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Export Controls FAQs

What is an "export"?
The actual shipment or transmission of items out of the United States, or the “release” of technology or software to a foreign national in, or outside of, the United States.


  • Physical shipment
  • Hand-carried items or laptops taken overseas
  • Email
  • Posting or pulling from an FTP site
  • Accessing a server overseas
  • File-sharing with a foreign person or colleague overseas
  • Telephone
  • Fax
  • Visual inspection by a foreign person in the U.S. or abroad of controlled technology
  • Actual use or application of controlled technology on behalf of, or for the benefit of, a foreign entity or person anywhere

What is a deemed export?
The transfer of controlled technology (technology subject to export regulations) to foreign persons, usually in the U.S., where the transfer is regulated because the transfer is “deemed” to be going to the country where the person is a resident or a citizen.

What is a Dual Use Item?
Items that have both commercial and military or proliferation use.

What activities might be considered export controlled?

  • Shipment from the United States to a foreign country of controlled physical items, such as scientific equipment, that require export licenses.
  • Transactions involving or travel to a sanctioned country or transactions involving sanctioned individuals or entities.
  • International research collaborations and/or the transfer of information related to export-controlled items, including technical data, to persons or entities outside the United States.
  • Verbal, written, electronic, or visual disclosure to, or sharing with, foreign nationals of controlled scientific and technical information related to export controlled items, even when it occurs within the United States.

What is OFAC, ITAR and EAR? What do they regulate and which federal departments oversee them?




EAR (Export Administration Regulations)


Dual-use goods, technology, chemicals and software, low-level military items

ITAR (International Trafficking in Arms Regulations)


Military items; certain space-related technology and research

OFAC (Office of Foreign Asset Control)


Trade prohibitions with sanctioned countries/entities

What is an export license and how do I know if I need one?

An export license is a written authorization provided by the federal government granting permission for the release or transfer of export controlled information or item under a defined set of conditions. Determining when you need an export license can be very complicated. The Research Compliance & Integrity Office can assist you in determining if a license is required and/or if there is a valid license exception or other exclusion that may apply. Contact Danielle Dai’Re in the RCI office for help with export controls.

What are the penalties for violating the export regulations?

Violations can result in both civil and criminal penalties for the individual and for the institution. In addition to a civil penalty (up to $10,000 per violation) there are criminal penalties that may be imposed, including a fine of up to $1 million against an entity, such as the University of California, and a fine of up to $250,000, or imprisonment (up to 10 years), or both against an individual. Voluntary self-disclosures, if made appropriately, can mitigate the seriousness of the penalty. Penalties apply to each violation, which means that if a violation relates to more than one controlled material or item or occurs on more than one occasion, each item or incident may trigger a penalty. Contact the RCI Office immediately if you think you have made a mistake and violated export controls; they can help assess how best to remedy the situation.

What is "fundamental research"?

Technical information (but not the actual controlled items) resulting from "fundamental research," is considered exempt from export control regulations. Fundamental research is defined as basic and applied research in science and engineering conducted at an accredited U.S. institution of higher education where the resulting information is ordinarily published and shared broadly within the scientific community. The fundamental research exclusion allows U.S. universities to permit foreign members of their communities (e.g., students, faculty, postdocs, staff and visitors) to participate in research projects involving export-controlled technical information on campus in the U.S. without a deemed export license.

Do Export Control regulations apply to my international travel and can I take my laptop abroad?

Yes, and yes. Export controls apply when taking equipment, devices, software or technical data outside the US. In most situations, licensing is not required to take UCM-owned items abroad under the TMP “tool of trade” license exception. However, items such as laptops must remain under the traveler’s control during the trip. Additionally, information and data taken on laptops, PDA’s or storage devices must qualify as public domain. Other items such as research samples and devices, systems or software originally designed for military or space applications (such as a camera with a focal plane array or a high-end GPS), technology associated with strong encryption and controlled biological agents will not qualify for this exemption.

Where can I learn more about Export Controls?

The UCM export control website has more information and resources. Please contact Danielle Dai’Re at or 209-228-4805 with any questions.