August 14, 2019

Travelling With A Laptop

The Trump administration has imposed several directives on US travel, over the past few years. The ‘laptop’ ban that came into effect during March 2017 is one such decree that forbade passengers from carrying laptops when they were traveling to the US while coming from some airports in the Middle East and North Africa. Originally, the ban was applicable on US-bound flights from eight Muslim-majority countries.

The ban stated that the passengers had to check- in their laptops, along with their other hold luggage.

After the ban’s implementation, there was speculation that the ban would extend to cover all countries. Hence, the ban would affect all flights entering the US from abroad.

Also, the ban was having a global effect, with the United Kingdom adopting similar measures. Indeed, the UK had a similar ban for large-sized electronics for inbound flights from six countries: Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey.

Nonetheless, the controversial ban lasted for only four months and was revoked in July 2017. Also, other directives were issued to airlines to comply with certain rules – relating to what travelers can carry on US-bound flights.

Another directive was issued during the year 2009, as part of security measures, whereby the travelers have to apply for an ESTA visa to gain entry into the US.


Decodifying the Laptop Ban

During the Laptop ban, the passengers had to submit their larger electronic devices to the airport officials. The gadgets were not allowed on-board the flights and were to be added to the checked-in luggage. Cameras were confiscated for the flight and smartphones were permissible.

As part of the Laptop ban, the gadgets were taken by the airport officials and wrapped in bubble wrap; and for storing the devices, they used boxes. Also, the authorities took details from the passenger’s boarding pass during collection.

Moreover, passengers were given a ‘declaration and acknowledgment form’ that they had to fill. The required details included contact and passport information, along with a brief description of the item.

Then, upon reaching the destination, the electronics in boxes are ready for collection. After completing the passport-related and immigration formalities, the passengers can collect their belongings.

Upon claiming your devices, the officials remove the devices from the boxes and return them to the owners. The boxes bear your name, destination, flight number, and date.


Know More about the Laptop Ban

  • The laptop ban applied to particular airports in Dubai, Morocco, Kuwait, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.
  • During March 2017, the ban was imposed amid fears that Islamic countries were devising explosives and concealing them in large-sized electronic gadgets.
  • Passengers need to work on laptops during flights for a range of purposes. Also, airlines perceived that the ban would pose problems and deter people from traveling to the US. Hence, the ban was revoked.
  • In recent years, to receive authorization to travel to the US, travelers have to fill an ESTA form.
  • The ban was lifted as a result of Washington coming up with an alternative solution. As such, additional security measures were announced for screening electronics, laptops, and explosives; the new rules were aimed at extensive screening. More importantly, the new rules intended to prevent the expansion of the ‘laptop’ ban that could have lead to people reducing US travel.


Regulations on taking laptops to the US

As mentioned earlier, the US laptop ban was discontinued on July 2017. Thus, passengers from the aforesaid countries can, now, carry laptops on US-bound airplanes. Even so, you have to abide by certain regulations concerning your laptops and other electronic devices.

As per the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), if you are traveling with a laptop onboard, then the devices have to be scanned at the airport security checkpoints. The devices have to be placed on a tray and you may have to switch on your laptop as part of the screening process too.

Moreover, you cannot pack spare laptop batteries (including the lithium metal and lithium-ion ones) in your checked baggage. Instead, you can take them in your hand luggage on board the flight – the Federal Aviation Administration says so.

Besides, laptops cannot be used during takeoff and landing. Only you can use them during the flight. However, make sure to download all that you need beforehand, even though some airlines provide Wi-fi connectivity.


Regulations on other electronics to the USA

If you are confused about what you can and what not to take with you in the USA, refer to the following points to know more.

Previously, you only had to offer your laptop to the security authorities as part of baggage checking. Nowadays, all your gadgets are scrutinized by airport officials.

TSA’s guidelines require the passengers to remove all their electronics from hand luggage for scrutiny. As such, the X-Ray machines can clearly scan the gadgets.

In addition to gadgets, restrictions have been imposed on liquids as well. So, if you have pastes or gels that are above 100 mm in quantity, they will not be allowed on board. For liquids below 100 mm, carry them in transparent bags in your hand luggage and show to the officials during inspection.

For saving time, make sure to do the needful beforehand. Note that these additional security measures do not apply to passengers in TSA✓ paths.


More About The New Rules

TSA has rolled out new regulations for electronic devices on flight entering the USA.

Passengers have to carry their laptops in their hand luggage and not hold luggage. This is important because your gadgets are at higher risk in checked luggage. Note that the weight of other bags tends to exert tremendous pressure on your electronics, thereby causing their damage.

Additionally, high altitudes and low temperatures can cause damage to your electronics when stored in the hold.

However, TSA understands that carrying your laptop onboard increases screening times. Therefore, here are some guidelines on how travelers can increase efficiency at the airport with their laptops in tow.

