Export Controls

Do export control laws apply to you?

The vast majority of the SSU’s activities are shielded from export controls under the Fundamental Research, Educational Information and Published Information Exclusions.

In order to qualify as Fundamental Research, research must be conducted freely and openly, with no restrictions on publication and no restrictions on the participation or access by foreign nationals. It is SSU’s typical practice to pursue its missions in a free and open manner, allowing full participation in all educational and research opportunities by all foreign nationals and further, insisting on the unrestricted dissemination and sharing of research results with the global research community.

Introduction to export controls

The US government regulates the transfer of information, commodities, technology, and software considered to be strategically important to the US in the interest of national security, economic and/or foreign policy concerns. There is a complicated network of federal agencies and inter-related regulations that govern exports collectively referred to as “export controls.”

In brief, export controls regulate the shipment or transfer, by whatever means, of controlled items, software, technology, or services out of US (termed an “export”). Perhaps of even more consequence to SSU, is that the government also restricts the release of certain information to foreign nationals here in the US (referred to as a “deemed export”). Export Controls have the potential to severely limit the research opportunities of SSU faculty and their students and staff, as well as to prevent international collaboration in certain research areas. Non-compliance with export controls can result in severe monetary and criminal penalties against both an individual as well as the institution, and can result in the loss of research contracts, governmental funding, and the ability to export items.

Fundamental Research Exclusion

Fundamental Research is defined by the National Security Decision Directive 189 (NSDD189) as “any basic or applied research in science and engineering, the results of which are ordinarily published and shared broadly within the scientific community…” In order to qualify as Fundamental Research, the research must be conducted free of any publication restrictions and without any access or dissemination restrictions. Research that qualifies as Fundamental Research is NOT subject to export controls as provided for under the federal regulations (15 CFR§734.8). It is critical to note that the Fundamental Research Exclusion will be lost if a researcher agrees to any “side-deals” allowing sponsors the ability to review and approve publications or to control access to the project or project results. Loss of the Fundamental Research Exclusion can quickly put your research in jeopardy of non-compliance with export controls.

What might trigger export controls issues?

Research in export restricted science and engineering areas – examples include:

  • Military or Defense Articles and Services
  • High Performance Computing
  • Dual Use Technologies (technologies with both a military and commercial application)
  • Encryption Technology
  • Missiles & Missile Technology
  • Chemical/Biological Weapons
  • Nuclear Technology
  • Select Agents & Toxins (see Select Agent/Toxin list)
  • Space Technology & Satellites
  • Medical Lasers

Traveling overseas with high tech equipment, confidential, unpublished, or proprietary information or data – Traveling with certain types of high tech equipment including but not limited to advanced GPS units, scientific equipment, or with controlled, proprietary or unpublished data in any format may require an export license depending on your travel destination. See International Travel for more information.

Traveling with laptop computers, web-enabled cell phones and other personal equipment – Laptop computers, web-enabled cell phones, and other electronics containing encryption hardware or software and/or proprietary software can require an export license to certain destinations. In general, an export license will be required to take any items to or through any U.S. sanctioned country (e.g., Iran, Syria, Cuba, Sudan, and North Korea).

Use of 3rd party export controlled technology or information – SSU activities involving the use of export controlled information, items, or technology received from outside SSU are not protected under the Fundamental Research Exclusion and all research involving the use of export restricted technology is subject to all export controls.

Sponsored research containing contractual restrictions on publication or dissemination – The vast majority of research done at SSU is shielded from export controls under the Fundamental Research Exclusion. However, this protection is lost whenever the university or the researcher agrees to allow any restrictions on the publication, dissemination, or access to the research by foreign nationals.

Shipping or taking items overseas – SSU activities that involve the transfer of project information, equipment, materials, or technology out of the U.S. by whatever means will be subject to export controls and may require export license(s) depending on the item, destination, recipient, and end-use.

Providing financial support/international financial transactions – SSU activities that involve the international payment of funds to non-U.S. persons abroad need to be verified to ensure that the SSU is not inadvertently providing financial assistance to a blocked or sanctioned entity. Examples include providing support via a subcontract to a non-U.S. university or providing payments to research subjects in other countries.

