US Government Export Regulations and AURA

  1. I have some equipment that I intend to send overseas and I've heard that the U.S. government prohibits some shipments. What do I need to be aware of before I ship the goods?
  2. Our department intends to hire a foreign national for a technical position. Is it true that an export license may be required?
  3. I am planning on visiting a foreign observatory and discussing various projects with their personnel. What do I need to be aware of before I travel?

 

I have some equipment that I intend to send overseas and I've heard that the U.S. government prohibits some shipments. What do I need to be aware of before I ship the goods?

It is AURA's policy to comply with all appropriate U.S. government export and import regulations. The individual responsible for export and import control within the AURA organization is the AURA procurement manager. Departments that control export are the Department of State, Department of Commerce, the Treasury Department, and the Energy Department.

All commodities, materials, technical data, services, and information shipped to destinations outside the United States are considered to be exported from the United States and are subject to specific regulations established by departments within the U.S. government. Circumvention of these regulations carries stiff fines and possibly jail penalties. AURA must maintain careful control over all exports to ensure that those items are exported properly. Failure to do so may result in AURA being prevented from exporting items to its foreign facilities.

All shipments destined for locations outside the United States, including those items either hand carried or electronically transmitted by AURA employees, must be reviewed by the AURA Shipping and Receiving Supervisor before the shipment or transfer occurs. The AURA Shipping and Receiving Supervisor will complete all necessary shipping and export documentation for such shipments. Shipments subject to export regulations may include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Observing materials being returned by a non-U.S. astronomer to his/her home institution after an observing run at an AURA domestic facility

  • AURA-owned computers and software taken overseas for business by AURA employees.

  • Software, drawing, or technical specifications, either mailed or electronically transmitted to individuals at foreign institutions

  • Materials produced in the United States and either mailed or electronically transmitted to a foreign facility in the conduct of a joint project

  • Materials or equipment loaned to a foreign institution

  • Equipment and/or materials sent to CTIO, GEMINI, SOAR, GONG, or other foreign projects under AURA control

  • Restricted, confidential, or proprietary Information or technical data transferred to foreign institutions and/or foreign individuals, even if those individuals are within the confines of the United States (i.e., visiting AURA facilities)

  • Restricted, confidential, or proprietary information transferred to foreign individuals by an AURA employee visiting a foreign institution

The U.S. government also maintains an extensive list of individuals, institutions, and countries to which exports are forbidden. If you have been asked to send something to an individual overseas that sounds suspicious, contact Orion Wiest, the AURA Export Control Officer, ext. 8126.

If an export license is required, the AURA Export Control Officer will complete the necessary application and submit the documents to the appropriate authority. He will also maintain all records pertaining to that license and the ultimate shipment. Unless other arrangements are necessary, all commodities that are to be exported under an export license will be shipped to the foreign destination from Tucson. Export licenses can take up to nine months to obtain, depending on the item being exported.

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Our department intends to hire a foreign national for a technical position. Is it true that an export license may be required?

Yes, it may be necessary to obtain an export license prior to hiring the individual.

If a foreign national is hired in a technical, non-scientific, non-clerical position, the U.S. government considers his/her hire a deemed export and is concerned with the transfer of technology to the individual. The US government considers that transferring technology to the individual is the same as transferring technology to that individual's home country.

If an export license is not necessary because of the nationality of the employee, he/she may be required to sign a document agreeing to comply with the U.S. export regulations.

Depending on the individual, his/her country of origin, and the sensitivity of the project he/she will be involved in, such export licenses may take up to a year to obtain.

For further information, contact Orion Wiest, the AURA On-Site Export Control Officer at ext. 8126, prior to any such hire.

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I have some equipment that I intend to send overseas and I've heard that the U.S. government prohibits some shipments. What do I need to be aware of before I ship the goods?

To insure that an employee's travel to and from that destination goes smoothly, the traveler needs to be aware of certain export and import restrictions that may apply to his/her trip.

1. EXPORTATION OF EQUIPMENT, SOFTWARE, OR TECHNICAL DATA: To protect both the traveler and AURA from fines and penalties caused by illegally exporting restricted equipment, software, and/or technical data, the traveler should be aware that certain items are prohibited for export by various US governmental departments including the Department of State and the Department of Commerce. The regulations are continually changing so what the traveler took on previous trips may now be restricted. Simply because the traveler experienced no problem exiting the US in the past with similar items is no guarantee that they will not have problems in the future.

In the vast majority of cases, the restrictions are passive and will result in no inconvenience to the traveler. However, in some cases, the restrictions are complicated and may interfere with the traveler's schedule if there is a delay in obtaining the proper export clearances. Violation of the regulations can result in severe fines, penalties and/or export restrictions for AURA. For example, certain high-speed computers (High-end Suns or PCs with multiple processors) and some off-the-shelf, retail software programs that include encryption (i.e. Microsoft Outlook) may require an export license from the Department of Commerce. In addition, some technical data, manufacturers specification sheets, and technical publications may be restricted by several different government agencies for the specific country the traveler will be visiting.

