U.S. persons traveling to Iran for business can now take heart, because they, as well as most laptops and smart phones, may do so without the need for a license. A recent amendment to the wordily-named “General License with Respect to Certain Services, Software, and Hardware Incident to Personal Communications” (formerly “General License D,” now “General License D-1”) permits the export and reexport of a surprisingly broad array of hardware and software to Iran. But even though business travelers to Iran may bring many high-tech devices, they are still advised to exercise great care in planning what they will do in the country.
Whether on purpose or, as some have speculated, by accident, General License D only permitted the export and reexport of specified hardware and software to recipients in Iran, which meant that it did not allow travelers to the country to bring that same hardware and software with them. General License D-1 is a game changer in this regard, permitting individuals traveling from the United States to carry specified hardware and software to Iran, and to bring back items carried out of the U.S. The list of hardware and software authorized for export or reexport under General License D-1, if not actually longer than the list associated with General License D, is more comprehensible. Importantly, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) has clarified that any item on that list, which comprises the Annex to General License D-1, is presumptively “incident to personal communications,” meaning that it may be exported or reexported to Iran under the authority of the License, even if it will not only be used for personal communications. Hence, laptops and smart phones carried to Iran chiefly for business purposes (in addition to the occasional Facebook status update or Skype session with the fam) fall within the License’s scope, as long as they meet the applicable technical criteria in the Annex. Mobile apps and fee-based desktop publishing and productivity software, as long as designated EAR99 or classified under Export Control Classification Number 5D992.c, may also be exported or reexported under the General License.
To be sure, business travelers are not quite the intended beneficiaries of the expanded authorizations under General License D-1. Rather, the new License and its predecessor are the continuation of an effort started by the U.S. Government in 2010 to facilitate the access to and use of personal communications technologies by citizens in some of the most heavily-embargoed countries. Thus, even though travel to Iran from the United States is not prohibited, business travelers should not view General License D-1 as an invitation to pack their bags. U.S. sanctions still greatly limit the ability of U.S. persons to participate in transactions with or provide services to Iran. Business travelers seeking to avoid a forced vacation (or OFAC penalties) are advised to obtain guidance on what they can and cannot do before departing for Iran.