Frequently Asked Questions


In some instances, academic inquiry produces results, the full and immediate disclosure of which would be detrimental to the national security or foreign policy of the United States. In such cases, it may be appropriate for the University to accept certain limitations on the conduct and communication of research results. Because of the stringent requirements surrounding classified research, the university generally does not accept such contracts.

Export controls are federal laws that regulate the distribution of technology, services and information to foreign nationals and foreign countries for reasons including foreign policy and national security. Most important to University faculty and staff are the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). 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
  • Government concerns about the declared or suspected end use or end user of the export

Export means an actual shipment or transmission of items subject to the EAR out of the United States, or release of technology or software subject to the EAR to a foreign national in the United States. Release of export-controlled technology and source code can also occur through transmission via e-mails, faxes, designs, and verbal correspondence.

Under the ITAR regulations, export means not only sending or taking a defense article out of the U.S. in any manner, but also disclosing (including oral or visual disclosure) or transferring technical data to a foreign person, whether in the U.S. or abroad. An export also means performing a defense service on behalf of, or for the benefit of, a foreign person, whether in the U.S. or abroad.

The university is open to students and faculty from many different countries. Access to restricted or export controlled technology, commodities, defense articles and defense services by an unauthorized foreign person could result in severe criminal or civil penalties for the university and the university employee making the export. Prosecution of an export violation may result in fines of up to $1M and/or a prison sentence of up to 20 years. See News & Events for some examples of prosecutions for export violations.

Release of technology or source code subject to a foreign national in the United States is "deemed" to be an export to the home country of the foreign national under the EAR. Technology is specific information necessary for the development, production, or use of a Commerce Department product controlled for export.

Export controls apply if the topic of the research appears on either the U.S. Munitions List (ITAR) or the Commerce Control List (EAR). There are several exclusions and exceptions to the application of the regulations, most importantly the fundamental research exclusion. Contact us and we will help you make the determination if export controls apply to your project or research.

First, try to ensure that the research performed at UofL falls within the parameters of the fundamental research exclusion, educational information exclusion, and/or the publically available information exclusion. Contact us and we can help you protect these important exclusions.

Fundamental research is basic and applied research in science and/or engineering where the resulting information is ordinarily published and shared broadly in the scientific community.

University research will not qualify as fundamental research if:

  • the University or researcher accepts any restrictions on the publication of the information resulting from the research, other than customary prepublication reviews [see NU's policy] by research sponsors to prevent inadvertent disclosure of their proprietary information or the compromise of the patent rights of sponsors; or
  • the research is federally funded and the University or the researcher accepts specific access or dissemination controls regarding the resulting information.

Most research activities at UofL are excluded from export controls because of a general exception for fundamental research. Both the EAR and the ITAR provide that no licenses are required to disclose technical information if the information is in the public domain. Information is in the public domain if it is published and generally accessible to the public through unlimited and unrestricted distribution or through "fundamental research in science and engineering at accredited institutions of higher learning in the U.S. where the resulting information is ordinarily published and shared broadly in the scientific community". This fundamental research exclusion applies to basic and applied research in science as long as the research is carried out openly and without restrictions on publication or access to or dissemination of the research results (EAR 734.8; ITAR 120.11(8)). By not accepting any restriction on publication or foreign nationals, UofL protects the fundamental research exclusion.


ITAR is an acronym that stands for International Traffic in Arms Regulations (22 CFR 120-130) that are administered by the U.S. Department of State through the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) under authority of the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2778). ITAR places strict controls on the export of "defense articles" and "defense services." Any defense article, service, or related technical data found to be on the USML requires an export license to be exported, or given to a non-US-person. Some license exceptions are available.

Defense articles include any item or technical data on the United States Munitions List (USML).

Defense services include the furnishing of assistance to foreign persons, whether or not in the United States, with respect to defense articles, and the furnishing of any technical data associated with a defense article.

The USML is a list of categories of items, defense articles and related technology designated as defense or military related. The USML is found in 22 CFR §121. Items on the USML are divided into 21 categories.


The primary focus of the EAR is to control the export of "dual-use" technologies or items that have both a military and civilian application.

An export control classification number, or ECCN, comes from 15 CFR §774, Supplement 1, also known as the Department of Commerce's Commodity Classification List or CCL. An ECCN is a five-character alpha-numeric classification used in the CCL to identify items for export control purposes.


The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is responsible for enforcing all U.S. embargoes and sanction programs. Depending on each country’s embargo or sanction program, different activities may or may not be prohibited without a specific government authorization or license.

The OFAC sanction programs can be generalized into three categories:

  1. “Comprehensive” – In general, under comprehensive sanctions programs, ALL interactions and activities are prohibited, including exporting to, importing from, financial transactions of any kind, and/or providing services of any kind. While essentially all interactions with comprehensively sanctioned countries are prohibited, there is an exception for informational materials that allows certain transactions to occur.
  2. “Limited” – Under limited sanctions programs only some activities (e.g., importation of items) are prohibited.
  3. “Regime or List-Based” – Regime or List-Based sanctions are targeted against specific individuals identified by the Treasury Department and referred to as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) or are targeted against specific groups of people usually associated with a governmental body or regime.


Export and sanctions training provides participants in restricted research projects with the knowledge to prevent inadvertent violations of U.S. export and trade sanctions regulations. The training session usually lasts about an hour and provides an overview of the regulatory agencies, export regulations, and trade sanction programs.

Training for PIs, Co-PIs, and other project personnel is required when the research project becomes restricted due to acceptance of publication, access and dissemination controls, or if a defense article is involved in the research. The research project may become subject to U.S. export regulations or trade sanctions depending on the contractual terms of the award or funding contract. Training is required for any participant who will have access to controlled source code, technology, or defense articles in the research.

International Travel & Collaborations

See the Provost’s website for international travel procedures. If you have specific questions, please contact us.

Yes, the Office of Export and Secure Research Compliance supports UofL’s commitment to complying with U.S. laws and regulations applicable to export and trade sanctions will attempt to obtain licenses or exemptions as necessary.

  1. When taken outside of the United States, university property such as commodities, software, and technology (items) may be subject to export licensing.  For travel to most destinations, most commercial items will not require a license or exemption.  However, please review the or contact us with specific questions.
  2. Travel with equipment, components, technical data or software specifically designed for military, space, or intelligence applications or otherwise controlled under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) is highly restricted. In these cases, please contact us for assistance with a license review.

Most governments have regulations that permit the seizure of travelers’ computers and the review of their contents.  For example, China’s web of encryption regulations are a good example of importation restrictions which have the potential to ensnare unsuspecting foreigners using their laptops or mobile phones in country. Under the Regulations for the Administration of Commercial Encryption (‘Encryption Regulations’), adopted in 1999 by China’s State Council, the manufacture, use, sale, import, or export of any item containing encryption without prior government approval may lead to administrative fines, the seizure of equipment, confiscation of illegal gains, and even criminal prosecution.  It is important to know how foreign travel will impact your travel with devices.

In general, collaborations between university personnel and scholars at foreign institutions or organizations do not require export licenses unless they involve export controlled or restricted research or involve sanctioned countries or individuals.  Before engaging in an international collaboration, we can help you determine if export licenses are required and verify that the foreign individuals and/or organizations are not blocked or sanctioned entities.

Below is a table of the countries currently under U.S. sanction along with an indication of the sanction program in place. For additional information on a specific sanction program see OFAC Sanction Program Summaries.


Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire)
North Korea

Congo (Democratic Republic