Going to an embargoed country? Interacting with someone in an embargoed country?

The Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) broadly regulates and restricts transactions with embargoed countries including certain academic collaborations and exchange of research materials and equipment. The most comprehensive controls apply to: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Crimea, Donetsk, Luhansk Regions of Ukraine. The regulations are country/region specific.

North Korea
Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk Regions of Ukraine

Remote and Online Teaching/Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs):

OFAC regulates instruction delivered online, including via MOOCs, to individuals who are residents in, or ordinarily resident to, comprehensively sanctioned and embargoed countries in instances when such instruction is considered a “service.”

For example, OFAC permits participants from Cuba to engage in an online course, including a MOOC provided the course content is at the undergraduate level or below [in accordance with the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, CACR 31 CFR §515.565(a)(10)]. Similarly, OFAC also permits participants from Iran to engage in an online course, including a MOOC, “provided that the courses are the equivalent of courses ordinarily required for the completion of undergraduate degree programs in the humanities, social sciences, law, or business, or are introductory undergraduate level science, technology, engineering, or math courses ordinarily required for the completion of undergraduate degree programs in the humanities, social sciences, law, or business” [in accordance with General License G(b)(1)(iii) under the Iranian Trade Sanctions Regulations ITSR, 31 CFR § 560].

If you are intending to provide online instruction, including instructions via MOOCs, to:

• graduate students in any field; or

• undergraduate students in engineering, math or other STEM fields or a field related to defense technology, including weapons and space systems;

such course instruction may require authorization or a license. You must coordinate with Brown’s Export Control Team before launching any such course.



The Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR – 31 CFR Part 560) prohibit many transactions with Iran and Iranians, including the import and export of services. A combination of regulatory exemptions plus several existing general licenses, however, authorize a number of academic activities and transactions with Iran/Iranians without the need to apply for a specific license from OFAC. As with many federal regulations, the proverbial devil is in the details. A general license authorizes a very specific activity and, often, comes with several conditions. If a proposed engagement/transaction with Iran or an Iranian colleague does not fit into one of the existing general license categories, a specific license must be obtained from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) before one can engage in the activity.

Click here to see list of scenarios and most frequently pursued activities at a university involving Iran/Iranians, with general guidance on whether the activity is exempted from the regulations, is covered by an existing general license, or requires a specific license. In general, ORI advises to err on the side of caution. Please check the regulations or discuss your proposed activity with ORI. If a specific license is needed, ORI will facilitate and assist with the OFAC application.

If you are considering travel to Iran, contact the University’s Export Control Officer as soon as possible to get an export control review of your plans and the types of items you would like to take so we can determine if any licenses would be required.


Contrary to widespread belief, the U.S. embargo against Cuba remains largely in effect and still prohibits tourist travel and commercial trade in most goods and services, under most circumstances.  [see the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR), 31 CFR §515]

Please contact the University’s Export Control Officer as soon as possible if you intend to travel to Cuba for academic purposes, including research, to ensure that your academic purpose is permitted.  The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) authorizes activities subject to CACR via two types of licenses: general and specific licenses.  If the proposed activity is not permitted under a general license then a specific license must be obtained from OFAC prior to engaging in the activity.  The Office of Research Integrity can facilitate the application process.

If the proposed activity is permitted under either a general or specific license, you may still be required to carry a letter from Brown University confirming your enrollment or employment at Brown and your travel purpose.  Additionally, the regulations require you to retain copies of all records (tickets, receipts, etc.) for a minimum of 5 years.  Further, unless explicitly authorized in your license, you are  prohibited from doing business with specific entities tied to the Cuban military, including hotels, stores, and tourist agencies, which are listed on the U.S. State Department’s Restricted Cuban Entities list.  The most recent List of Restricted Entities and Subentities Associated With Cuba can be found on the State Department's website.

**It is important to note that while you may be authorized under the general license to travel to Cuba, it does not automatically allow for the import of certain types of goods or equipment and or the provision of services.  There may be specific license requirements for equipment that you may want to take (e.g., laptop computers, cell phones, flash drives, other wireless/encryption technology, and other items). Contact the University Export Control Officer for help.

Click here to see a list of generally licenses relevant to members of the academic community and additional information.

North Korea

Effective September 1, 2017, the Department of State has declared all U.S. passports invalid for travel to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) unless the travel meets certain criteria, as specified at 22 CFR 51.64.

Due to risk of arrest and long-term detention, it is generally not advised to engage in travel to North Korea. For anyone who is nonetheless proposing to travel to North Korea on a non-U.S. passport OR on a U.S. passport that has been specially validated for travel to North Korea, please note the following:

  • U.S. persons (including U.S. residents) are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions or dealings involving persons whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to North Korea-related authorities.
  • Exports of goods and services to North Korea are generally subject to export controls administered by other agencies, including the Department of Commerce and the Department of State. A license is required for the export or re-export to North Korea of almost all items (all items subject to the EAR other than food or medicines designated as EAR99).
  • You must contact the University’s Export Control Officer to determine if any export or OFAC licenses are required for your trip to North Korea.

Here is the link to the OFAC summary information on the North Korea sanctions program.


Travel to Syria is generally allowed although not advised. If you are planning to travel to Syria, please consult the U.S. Department of State website.

General Don’ts regarding Syria:

You cannot directly or indirectly export, re-export, sell or supply any services to Syria with the exception of exports and re-exports of services in support of humanitarian and other not-for-profit activities in Syria by U.S. and third-country non-governmental organizations.

Here is a link to the OFAC summary information on the Syria sanctions program. If you are planning to travel to/research in Syria, you must consult the University’s Export Control Officer to determine if any licenses would be required.