Traveling Through Customs With Your Laptop

The modern era has made many former ordeals easy, but getting your gadgets through customs can still be a major headache. When it comes to laptops thereís a number of particular requirements you will commonly need to fulfill when traveling through customs in the U.S., and in countries across the world.

Unfortunately it is unlikely navigating this process will get any easier in the near future, so that means itís critical to understand the system as it stands today, and the best way to move through it when you travel.

A Customized Experience

It is understood in the post-9/11 era why airport security is strict. After all, for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the U.S. and its collegial associations in other countries around the world, itís known the failure to preemptively identify a security threat beforehand could result in truly harrowing consequences. Itís why since September 11, 2001 airport security has been so strict in the United States and around the world.

While all travelers understand why security must be tight - and is ultimately supportive of it being that way - that fact is travelers know itís also necessary to strike the right balance. One where airport security is rightfully strong and robust in the areas where a breach represents a real and substantial threat to others, but does not partake in activity that delays the processing of passengers through customs, and as a consequence results in countless lost hours in productivity for travelers, and operation time for airport security agents.

The Experience Today

Since 2013 the Department of Homeland Security has claimed they have the legal authority to search electronic devices like laptops in the United States. In turn, they claim they can do this even if they do not have a warrant or probable cause to do so. It must be noted this position has been subject to legal challenge - so consequently it can best be described as a claim that isnít black and white but has shades of grey - but whatever the case, presently Homeland Security maintains their claim, and travelers not aware of it before arriving at the airport have been shocked by it.

The Essential Information

As well as customs checks itís a reality the TSA and other airport security agencies around the world have the capacity to not only run your laptop through rigors of red tape surrounding customs, but also undertake a personal inspection of its data. Whatís more, for anyone thinking Ďoh that wonít be an issue for me, it needs a password to loginí - well it will be.

The good news for U.S. citizens is that the TSA cannot deny you entry to the country if you refuse to provide your password, but they can confiscate your device(s). Whatís more, thereís been a number of episodes where American travelers have been detained for a period of time in the airport, and even placed under arrest as a flow-on effect from such a refusal.

Of course in some of these cases it became clear in the fullness of time some arrests were justified owing to the criminal activity of the person involved, but thatís a scenario far removed from someone of good character just reluctant to turn over their device and all its login info to a complete stranger.

Ultimately, the best way to minimize issues here is to proactively avoid bringing sensitive data on your laptop. Do this either by deleting content you wish to avoid being seen by prying eyes altogether, or store files in the cloud before you head to the airport for retrieval later. This offers some peace of mind in the event you do decide to turn over your laptop and disclose the password, as ultimately there is nothing stored on your laptop.

Then once you arrive at your destination you can download the data, and use the laptop just as you would at home. It is also important to ensure your computer security is up to date. This means having strong antivirus and antimalware software in place. Many people find using the default antivirus software that comes with Windows (Windows Defender) is good. For Mac, Avast is a good pick. For antimalware, Malwarebytes is a powerful program available for both Windows and Mac.

Will Any Nations Ease Up in Future?

Itís true every nation is different around the world, and subject to change their laws as they desire. As a result, itís theoretically possible you may find in future a country youíve previously traveled to has become less strict on custom checks. This is the theory, but in practice itís not likely as new and dynamic borderless security threats continue to emerge in our world. WE all must recognise this reality, and plan for our travel accordingly.

Clearing the Checkpoint

Ultimately it is in the interest of the TSA and its sibling organizations to see a common sense approach to security prevail. The countless hours lost each year to pursuing such custom checks on laptops also has a very human cost to it that factors into the performance of airport security agents. Travelers need airport security agents that are alert and attentive to the true threats that confront us. Asking them to engage in hour after hour of droll checks of laptops law abiding raises the risk of them missing a real threat when it arises.

In the meantime, while common sense reform is this space is surely overdue in the U.S. and beyond, passengers looking to get through customs with their laptop as quickly and painlessly as possible must remember to remove any sensitive data from their laptop before heading to the airport. This way you can avoid your privacy being compromised, and move through the processes faster.

One last thing, you may send and receive faxes while on the road using an online fax service such as SRFax, which is offering faxing plans starting at $3.49 a month. Updated on March 3, 2020.

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