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Export License Guide: Understanding Requirements and Types
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Export License Guide: Understanding Requirements and Types

July 27, 2023
Last Updated:
July 27, 2023
5 min read

Read our guide on export licenses to learn about the different types, understand the requirements, and discover the steps to apply for them.

Export License Guide: Understanding Requirements and Types

Table of Contents

In the ever-evolving landscape of global trade, understanding the nuances of export licensing has become more crucial than ever.

In the last twelve years, U.S. trade goods and services exports have risen by more than 40%.

This surge underscores the growing importance of exports and the licenses that govern them.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve deep into the realm of export licensing – explaining what an export license is, outlining its requirements, and demystifying the various types involved.

Whether you are an established exporter or just starting out, we’ll equip you with the knowledge to navigate the complex waters of export licensing with ease and confidence.

What is an Export License?

An export license is more than just a piece of paper - it's the gateway to global trade.

An export license is a government document that authorizes or grants permission to conduct a specific export transaction.

But not all items require an export license. Most items exported to a foreign buyer may not need one, but it's important to remember that all items are subject to export control laws and regulations.

The primary purpose of an export license is to permit the export of certain goods. But it’s also a tool for the U.S. government to trace transfers of export-controlled technologies. In essence, it's a way of keeping tabs on what's leaving the country, where it's going, and who's sending it.

Now, you might be wondering, "Do I need an export license to ship internationally?" The answer, like many things in law and trade, is "it depends."

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, about 95% of all items exported from the United States do not require an export license. This means that most goods can be exported without specific permissions or documents.

But let’s dive a bit deeper into the factors that influence export license requirements…

Export Licensing Requirements

Export licensing requirements are the rules and regulations set by the government to control the export of goods and services. These requirements are put in place for various reasons including national security, foreign policy, and to ensure the availability of certain goods domestically.

Factors Influencing Licensing Requirements

The requirement for an export license can be triggered by several factors specific to the transaction. These include the:

  • Nature of goods — the type of goods being exported plays a crucial role in determining the licensing requirements. For instance, goods with potential military applications or those that fall under specific categories like high-tech equipment, chemicals, etc., usually have stringent licensing requirements.
  • Destination country —  countries that are known to be hostile to the exporting country, have unstable governments or have a record of human rights abuses may be subject to strict export regulations. The government may deny or delay the license application for exports to these countries.
  • End use — some exports may have a legitimate end use, such as medical supplies, while others may have dual-use potential, meaning they could be used for both civilian and military purposes. In some cases, a license may be granted for the sale of goods to a particular country but with restrictions on use.
  • Licensability of trade activities of the goods to be exported — The licensing authority may examine whether the exporter has a history of compliance with regulatory requirements, whether the exporter's activities are consistent with national security interests, or if the exporter is involved in any sanctioned activities. The licensing authority may also check if the exporting company has appropriate safeguards in place to protect national security, including compliance with the Export Administration Regulations (EAR).

Types of U.S. Export Licenses

In total, there are five different types of export licenses and here’s how they can affect your export business:

Types of US export licenses

#1 Individual Validated License

An Individual Validated License (IVL) is a permit used to export goods that require close supervision by the government. If the product is not listed in EAR99, it is being shipped to an embargoed country, or it is being used for a restricted purpose, an IVL is necessary.

This license is used when selling a specific amount of products to a single end customer. The BIS requires detailed information regarding your product, including its technical specifications, end-users and their location, intended end-use, and any other trade concerns.

#2 Encryption License Arrangement

If you are exporting encryption products to a specific country or organization, you must apply for an Encryption License Arrangement (ELA). You must provide the BIS with data on the intended use and user of the product, as well as the type of encryption employed. This license applies to unlimited quantities of commodities.

#3 Deemed Exports for Encryption Technology and Source Code

Foreign nationals are allowed access to source code or encryption technology in the US, regarded as a "deemed export." Depending on the technology and the recipient's nationality, a Deemed Export Control may be necessary. The exporter must explain the technology or source code being exported, the end-user, and the nature of the foreign national's involvement.

#4 Technology Licenses

Specific licenses are necessary to export certain technologies. If the technology is being utilized to create products, the details are to be presented in this license. The exporter must supply information regarding the technology or source code being exported and the end-user. The specifics of the commodity, including its design, specifications, and technical data, should also be provided.

#5 DSP 5 Export License:

To export unclassified hardware or items on the US Munitions List, International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) requires obtaining a Permanent Export License (DSP-5). The license lists the goods being exported, as well as the destination country and any other relevant information.

How to Get an Export License

Applying for an export license may seem like a daunting task, but with some guidance, you can navigate the process smoothly.

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to go about it:

  1. Identify if a License is Required: The first step in the process is to determine whether you actually need an export license. This can be done by identifying your product's Export Control Classification Number (ECCN) on the Commerce Control List (CCL).
  2. Submit Your Application: If your export does require a license, you can apply online at the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) website using the Simplified Network Application Process Redesign (SNAP-R) system.
  3. Prepare Necessary Documentation: You will need to provide detailed information about the product, its destination, its end-user, and its intended use. Make sure to have all the necessary documents at hand.
  4. Wait for Approval: Once you've submitted your application, it will be reviewed by the BIS. This process typically takes 30-60 days.
How to get an export license

Simplifying the Export License Process

From identifying whether you require an export license to understanding the influencing factors and successfully submitting your application, each step is crucial in ensuring your business operations comply with international trade laws.

While the process may seem complicated, the benefits of understanding and correctly applying for an export license are manifold. Not only does it help in avoiding legal complications, but it also paves the way for a smooth and successful international trade journey.

In essence, securing an export license is more than just a regulatory hurdle - it's a vital step towards expanding your business horizons and making a global impact.

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