Export Control FAQs

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What are Export Controls?

The term “Export Controls” refers collectively to the body of U.S. laws and regulations that govern the transfer of certain materials, devices and technical information related to such materials and devices to foreign nationals or foreign entities. The two main regulations are the EAR and the ITAR. However, the OFAC as authorization over certain aspects and should be consulted.

There is no external funding supporting my activities. Do export controls apply?

Yes, export controls apply to all international activities regardless of funding status or source.

I am doing basic research at Brown in collaboration with a foreign lab. Do export controls apply?

Yes, export controls apply to all international research activities. In general, basic research conducted at the university is not subject to export controls under the Fundamental Research Exclusion as long as it is not in an export restricted area and there are no restrictions on publication or access by foreign nationals. However, in cases where Brown research involves collaborations with foreign nationals, the university must perform a review of the research and document that the Fundamental Research Exclusion or other exclusion does or does not apply.

What is an Export?

An export occurs whenever any item (i.e., any commodity, software, technology, or equipment) or information is sent from the U.S. to a foreign destination or provided to a foreign national here or abroad. The manner in which the transfer or release of the item or information occurs does not matter. Some examples of export activities include: the shipment of items, written or oral communications, hand-carrying items when traveling, providing access to or visual inspection of equipment or facilities, and providing professional services.

What is a Foreign National?

A foreign national is defined as any natural person who is not a U.S. citizen, or is not a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. (i.e., does not have a green card), or who does not have refugee or asylum status.

What is a Foreign Entity?

A foreign entity is any corporation, business, or other entity that is not incorporated to do business in the U.S. This includes international organizations, foreign governments, or any agency of a foreign government.

What is a Restricted Party?

A Restricted Party is an individual, company, organization, or vessel to which US persons/entities (including their subsidiaries and agents in other countries) are generally prohibited from dealing with without a specific license.  Brown has an institutional site license to a comprehensive software program to perform Restricted Party Screening on any outside party doing business/collaborating with Brown.

What is a Dual Use Item?

Items, information, and software that are primarily commercial or civil in nature but also have potential military applications (e.g., GPS units). Dual use items that are identified on the Export Administration Regulation's Commerce Control List (CCL) have an Export Control Commodity Number (ECCN) and are of elevated strategic concern. Dual use items that are subject to regulation but are not identified on the CCL are termed "EAR99." Dual use items may require an export license depending on the item, the recipient, the recipient's citizenship or country of destination, and the item's application.

What is the ITAR?

ITAR stands for the International Traffic in Arms Regulations and they are administered by the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls under the U.S. Department of State. The ITAR governs all military, weapons, and space related items and services as enumerated on the U.S. Munitions List (USML).

What is the EAR?

EAR stands for the Export Administration Regulations and they are administered by the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) under the U.S. Department of Commerce. The EAR governs the export of most items in the U.S., especially dual use items as enumerated on the Commerce Control List (CCL).

How do I know if my item is subject to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR)?

The EAR controls all items (commodities, software, or technology) that are 1) of U.S. origin; or 2) are made with U.S. materials, technology, or know-how; or 3) are located in the U.S. AND that are NOT under the exclusive jurisdiction of another regulatory body (e.g., ITAR or Nuclear Regulatory Commission) or that are NOT shielded from export controls under the Fundamental Research, Educational Information, or Public Information exclusions.

What is OFAC?

OFAC stands for the Office of Foreign Assets Control and is an office under the U.S. Department of the Treasury. OFAC is responsible for enforcing the foreign policy of the U.S. government, including all trade sanctions, embargoes, and financial interactions with prohibited or blocked individuals or entities. For more information, see a listing of OFAC Country Sanction programs.

How may I engage in activities that are prohibited under OFAC?

A license is an authorization from OFAC to engage in a transaction that otherwise would be prohibited.  There are two types of licenses: general licenses and specific licenses. A general license authorizes a particular type of transaction (e.g., undergraduate educational exchange) without the need to apply for a specific license. A specific license is a written document issued by OFAC to a particular person or entity, authorizing a particular transaction in response to a written license application.

IMPORTANT: Persons engaging in transactions pursuant to general licenses or specific licenses must make sure that all conditions of the licenses are strictly observed.

What is an ECCN?

“ECCN” stands for Export Control Classification Number and is an alpha-numeric code used to categorize items that are subject to the EAR into one of the ten categories and five product groups within the Commerce Control List (CCL).

What does a classification as EAR99 mean?

EAR99 is the general “catch-all” classification number assigned to any item that is subject to the EAR but that does not have a specific export control classification number listed in the Commerce Control list. By far, the vast majority of U.S. origin goods are classified as EAR99, and under most circumstances, do not require a license for export.

What is an Export License?

An Export License is a written authorization provided by the federal government granting permission for the release or transfer of export controlled information or item under a defined set of conditions.

What kinds of activities can trigger the need for an export license?