International collaborations & presentations – SSU activities that involve foreign national faculty, students, staff, visiting foreign scientists or collaborator(s), or other foreign entities (e.g., non-U.S. company, university or other organization) or research that will include travel to international conferences to present unpublished results may be subject to export controls especially if any of the foreign nationals are from embargoed or sanctioned countries.

International field work – Research projects where any part of the research will take place outside the U.S. (e.g., field work outside the U.S.) may not qualify under the Fundamental Research Exclusion and may be subject to export controls.

International Consulting – Providing professional consulting services overseas, especially to embargoed or sanctioned countries (e.g., Iran, Syria, Cuba, Sudan and North Korea) is, in most cases, strictly prohibited.

International Collaborations

In general, collaborations between SSU personnel and scholars at foreign institutions or organizations do not require export licenses unless they involve export controlled or restricted research or involve scholars in sanctioned countries. Before engaging in an international collaboration, SSU needs to determine if export licenses are required and to verify that the foreign individual and/or organization are not blocked or sanctioned entities.

International Travel

When traveling abroad there are three basic questions that university personnel need to consider when determining if export controls apply to their travel:

Where are you going?

In general, travel to most countries is not a problem. Tighter export controls are in effect for countries that are comprehensively sanctioned or have restrictions on trade enforced by various departments of the U.S. government. The following, most comprehensively-sanctioned countries will require advance planning and coordination with our Export Control office: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. Contact us as soon as you anticipate travel to one of these countries. For travel to Cuba, click here for additional information. For information about OSU student travel to risk designated countries, click here.

When traveling abroad, it is always a good idea to contact the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate before you depart. To register your travel plans with an embassy and receive helpful safety and emergency information related to your destination, visit the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. For more information about U.S. Embassies and Consular Offices visit USEmbassy.gov.

What are you taking with you?

Items & Equipment

When taking items abroad (including scientific equipment, laptops, encryption software, cell phones, tablets, flash drives, cameras, and GPS units), you need to verify that the items are not export restricted based on your travel destination(s). When transiting between countries you may be asked to provide an Export Control Classification Number (ECCN) for each item you take.

Most commercially available basic software (such as Microsoft Office) is EAR99 and can be exported either individually or on your device without a license. However, proprietary software, software that includes encryption, and/or other complex software may require an export license.

If you are traveling with items to one of the “comprehensively sanctioned” countries of Cuba, Iran, Syria, Sudan and North Korea, or providing access to your items to a citizen of one of those countries, an export license will most likely be required.

It is highly recommended that you register any items/equipment that you will be taking with you with US Customs and Protection (CBP). Registration allows you to prove that you had the items before you left the US and all CBP registered items will be allowed to return to the US duty-free.

Research Data & Information

You are free to take and openly discuss any data or information that is published, in the public domain, is normally taught as part of a catalog course at SSU, or that resulted from Fundamental Research. However, you cannot take or share data or information that is in any way export-restricted, such as information about export-controlled technologies, proprietary information, or the results of a project not protected under the Fundamental Research Exclusion.

Sharing these types of information may constitute an unauthorized export. All controlled or restricted data and information should be completely removed from laptops, phones, PDAs, or other portable storage devices (e.g., flash drives) before you leave the U.S.

What will you be doing and who will you be interacting with?

It is important to ensure that you do not accidentally export restricted information or provide any type of assistance or benefit to a sanctioned or blocked entity. The following are a few things to keep in mind as you plan your travel activities:


When presenting data/information in an international setting (including in the US where the audience may include foreign nationals), you need to ensure that you limit your presentation to only information or data that is published, or is publicly available, or that qualifies as Fundamental Research. Be careful not to include or discuss any proprietary, unpublished, or export-restricted data or information as that may constitute an unauthorized export.

Interactions with Foreign Colleagues

As noted above, you are free to openly discuss any published or publicly available information or information generated as the result of Fundamental Research as long as the recipient is not a sanctioned or specially designated entity. It is important to remember that while the results/information resulting from Fundamental Research are not subject to export controls and can be shared without a license, any items, technology, or software generated under that Fundamental Research would be subject to export controls and may require an export license.

Field Work

Any SSU research activity done outside the U.S. may not qualify for the Fundamental Research Exclusion. Before disclosing or sharing information or data resulting from international field work it is important to ensure that the information is not export restricted.

