Export Control laws are federal regulations that govern how certain information, technologies, and commodities can be transmitted overseas to anyone, including U.S. citizens, or to a foreign national on U.S. soil. These laws have the potential to impact most research conducted at Utah State University. This is true for the research whether the source of funding is a federal grant, industrial agreement, fellowship or other type of research proposal. Therefore, it is critical for faculty and researchers to understand their obligations and potential liabilities under the regulations. Failure to comply with these laws can result in severe institutional and personal consequences such as fines, loss of future funding, and even imprisonment. This website is designed to assist faculty and staff understand Export Control laws and guid them through the steps that must be taken to ensure research proposals are reviewed for compliance. Please review these materials and contact Sponsored Programs if you have any questions.

Summary of Export Control Laws

Export Control Laws (ECLs) broadly describe a comprehensive series of regulations enforced by the Federal Government concerning the export of certain controlled technologies. ECLs require that certain technologies be controlled because:

  1. the nature or type of technology has potential military applications;
  2. the nature or type of technology raises trade/economic protection issues;
  3. there are concerns about the country, organization, individual or “end user” of the technology.

As mentioned, ECLs involve a number of different regulations. The three major regulatory schemes in place governing ECLs are:

  1. The Export Administration Regulations (EAR)-Department of Commerce;
  2. The International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR)-Department of State; and
  3. The Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAR)-Department of Treasury.
ECLs control the conditions under which certain information, technologies, and commodities can be shipped, shared or transmitted (‘export’) overseas to anyone, including U.S. citizens, or to a foreign national on U.S. soil. In the same manner, such controls can extend to interactions with foreign corporations. Most commonly, the control would involve obtaining a “license” from the Federal Government prior to exporting of any controlled technologies.
The term export when used in the context of ECLs is much broader than the standard notion of a tangible item being shipped out of the United States. Under ECLs, the term export includes any:

  1. actual shipment of any covered goods or items;
  2. the electronic or digital transmission of any covered goods, items or related goods or items;
  3. any release or disclosure, including verbal disclosures or visual inspections, or any technology, software or technical data to any foreign national; or
  4. actual use or application of covered technology on behalf of or for the benefit of a foreign entity or person anywhere.

The term “export” can mean not only technology leaving the shores of the United States (including transfer to a U.S. citizen abroad whether or not it is pursuant to a research agreement with the U.S. government), but also transmitting the technology to an individual other than a U.S. citizen or permanent resident within the United States (a “deemed export”). Even a discussion with a foreign researcher or student in a campus laboratory is considered a “deemed export.” Export controls preclude the participation of all foreign nationals in research that involves covered technology without first obtaining a license from the appropriate government agency.

When an item is controlled, a license may be required before the technology can be exported. This requirement relates not only to tangible items (prototypes or software) but also to the research results themselves. There are certain countries where it is the policy of the United States to generally to deny licenses for the transfer of these items. These countries are currently: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Vietnam, and the Former Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro).

While University research has traditionally been free of governmental regulation, ECLs have the potential to substantially impact research and researchers in most fields of science and engineering working at USU. If research involves specified technologies, the ECLs may require that the University obtain prior federal approval before allowing foreign nationals to participate in the research, before partnering with a foreign company, or before sharing research results in any manner (including by publication or presentation at conferences) with persons who are not U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens.

Fortunately, even if an item appears on one of the lists of controlled technologies, most of the research at USU will be excluded from regulation under ECLs as a result o the exclusion for fundamental research (as long as there are no restrictions on publication of the research or other restrictions on dissemination of the information) or, in some cases, as long as the research or information is made public or is intended to be made public. Fundamental research, as used in the ECLs, includes basic or applied research in science and/or engineering at an accredited institution of higher learning in the U.S. where the resulting information either is ordinarily published and shared broadly in the scientific community or where the resulting information has been or is about to be published.

Fundamental research is distinguished form research that results in information that is restricted for proprietary reasons or pursuant to specific U.S. government access and dissemination controls. University research will not qualify as fundamental research if:

  1. The institution accepts any restrictions on the publication of the information resulting from the research, other than limited prepublication reviews by research sponsors to prevent inadvertent divulging of proprietary information or to insure that publication will not compromise patent rights of the sponsor; or
  2. the research is federally funded and specific access or dissemination controls regarding the resulting information have been accepted by the university or the researcher

Information becomes “published” or considered as “ordinarily published” when it is generally accessible to the interested public through a variety of ways.

  • Publication in periodicals, books, print, electronic or any other media available for general distribution to any member of the public or to those that would be interested in the material in a scientific or engineering discipline.
  • Published or ordinarily published material also includes the following: readily available at libraries open to the public; issued patents; and releases at an open conference, meeting, seminar, trade show, or other open gathering.
  • A conference is considered “open” if all technically qualified members of the public are eligible to attend and attendees are permitted to take notes or otherwise make a personal record (but no necessarily a recording) of the proceedings and presentations.
  • In all cases, access to the information must be free or for a fee that does not exceed the cost to produce and distribute the material or hold the conference (including a reasonable profit).

