Export Control Definitions


What are export controls?

The federal definition of export controls is U.S. federal government laws and regulations that require federal agency approval before the export of controlled items, commodities, technology, software or information to restricted foreign countries, persons and entities (including universities).

There are three federal government agencies responsible for implementing the export control regulations:

  • The Department of Commerce
  • The Department of State
  • The Department of Treasury


What is an export?

The federal definition of an export is any item that is sent from the U.S. to a foreign destination;

  • to anyone outside the U.S., including U.S. citizens
  • to foreign entities, individuals, embassies or affiliates at any location, including the U.S. 

“Items” include, but are not limited to, commodities, software or technology, retail software packages and technical information. 

In a university situation, these items include, but are not limited to:

  • unpublished research findings
  • funds that are transferred to restricted countries, entities or persons 
  • biological specimens
  • microorganisms
  • toxins
  • electronics
  • computers
  • telecommunications
  • lasers 
  • sensors


Who is a Foreign National/Person?

The federal definition of a foreign national is a person who is not:

  • granted permanent U.S. residence, as demonstrated by the issuance of a permanent residence card, i.e., a "Green Card"
  • granted U.S. citizenship
  • granted status as a "protected person" under 8 U.S.C. 1324b(a)(3), e.g., political refugees, political asylum holders, etc.

This includes all persons in the U.S. as students, businesspeople, scholars, researchers, technical experts, etc.

Note: "Foreign national" is the term used by the Department of Commerce, while "foreign person" is the term used by the Department of State.


What is a re-export?

The federal definition of a re-export is the shipment or transmission of an item subject to regulation from one foreign country (i.e., a country other than the U.S.) to another foreign country. Shipment or transmission may occur in any of the following ways:

  • phone
  • e-mail
  • lab tours
  • meetings
  • computer data

A re-export also occurs when there is a “release” of technology or software (source code) subject to regulation in one foreign country to a national of another foreign country.

  • In a university situation, a re-export might occur when an investigator is approved via an award to deliver a paper at conferences in two different countries. The investigator will carry a laptop with his or her presentation materials. A determination must be made to identify whether an export license is necessary before the travel takes place. 


What is a deemed export? 

The federal definition of a deemed export is an export of technology or source code (except encryption source code) that is "deemed" to take place when it is released to a foreign national within the U.S.

A "deemed" export situation can occur by access/use in research or training, visual inspection, or an oral exchange of information.

  • In a university situation, a deemed export might occur when an investigator requires a foreign national to have access to or use of a controlled laser. A determination must be made to identify whether or not an export license is needed prior to that individual accessing or using the laser.