In addition, please be aware that any of the following activities occurring while traveling internationally may also trigger export controls:

  • Taking equipment other than items listed in the ECCN chart above;
  • Providing payments of any kind to a foreign person, university or organization;
  • Purchasing or obtaining items or materials from international sources; Planning to bring back samples;
  • Sending equipment, materials, or information from the U.S. to a foreign destination; or
  • Potential or existing non-disclosure agreements or restrictions on the publication of research results.

Provision of Financial Assistance

To ensure compliance with OFAC regulations prohibiting the University from providing material or financial assistance to any blocked or sanctioned individual or entity, any university activity that involves payment to a non-U.S. person, business, or organization (e.g., international subcontracts, purchase of items from international vendors, or payments to research participants) must be verified against all appropriate sanctioned party and entity lists. Contact us at orsp@sonoma.edu for help with screening payees and verifying any international financial transaction(s).

SSU’s efforts to comply with export control regulations

It is SSU policy that all personnel, including faculty, staff, students, visiting scientists and scholars and all other persons retained by or working at SSU comply with all US laws and regulations as they relate to SSU activities including all export control regulations.

If, in the course of research or any other activity, an employee determines that export controls may apply to activities, the employee should carefully review export control regulations and ensure appropriate actions are taken to comply with them. The Office of Research and Sponsored Programs can assist you with export control issues.

Federal Policy Guidance

The U.S. Department of State

The Department of State, through the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) administers the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) (22 CFR §§120-130). The ITAR governs the export of or information related to military, weapons, and space related items and services (e.g., missiles, satellites, firearms) as enumerated on the US Munitions List (USML).

The U.S. Department of Commerce

The Department of Commerce, through the U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), administers the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) (15 CFR §§730-774). The EAR controls the export or transfer of “dual use” items. Dual use items are those that have a potential military as well as commercial or civilian application (e.g., GPS units, centrifuges, mapping software). In general, any item made in the U.S., or made outside the U.S. but with U.S. parts, technology, software, or know-how will be subject to regulation under the EAR unless the item is solely under another agency’s jurisdiction (e.g., ITAR controlled). While almost every item located in the U.S. is subject to the EAR, only a very small number of items actually require an export license.

In addition to controlling dual use items, the EAR also prohibits U.S. participation in certain restrictive trade practices and foreign boycotts. The anti-boycott provisions of the EAR prohibit any U.S. person or business from participating in any non-U.S. sanctioned foreign boycott. Examples of the types of restrictive trade practices that are considered “participation” in a boycott include being asked to:

  • refuse to engage in a business transaction with the boycotted country
  • agree to not use certain “black-listed” suppliers
  • provide information regarding current customers
  • refuse to employ or otherwise discriminate against any U.S. person on the basis of nationality or origin
  • certify that an item or shipment contains no items from a boycotted country

In principal, the anti-boycott regulations apply to any foreign boycott however, in practice, the primary target of these regulations is the Arab League’s on-going boycott of Israel. SSU is required to promptly report any occurrences of restrictive trade practices to the government.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury

The Department of the Treasury, through the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) (31 CFR §§500-599) is responsible for enforcing all U.S. embargoes and sanctions programs. Special care must be taken when dealing with sanctioned and embargoed countries. In some cases, all activities are subject to strict licensing requirements and in many cases, licenses will not be granted. For more information on specific OFAC sanction programs see International Collaborations.

Penalties for Non-Compliance with Export Controls

Fines for non-compliance with export controls are quite severe and can be levied at both the individual as well as the university. In addition to significant monetary fines and lengthy prison sentences, the potential loss of all federal funding would negatively impact SSU.

  • Violations under the EAR can bring civil penalties of $10,000 to $120,000 per violation and criminal penalties of $50,000 to $1 million per violation along with up to 10 years in prison.
  • Violations under the ITAR can bring civil penalties of $500,000 per violation and criminal penalties of up to $1 million per violation along with up to 20 years in prison.
  • Violations under OFAC regulations can bring civil penalties of $250,000 per violation and criminal penalties of up to 20 years in prison.

Export Control Training

CITI Export Control Training – Individuals seeking web-based training in export control regulations as they relate to research may access the “US Export Control Regulation” program on the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) . ORSP can assist you with accessing CITI.