign national, is considered to be a type of export.

International Visitors

To the Federal Government, an "export" is not just a shipment of goods overseas. It can also be a face-to-face discussion of technical know-how with a foreign national. Some exports and other transactions with foreign nationals are forbidden by Federal regulations.

When Export Controls (EAR, ITAR, Embargoes) Do Not Apply

Public Domain/Publicly Available Information

  • Libraries open to the public - including most university libraries
  • Unrestricted subscriptions, news-stands, bookstores for a cost not exceeding reproduction / distribution cost (including reasonable profit)
  • Published patents
  • Conferences, meetings, seminars, trade shows, exhibitions in the U.S., which are generally accessible to the public for a fee reasonable related to the cost, and where attendees may take notes
  • Websites accessible to the public, free and without host's knowledge or control of who visits or downloads software / information (may require review under ITAR standards)
  • General science, math, engineering that is commonly taught at and in the course catalogues of most universities located world-wide

Fundamental Research

Fundamental ResearchThe fundamental research exclusion exempts basic and applied research in science and engineering performed by institutions of higher learning in the U.S. from export controls, as long as the research is carried out openly and without restrictions on publication or access to or dissemination of the research results.

Thus, no license is required to disclose to foreign persons information that is "published and which is generally accessible or available to the public through fundamental research in science and engineering at universities where the resulting information is ordinarily published and shared broadly in the scientific community" (15 CFR 734.8).

The fundamental research exclusion will be lost if a researcher agrees to any "side-deals" allowing sponsors the ability to review and approve publications or to control access to the project or project results.

If your research includes work done outside the U.S., it may not qualify for the fundamental research exclusion. This does not automatically mean that export licenses will be required, but it does mean that an export control determination needs to be made before the work begins.

While research results developed or generated under the fundamental research exclusion are exempt from export controls and can be freely shared with foreign nationals both here and abroad, any materials, items, technology, or software generated as a result of the research are not exempt from export controls. Before shipping or taking any item abroad, an export control review needs to be conducted to determine if an export license is required to take or transfer the item.


Towson University has partnered with the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) at the University of Miami to provide Export Control training. TU faculty, staff, and students can log in directly with their NetID and password. If you already have a pre-existing account through CITI, your account should now be linked to your TU NetID login information. All existing certificates and account information should have transferred over and remain the same.

If you encounter any issues when logging in with your NetID or have missing account information, please contact the OSPR at


For questions and assistance with screening, please contact the Office of Sponsored Programs & Research at or 410-704-2236. 

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