The following are examples of the types of university activities that may trigger the need for an export license or deemed export license:

  • Research in controlled or restricted areas (e.g., defense items or services, missiles, nuclear technology, satellites, chemical/biological weapons, encryption)

  • Research involving the use of export restricted information obtained from external sources

  • Research involving collaborations with foreign nationals here at Brown or overseas

  • Research involving travel or field work done overseas

  • Research involving the transfer or shipment of tangible items or equipment overseas

  • Presentations at meetings or conferences of unpublished information not protected under the Fundamental Research or Educational Information exclusion Research involving the provision of financial support or services outside the U.S.

How do I know if I need a license?

Determining when you need an export license can be very complicated. The Export Control Officer will determine if a license is required and/or if there is a valid license exception or other exclusion that may apply. Contact the Export Control Officer for help with export controls.

What is an Export License Exception?

An Export License Exception is a special authorization that allows you to export or re-export, under very specific conditions, items that would otherwise require an export license.

How do I apply for an export license?

If it is determined that your activity requires an export license, the Export Control Officer will coordinate the license application process. She will work with you to submit a license request to the appropriate regulatory body on your behalf. It is important to note that obtaining an export license can take 3-6 months and there is no guarantee that a license will be granted.  

Are commercially-available items free from export control licensing requirements?

Yes, in most cases, low-end items that are commercially available do not require export licenses. There are some important exceptions including items containing strong encryption technology or software (e.g., laptop computers, web-enabled cell phones), items that have dual use applications (e.g., high end GPS units), or that are restricted under other regulations or sanctions.

What is a Technology Control Plan and when do I need one?

A Technology Control Plan (TCP) is a document drafted by the Export Control Officer in collaboration with the researcher specifying procedures that will be taken in order to safeguard and control access to information or items that are export restricted. In general, a TCP will outline what the restricted information/item is, who will have access to it, how access will be monitored and controlled, how the information/item will be physically and electronically stored, what information about it can be shared or presented, and what will be done with the information/item once the project is completed. Contact Brown’s Export Control Officer for more information on TCPs.

Can I purchase or receive an item on the USML for use in my research?

Brown’s export control compliance program is designed to limit Brown’s exposure to ITAR controlled products, technology, and technical data.  Brown's policy presumptively prohibits faculty, students, or staff from purchasing/receiving any item that is listed on the USML and subject to the ITAR, unless prior documented approval is received from the Vice President of Research.  To initiate this process please contact the Export Control Officer.

What happens when I obtain or use export controlled information from an outside entity?

Research conducted at Brown that includes or uses export controlled or restricted information or items obtained from an outside entity does not qualify under the Fundamental Research Exclusion and would be subject to all export controls. Before export controlled information or item is received by the researcher, the Export Control Officer must be contacted. In some cases, a formal Technology Control Plan will need to be created depending on the specific circumstances.

I am working as a consultant overseas. Do export controls apply to me?

Yes, export controls apply to all U.S. persons, at all times. It is important that you understand and comply with your obligations under export control regulations. If you are consulting in a restricted technology area (e.g., on dual-use technologies or select agent work), then you may need an export license depending on where you are going, what information you are providing, who you are providing it to, and what they intend to do with it. If the destination or end-user is a foreign national of a sanctioned country (especially Iran, Syria, Cuba, Sudan, or North Korea), then in most cases any consulting activities would be prohibited regardless of the subject matter. For more information, see a listing of OFAC Country Sanction programs.

I am planning my international fieldwork. It might involve travel to a sanctioned country, and/or work with sanctioned groups or individuals (e.g. terrorist or militia groups, narcotics traffickers, criminal groups, members of current or former totalitarian regimes). What do I need to consider when planning my trip?

Research taking place in, and/or involving collaborators in, sanctioned countries, as well as research involving sanctioned groups or individuals requires export control/sanctions review. Most activities, including research activities and survey collections, in comprehensively embargoed countries (Iran, North Korea, The Crimea Region of Ukraine, Cuba) are not allowed unless authorized (via a license) by the U.S. government. 

The federal government also prohibits certain activities and transactions with sanctioned groups or individuals, which includes, but is not limited to individuals associated with terrorist organizations, narcotics traffickers, milita groups, criminal groups, and individuals associated with current or former totalitarian regimes. If you are planning to work with or conduct research on individuals or groups that may fall into this category, you must contact the Export Control Team in the Office of Research Integrity. 

In addition, if you are planning to work with or train members of a foreign military, police, or law enforcement, you must also contact the Export Control Team for a review. Certain training activities (not limited to combat training) with foreign military, police or law enforcement can be considered a defense service under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and may require a license. 

Lastly, if you are planning to take or ship research equipment to your international fieldwork site, you must also review and comply with all Export Control Laws and Regulations.  Note that certain countries (China, Russia, Venezuela, Hong Kong, Burma and Cambodia) require additional documentation when exporting (permanently or temporarily) certain items, including laptops. Please see here for more details. 

To request a review or if you have questions, please contact the Export Control Team. For more information on sanction and export controls in the context of international research, see here