All non-personal items valued in excess of $2,500 require the submission of an Export Declaration to U.S. Customs. Orion Wiest, the AURA On-site Export Control Officer (ext. 8126), will complete that declaration and submit it electronically to Customs. This process may take up to a day so the traveler will need to contact him well in advance of the departure with a list of the items that will be taken overseas.

Personal, laptop computers are exempt from this reporting requirement. However, certain encrypted software (Windows, Office, etc.) programs residing on the laptop may still require some export approvals.

Because some export approvals can take weeks or months to obtain, it is important that the traveler contact the Export Control Officer as soon as possible to determine whether the items that may be taken are restricted.

2. HANDCARRYING ITEMS OVERSEAS: At times a traveler may be asked by a foreign compatriot to bring a specific item with them because the item is urgently needed and it is felt that hand carrying the items will get it there faster than shipping it. This is a misconception.

The traveler may be required at the foreign destination to declare anything that they have with them that will not leave the country with them when they depart. Failure to declare the hand carried item is a violation of that country's law. All it takes to get caught is a zealous customs inspector to find the undeclared item.

If the traveler declares the item, it will be taken from them and set aside until the proper customs paperwork is completed. Because the item will not be properly identified or placed in a secure location, the chance that it will become lost or stolen is vastly increased. In addition, matching up the customs paperwork with the item may be difficult and time consuming.

On the other hand, Federal Express, or other couriers, takes only a matter of a few days to reach the majority of overseas destinations.

3. TRANSFER OF TECHNOLOGY: Discussing restricted technology with foreign nationals either within the US or in a foreign country is considered the export of that technology to the foreign national's country. Such transfers may require an export license from the US government.

Discussing scientific research programs, talking about science-related issues, or conversing about anything available in print, in libraries or on the web is not considered a transfer of technology and is not restricted. A general discussion on the use of equipment, technology or detectors is also not of concern.

However, if you intend to get into detailed descriptions of IR detectors, large format CCD detectors, deformable mirrors, micro-mirror technology, IR/CCD Cameras or the such, then you need to be concerned about the technology transfer issue. For example, talking about the construction of an infrared camera may not be controlled. Discussing the criteria, engineering technology, and design engineering that went into the actual design of the instrument may be controlled. Discussing a detector may not be a problem but discussing the detector's construction or its internal operations may be restricted. Care must be taken as the discussions gets deeper and deeper into a specific issue, project or instrument.

Companies have gotten into serious trouble with the US government when their personnel were approached during an innocent visit and asked for assistance on how to correct a specific problem with a specific instrument.

If you have any concerns about Technology Transfer, contact Orion Wiest the AURA Export Control Officer (ext. 8126), prior to the trip. While an export license may be required in some cases, in others, it is simply a matter of having the foreign national sign a letter promising not to transfer the technology to restricted countries or citizens of those countries.

4. IMPORTATION OF FOREIGN MADE EQUIPMENT: All foreign made items (cameras, computers, tape recorders, etc.) imported into the US are subject to Customs Duties if the traveler cannot prove that the item was in the US prior to being taken overseas. Unfortunately, the item's age or condition is not sufficient proof.

If the traveler intends to take a foreign made item (either personal or AURA property) with them when traveling overseas and they do not have the original Bill Of Sale, it is important that the item be registered with US Customs. The process is simple and only takes a few minutes. The only certain method of proving that an item was in the US prior to the overseas trip is a Certificate of Registration (Customs Form 4455). This certificate remains with the item and is valid for the life of the registered item. To obtain this certificate, the traveler must take the item to the nearest US Customs Office. In Tucson, that office is located at the foreign terminal at the Tucson International Airport.

Because the traveler did not have to pay duties on their Camera the last time they traveled is no guarantee that they will not have to pay on their next trip.

5. IMPORTATION OF EQUIPMENT OBTAINED OVERSEAS: Certain items are restricted from importation by the US Department of State and Department of the Treasury (ATF - Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms). While it is highly doubtful that the traveler will bring back such items, it is important that they notify the AURA Export Control Officer if they intend to pickup, purchase, or otherwise obtain a technical or scientific item while overseas and bring it back to the US.

Normal tourist items and retail purchases do not fall in this category and are governed by standard US government importation regulations. However, astronomical filters, lenses, observing equipment, detectors, software, etc. may either be restricted or subject to import duties and/or customs delays which could interfere with the traveler's schedule.

If, while overseas, you are asked to take something back to AURA for a collaborator; contact the AURA Export Control Officer via E-Mail and discuss the best method of transportation. If there are any doubts and the traveler is unable to contact the AURA Export Control Officer, have the person air freight the item to AURA. The apparent convenience of hand carrying an item may be an illusion.

If you have any questions about these matters, please contact Orion Wiest, the AURA Export Control Officer (ext. 8126).

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