Export controls are administered by the Bureau of Export Administration (BXA) in the U.S. Department of Commerce, and are described in detail in the official publication U.S. Export Administration Regulations (EAR). Whenever there is any doubt about how to comply with export regulations and licensing procedures, Department of Commerce officials or qualified professional consultants should be contacted for assistance.

The Department of Commerce controls exports for the following reasons:

  • To advance the foreign policy of the United States, or to fulfill its declared international obligations;
  • To restrict exports that would be detrimental to the national security of the United States;
  • To protect the domestic economy from the excessive drain of materials that are in short supply and to reduce the serious inflationary impact of foreign demand.

Exports not controlled by the Department of Commerce are controlled by the following agencies:

  • Patent and Trademark Office (unclassified technical data contained in patent applications);
  • Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (certain business dealings involving U.S. persons and embargoed countries, and all exports to Libya at the time of this writing);
  • Department of the Interior (endangered fish and wildlife, migratory birds, and bald and golden eagles);
  • Department of Agriculture (any tobacco seed and/or live tobacco plants);
  • U.S. Maritime Administration (certain water craft);
  • Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration (exports of certain narcotics and dangerous drugs);
  • Department of State, Office of Defense Trade Controls (arms, ammunition, and implements of war, and related technical data).

In addition, exporters of food products should contact the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Compliance Division, (202) 205-4726, to ensure that all foreign regulations, documents, and certification requirements are met.

Export Licenses

An export license is the government document that allows the export of designated items to certain destinations. All Commerce Department export licenses fall into two broad categories. General licenses do not require prior Commerce Department approval before shipment. Validated licenses are given to a particular exporter for a specified commodity to specified destinations for a specific end use.

The majority of all exports leave the country under a general license authorization. A general license is a broad grant of authority by the government to all exporters for certain categories of products. Individual exporters do not need to apply for general licenses, since such authorization is already granted through EAR; they only need to know the authorization is available.

There are currently more than 20 different categories of general licenses. To qualify for a general license, an exporter must meet all the described provisions and not violate any of the prohibitions listed in Part 771.2 of EAR . Violations of the regulations carry both civil and criminal penalties.

The procedure for applying for a validated license is to submit a completed application to: U.S. Bureau of Export Administration, Room 2705, Washington, DC 20230. Application forms may be ordered by sending a self-addressed mailing label to "Forms Request" at this same U.S. Department of Commerce address.

For help in determining the proper license, exporters may contact the Exporter Counseling Division of the Department of Commerce, Herbert C. Hoover Building, Room 1099D, Washington, DC 20230, (202) 482-4811. The exporter may also check with the local Department of Commerce district office.

Import Regulations

Import regulations imposed by foreign governments vary from country to country. Exporters should be aware of the regulations that apply to their own operations and transactions. Many governments require such items as consular invoices, certificates of inspection, health certification, and various other documents.

More contact options exist at: Bureau of Export Administration (BXA), (202) 482-4811; BXA Western Regional Office (714) 660-0144; Export Licensing Voice Information System (ELVIS) (202) 482-4811. An automated attendant offers a range of licensing information and emergency handling procedures. Callers may order forms and publications or subscribe to the Office of Export Licensing (OEL) newsletter, called OEL Insider, which provides regulatory updates. Callers also will be given the option to speak to a consultant.

A Basic Guide to Exporting , and U.S. Export Administration Regulations are publications of the International Trade Administration, obtainable from the U.S. Government Printing Office (202-512-1800) helping businesses develop export strategies, find economic market research, ship overseas, complete export documentation, respond to overseas inquiries, and take advantage of available government export-assistance programs.