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Early in June I'll be travelling to the US..

I've heard various bits of news about the rules for taking laptops to the US. That they won't be allowed in hand baggage, or they won't be allowed at all, or no change has taken effect yet, or that they only apply from certain starting points.

What are the rules for taking a laptop on a flight from the UK to the US?

Where can I find up-to-date information on this?

  • 3
    Remember that any laptop brought through U.S. Customs is subject to "search" (which sometimes results in the hard drive being erased). Be sure you back it up before your trip, and remove from it anything you wouldn't want a Customs agent to see. If you look harmless and are polite enough, they probably won't mess with you(r laptop), but you can never really be sure. This is a policy from the Obama era, I believe. – Jeffiekins May 22 '17 at 21:56
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    @Jeffiekins I have never heard of US customs erasing a hard drive in their possession. – Philipp May 23 '17 at 7:10
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    @Philipp That's why I mentioned it. In the U.S., if law enforcement takes possession of a laptop, it's not so unusual for it to be returned (a couple of weeks later) wiped. If they find anything they deem "interesting" on your laptop, they may take possession of it, and then, at the very least, you'll be without it and working from your backups for some time. – Jeffiekins May 23 '17 at 11:54
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    This question is not a duplicate. The other question asks specifically about carry-on luggage. This question asks about taking laptops in general. Furthermore, the other question has been closed for being unclear, so it doesn't seem useful to close this one as a duplicate of that. – JBentley May 23 '17 at 12:37
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The US has banned laptops in carry on on flights from several airports, mostly in the middle east. DHS FAQ on this.

Flights from the UK to the US have no such restrictions.

There was talks of expanding the ban on laptops in carry on to all flights into the US from Europe. This hasn't happened and it is unlikely to happen due to the enormous economic impact such a restriction would have (the airlines really hate this). Also, it can be argued that putting all those lithium batteries in the hold is more dangerous.

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    Does this mean that, with the restriction, it's permitted to carry laptops in the hold? – AJFaraday May 22 '17 at 11:03
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    @AJFaraday Yes. If flying a route where laptops are not allowed in the cabin, they are allowed in the hold. It is always advisable to carry laptops with you rather than placing them in checked in baggage if at all possible. Both due to the possibility of them being damaged and stolen in transit. – Kris May 22 '17 at 11:06
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    @Kris And many airlines prohibit lithium batteries in checked baggage because of the fire risk. Since most laptops these days don't have removable batteries, that equates to most airlines requiring you to keep your laptop in carry-on (which, as you say, is excellent from the point of view of theft and damage). – David Richerby May 22 '17 at 16:38
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    @AjFaraday Chances of your laptop arriving at the destination if you put it in the hold are notoriously bad, so I would think twice about putting it in checked luggage. Great security theatre once again (usually it's at least just an annoyance, this time some brilliant idiot decided that a hold full of lithium batteries was perfectly safe..) – Voo May 22 '17 at 20:32
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    Good answer, but I'd like to see at least some sourcing of the 'unlikely to happen'; while I agree with it, it seems highly speculative and at risk to change. – Joe May 22 '17 at 23:00
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I recently traveled from India to USA via Dubai. I did not bring a laptop but saw others bringing their laptops along. I understand it is risky, but if you can check-in your laptop in one of the check-in bags, all good!. But for the carry-on ones, here is what Emirates did to save the situation.

Emirates asked the passengers to submit their laptop at a kiosk right at the gate. The staffed packed the Laptop, tagged it and checked-in the laptop package. I am sure they considered the safety measures as it is valuable.

While at the baggage claim on arrival, they set up another kiosk at the destination where you can claim your laptop. I did not hear any case of loss or damage of any passengers of the big A380-800 airplane. This might not be the case for all airlines, but you can verify if they have anything that they can help with.

All said, I found the Customs and Immigration officers quite friendly at JFK. Somebody else might be able to share the severity of the situation. However one of the solution is available to you, in the worst case. Cover the laptop well in clothes and pack it safely in the check-in bag.

  • Gate checking is what this is called -- this is a routine practice for many North American airlines, but usually due to small regional planes whose overhead bins are smaller than those on mainline jets :) – UnrecognizedFallingObject May 23 '17 at 0:50
  • Yes, I failed to use the term. Thank You @UnrecognizedFallingObject – Aditya Alle May 23 '17 at 22:02

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