To answer your query regarding what can I bring to the airport, well consider getting a TSA-approved laptop bag such as the ‘triford’, ‘butterfly’, and ‘sleeve’ ones. They are TSA-friendly and their contents do not have to be removed at the security checkpoints.

This is because they offer a clear view of the laptops in the screening machines. However, except for the ‘sleeve’ laptop bags, other bags have to be kept open during scrutiny.

Also, you have to make sure to place your laptop separately from your other baggage, irrespective whether your laptop can be scanned or not. So, place your laptop in a different tray during security checks. If you need to remove your laptop from a case, then keep the case and laptop in different trays.

Also, if wondering what to bring as hand luggage, know that you are allowed your carry-on luggage, in addition to a laptop bag. This is helpful for you to know because your laptop is accessible during the flight. More so, you have extra space in your carry-on bag via this arrangement.


Why all are affected by the new security measures?

The USA has approximately 2000 commercial flights arriving from over 100 foreign countries, with more than 300,000 passengers. The new regulations will impact all commercial flights that arrive in the US each day.

Nevertheless, the passengers will have to wait in long queues for security checks. Note that exhaustive screening takes longer and the queues will become larger. Nonetheless, due to enhanced screening, no reports of major delays have been reported so far.

However, an increase in screening times is controversial and counterproductive too. Instead, there should be focus on reducing screening times and improving the traveler experience.

In recent times, certain airports are planning on introducing the biometric screening. The objective is to curtail the need for documentation whilst making digitally-stored passenger information readily available.

Furthermore, the option of 3D screening is being explored to scan passenger luggage faster. As a result of 3D screening, travelers will no longer have to remove their laptops and liquids from their bags during the screening process. Such measures help to improve security and, simultaneously, enhance the passenger experience.

Today when we are working to reduce waiting times and quicken the security process, there is a need to find a better way to screen electronics – and 3D screening provides a viable solution.

Surely, travelers want to carry their electronics and valuable in their hand luggage. Moreover, people want to use their laptops to work or for entertainment purposes.

In fact, business-class passengers are more likely to work on their laptops whilst flying.

Other than that, the authorities had to work extra to make sure that passengers were not carrying laptops in their hand luggage on US-bound flights. Thus, imposing the ‘laptop’ ban is not advisable.


Travel Permits

The type of required travel authorization has not been altered in view of the new security measures. All the same, citizens from all countries that are members of the ‘Visa Waiver Programme’ do not need visas for traveling to the US for business or holiday.

They can apply for ESTA that serves as an alternative to a visa. Armed with ESTA, the travelers can stay for 90 days in the USA during a single trip. Only they have to be tourists or should travel for business or some other travel purposes.

Applying for ESTA is fairly easy. Only fill some of your personal and passport details in an online form and submit the same.

Then, within 24 hours, you will receive an email confirmation stating whether your ESTA application is approved, denied or pending. Mostly, ESTA applications are approved quickly if all your paperwork is in order.

ESTA has 2-year validity after receiving the approval email. However, if the holder’s passport expires within the 2-year interval, then ESTA expires as well. ESTA permits the traveler to visit the USA numerous times for the two-year duration, but each visit must not exceed 90 days.


Tech Devices and US Customs

In recent times, US citizens and other passengers are astonished by the fact that custom officials are searching and seizing of their personal electronic devices when entering the US.

Also, they are questioning whether the Customs officer can do so without a warrant or probable cause.

The answer to your question is YES. The Custom and Border Protection officials have the authority to search your electronic devices.

The Department of Homeland Security was given the authorization to search or seize passengers’ electronic devices sans any warrant or probable cause in the year 2013.

This law is applicable to US international airports and the US border.

As per the new law, the US Customs officials can search and seize electronic devices as they deem fit. Keep in mind that your electronic devices are subject to the prevalent laws of the countries that you are traveling to.

On your part, you should avoid carrying sensitive data to other countries to be on the safer side. Also, consider getting the necessary permission if your data is subject to non-disclosure agreements or privacy regulations.


Reduce ‘Data-related’ Risks

You can reduce the risks to your data by complying with the following suggestions.

  • If you are a company employee, then take only ‘clean’ devices that have no stored sensitive work-related data. Moreover, you can consult the Division of Information Technology for loaner laptops and other electronic gadgets that are reserved employees who are traveling abroad.
  • When taking your personal device to the US, adopt ‘sanitizing’ measures. For the same, take back-ups and remove all data from your laptop that is not needed for your trips. This includes your saved logins. Also, keep in mind that deleting or shifting the files to the Recycle Bin is not sufficient, they are recoverable if you do so. Instead, you must securely delete the data.
  • Install the latest updates for firewalls and anti-malware on your devices.
  • Use unique passwords and other than those of your other devices.
  • Upon your return, change the passwords of all accounts that you accessed during your travel trips.