Public domain is the term used for “information that is published and generally accessible or available to the public” through a variety of mechanisms. Publicly available software or technology is that which already is, or will be, published.

It is important that faculty and their researchers understand their obligations under the regulations and follow them.

The consequences of violating the regulations can be severe, and include loss of research funding, fines, and/or prison time. Faculty can be held personally liable for failure to comply with the ECLs.

List of Controlled and Embargoed Countries

  • China
  • India
  • Israel
  • Pakistan
  • Russia
  • Syria
  • The United Arab Emirates

(for a full list of the entities on the EAR “entity chart” go to Department of State-Embargoed Countries)

  • Balkans
  • Cuba
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Libya
  • N. Korea
  • Burma (Myanmar)
  • Liberia
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Zimbabwe
  • Palestinian Territories
  • Rwanda
  • OFAC embargo list
  • Afghanistan
  • Belarus
  • Cuba
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Libya
  • N. Korea
  • Syria
  • Vietnam
  • Burma (Myanmar)
  • China
  • Haiti
  • Liberia
  • Rwanda
  • Somalia
  • Sudan
  • Zaire (Democratic Republic of the Congo)
  • Any UN Security Council arms embargoed country (e.g., for certain exports to Rwanda)

List of Controlled Technologies

Generally, technologies that are subject to export controls have potential military applications. This includes technologies that are clearly military in nature as well as “dual use” technologies having both legitimate commercial purposes and potential military applications.

Technologies such as Nuclear Materials, propulsion systems, and biological/chemical toxins, to name a few, can be easily identified as fall into the regulatory scheme of export controls. However, some areas of technology that would not normally be considered as having military applications can be subject to export controls. For example, computer hardware that you can purchase from any major vendor could be subject to export controls.

Principal investigators need to be aware of the technologies covered by export control regulations during the preparation of research proposals. The following lists of technologies can serve as a guide. However, if you are unsure, please contact the Sponsored Programs Office for assistance.

Recently published regulations

Category 0 Nuclear Materials, Facilities & Equipment (and Miscellaneous Items)
Category 1 Materials, Chemicals, Microorganisms, and Toxins
Category 2 Materials Processing
Category 3 Electronics Design, Development and Production
Category 4 Computers
Category 5 (Part 1)  Telecommunications (Part 2) Information Security
Category 6 Sensors and Lasers
Category 7 Navigation and Avionics
Category 8 Marine
Category 9 Propulsion Systems, Space Vehicles and Related Equipment

Further information

Category I Firearms, Close Assault Weapons and Combat Shotguns
Category II Materials, Chemicals, Microorganisms, and Toxins
Category III Ammunition/ Ordnance
Category IV launch Vehicles, Guided Missiles, Ballistic Missiles, Rockets, Torpedoes, Bombs and Mines
Category V Explosives and Energetic Materials, Propellants, Incendiary Agents and Their Constituents
Category VI Vessels of Wara nd Special Naval Equipment.
Category VII Tanks and Military Vehicles
Category VIII Aircraft and Associated Equipment
Category IX Military Training Equipment
Category X Protective Personnel Equipment
Category XI Military Electronics
Category XII Fire Control, Range Finder, Optical and Guidance and Control Equipment
Category XIII Auxiliary Military Equipment
Category XIV Toxicological Agents, Including Chemical Agents, Biological Agents, and Associated Equipment
Category XV Spacecraft Systems and Associated Equipment
Category XVI Nuclear Weapons, Design and Testing Related Items
Category XVII Classified Articles, Technical Data and Defense Services Not Otherwise Enumerated
Category XVIII Directed Energy Weapons
Category XX Submersible Vessels, oceanographic and Associated Equipment

EAR: Enforced by the Department of Commerce. Primarily covers technologies and technical information with both commercial and military applications (chemicals, satellites, software, etc.) Text of regulations

List of controlled technologies is found in 15 CFR 774, Supplement I, and referred to as the Commodity Control List (CCL).

ITAR: 22 CFR ” 120-130 are promulgated and implemented by the Department of State and regulate defense articles and services and related technical data that are identified on the Munitions Control List (MCL), 22 CFR’ 121. Examples would be explosives, rocket systems, etc. For a list of controlled technologies see 22 CFR 121.

Decision Tree

Use this decision tree to help determine whether or not your research proposal project is subject to Export Control Laws.


Helpful questions and answers taken from Supplement No. 1 to Part 734 of the CFR covering the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). Examples and explanations on publications, conferences, classroom instruction and other topics.