Export Controls - Basics

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Export control regulations are federal laws that prohibit the unlicensed export of certain commodities or information about certain commodities for political, economic and national security reasons. Export controls usually arise for one or more of the following reasons:

  • The nature of the export has actual or potential military applications or economic protection issues
  • Government concerns about the destination country, organization, or individual, and
  • Government concerns about the declared or suspected end use or the end user of the export

Most exports do not require government licenses. However, licenses are required for exports that the U. S. government considers "license controlled".

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service is responsible for the enforcement of export control regulations and the following U.S. government agencies are responsible for their administration:

The Department of Commerce is responsible for the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) (also known as the Commerce Control List). The EAR addresses dual-use items, such as computers or pathogens, that are designed for commercial use but have the potential for military application

The Department of State is responsible for the International Traffic In Arms Regulations (ITAR) (also known as the U.S. Munitions List), which cover defense-related items and services.
The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions imposed against specific countries based on reasons of foreign policy, national security, or international agreements. Full descriptions of all countries currently subject to boycott programs are available at