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This guide is designed to highlight the basics of export control. Whether you are a new exporter investigating the possibility of exporting strategic goods, an overseas end-user, an academic or researcher affected by export controls or an NGO or legal firm seeking more information, then this is the place to get an overview of UK export controls.
Specifically this guide briefly addresses the following key questions that will be at the forefront of exporters minds:
Governments worldwide control the export of goods for various reasons depending on the nature and destinations of the proposed export. The export of strategic goods and technology (the specific remit of the ECO) are controlled because of various reasons including:
Export Controls are not unique to the UK. All countries should have an export control policy, legislation and enforcement mechanisms in one form or another. The UK has a well developed and coherent export control system which stems from EU and national UK legislation. Find out more about Legislation and Policy.
NOTE: The ECO is only concerned with strategic goods. If you are planning to export other categories of goods such arts, antiques, medicines or animal products then you should either consult the Export Controls not administered by ECO or access the International Trade area of the Business Link website (external link).
The answer as to whether you need an export licence will be determined by 4 factors - the nature of the goods due to be exported, the destination concerned, the ultimate end use of the goods and the licensability of trade activities.
The following checklist outlines the broad categories of goods which are likely to be controlled:
To establish if your goods are controlled the essential source of information is the UK Strategic Export Control Lists.
As the name indicates, this is a listing of all items for which a licence is required from the ECO. The Consolidated List is produced from seven lists which are found in various pieces of legislation. The UK Military List and the EU Dual-List from the bulk of the Consolidated List.
Depending on your goods you need to consult the relevant list. You can either self-rate your goods or use the ECO's Rating Enquiry Service.
You will need a licence for ALL destinations (including EU countries) if:
You will need a licence for EXPORT OUTSIDE THE EU ONLY if:
Other items may well require a licence for destination countries that are subject to embargoes or sanctions. See details of Current Arms Embargoes and Other Restrictions.
If your goods are not listed on the Control Lists, you may still need a licence under so called End-Use Controls. This applies if the goods are likely to be sent to an end user where there are concerns about the possible use of the goods in a Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) programme. For example, cryogenic equipment could have a use in a nuclear weapons facility.
Also covered are components that are not designed for Military use but which are going into Military goods in an embargoed destination.
See guidance on WMD and Military End-Use Controls.
You may also need a licence if you are arranging or involved in the transfer of goods between two overseas countries. (This is known as "trafficking and brokering").
There are a variety of different types of licences that you may be able to use to export your goods. The main categories of licences are outlined briefly below:
To check whether there is an OGEL which covers the export you wish to make you can use the OGEL Checker. This database leads you through all conditions of the licence.
As a registered OGEL user, you will be subject to regular Compliance Visits. See more about Compliance and Enforcement.
If your Goods, Technology, Software, destination or situation is not covered by an OGL you will need to apply for a:
ECO also issue a licence which is designed to cover long-term contracts, projects and repeat business. This is a concessionary form of licence:
Additionally there are licences covering transhipment and trade control (trafficking and brokering) activities as well as a global projects licence.
For more details see the section on Licences.
All licence applications, OGL registrations and rating enquiry requests should be made via the ECO's central online licensing system - SPIRE.
Do not forget in making your application to attach all necessary documentation including technical specifications and End User Undertakings.
As an exporter you have various responsibilities. You need to ensure that you have solid export control systems and procedures in place in terms of record keeping, training and lines of responsibility.
Companies that have registered to use OGLs for exporting items or who have been granted an OIEL are subject to regular Compliance visits. See more on Compliance and Enforcement.
Penalties range from de-registration of licence usage to fines or even a potential prison term if you do not adhere to your export control obligations. See details of export control prosecutions reported in the media - Export Control Issues - Press Articles.
The ECO has a clearly defined Service and Performance Code which outlines ECO's commitments to its customers and what conversely is expected of exporters.
More information is available from:
If you are still unsure whether your goods need a licence, you can submit a rating request. This a free service ECO provides (limited to 4 items at a time) where you supply the technical information and our Technical Advisors tell you whether that item needs a licence and where it falls on the Strategic Export Control List. All rating requests should be submitted via SPIRE. Find out more about the Rating Enquiry Service.
The Goods Checker provides additional information on the goods covered including pictures and explanations as to why the goods are controlled but you need to be careful that just because it doesn't recognise the term you are using, doesn't mean you don't need a licence. For example, a search on AK47 will not find anything on the list; you need to put the generic term "rifle". Access the:
This is a web-based search tool to help exporters find out whether there are any Open General Export Licences (OGELs) they may be able to use when exporting their goods, software or technology. Access the:
Can provide general advice on your export control query. You can either telephone: 020 7215 4594 or email: email@example.com
This website provides a wealth of information on strategic export controls including guidance documents (such as a glossary and Introductory Guide), details of training and seminars and much more. To navigate this website either browse the headings for what you need to know or use the A-Z Index.
Export Control Organisation
Updated: 7 April 2009