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A Quick Explainer of the Laptop Ban for Some International Travelers

Instituted in March by the Department of Homeland Security, it has now been entirely lifted.
A Quick Explainer of the Laptop Ban for Some International Travelers
Image credit: Baona | Getty Images

Update, July 20, 2017

The controversial ban on laptops and other electronic devices instituted by the United States in March that affected passengers flying from 10 Muslim-majority countries has been lifted entirely.

Department of Homeland Security spokesman David Lapan tweeted that all airlines that were impacted had updated their security protocols to DHS specifications.

On the DHS website, it describes the enhanced security measures as “both seen and unseen” and that they will be implemented in several phases, though the specific timetable is unclear.

The site proffers several examples of what the “layers of security” entail, including “the use of intelligence and analysis, cross-checking passenger manifests against relevant databases, thorough screening at checkpoint, random canine team screening at airports, reinforced cockpit doors, federal air marshals, armed pilots and a vigilant public.”

Update July 10, 2017

Following the lift of the United States-imposed electronics ban on Etihad, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines last week, passengers traveling from Kuwait and Jordan to the United States on Kuwait Airways and Royal Jordanian are now able to bring their laptops and other devices with them on the plane.

Update, July 5, 2017

Three of the 10 airlines in Muslim-majority countries affected by the U.S. electronics ban can now allow passengers to take their laptops and other devices with them on flights to the United States.

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, Dubai’s Emirates Airlines and Turkish Airlines heightened their security measures to comply with guidelines set by the Department of Homeland Security.

However, travelers coming from to the United States from Egypt’s Cairo International Airport, Jordan’s Queen Alia International Airport, Kuwait International Airport, Morocco’s Mohammed V Airport, Qatar's Hamad International Airport, Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdul-Aziz International Airport are still operating under the rule that was instituted in March.

Update, June 29, 2017

On June 28, the Department of Homeland Security released a statement about the implementation of “enhanced security measures for all commercial flights to the United States.”

The statement cited four broad areas of increased scrutiny, including: “enhancing overall passenger screening; conducting heightened screening of personal electronic devices; increasing security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas; and deploying advanced technology, expanding canine screening and establishing additional preclearance locations.”

What this will look like for travelers and the manner in which it will be rolled out -- and in which airports -- was not made clear.

However, the Department of Homeland Security did share the number of airports and the number of travelers that the new security measures could affect: 105 countries, 280 airports and 180 airlines conducting 2,100 daily flights that transport an average of 325,000 passengers daily.

The original story, published on April 6, 2017, follows

On March 21, a rule issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security went into effect that requires travelers flying to the United States from 10 airports in Muslim-majority countries to put electronics larger than a smartphone in checked baggage. The DHS identified cameras, e-readers, portable DVD players, tablets, travel printers and scanners and laptops as the devices that wouldn’t be allowed on board.

The airports that were impacted by the rule are Abu Dhabi International Airport, Dubai International Airport, Egypt’s Cairo International Airport, Jordan’s Queen Alia International Airport, Kuwait International Airport, Morocco’s Mohammed V Airport, Qatar's Hamad International Airport, Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdul-Aziz International Airport and Turkey’s Ataturk International Airport.

For all domestic flights or international flights departing from the United States, the new rule does not apply.

Related: Trump Travel Ban, Even While Blocked, Casts Long Shadow Over Immigrant Entrepreneurs

The DHS had this to say to explain why the rule was being implemented: “Evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation and are aggressively pursuing innovative methods to undertake their attacks, to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items.”

The agency did not say at what point the ban would be lifted, and at a congressional hearing this week, Homeland Security secretary John Kelly said, “we may take measures in the not too distant future to expand the number of airports.”

Last month, the United Kingdom also instituted a similar ban for direct flights to the U.K. from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey.

Related: What Does the Travel Ban Mean for the U.S. Tourism Industry?

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports that the Trump administration is considering “extreme vetting” practices for citizens from foreign countries that want to enter the United States. Those could include being compelled to share social media passwords, phone contacts and financial records, in addition to questions regarding ideology.

Though none of these practices have been implemented, if were they to go into effect, they could be far-reaching and affect countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program, which allows people from specific countries to stay in the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa. Those participating countries include Australia, France, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom.