1. What are export controls?
a. Export controls are the regulations overseen by several federal agencies, including the Department of Commerce, the Department of State, and the Department of Homeland Security. These regulations seek to achieve national security, economic and foreign policy goals through various export restrictions and enforcement efforts.
2. What do the export control regulations restrict?
a. Export controls restrict both specific items and information, such as those listed on the Commerce Control List and, more generally, they restrict interactions with certain individuals and countries.
3. How do I know when export controls apply?
a. It’s important to understand that the export control regulations are potentially always an issue, but there are specific instances in which export controls are of particular concern. For instance, many research agreements identify export controls in their terms and conditions. It is important to understand your obligations with respect to the export controls, both generally and as may be specifically required under contract or per federal law. If you ever have any doubts or concerns about if export controls apply to your activities, please do not hesitate to contact the Office for Export Controls Compliance by phone at (847) 467-4063 or email.
4. Are there any particular countries that present elevated concerns regarding export compliance?
a. The export control regulations identify specific countries that must be carefully scrutinized before undertaking any activities involving those countries. In particular, the so-called “T5” (“terrorist-supporting”) countries of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, the Sudan, and Syria are under heavy embargo via the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) regulations. Recent developments in the Crimea Region of the Ukraine have placed that territory under heavy embargo as well.
OFAC and other regulations addressing country-specific restrictions, particularly with respect to the export of controlled items, are regularly updated – please consult the following resources for additional guidance, and contact OECC for additional assistance:
i. OFAC Sanctions Programs, visit: https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Pages/Programs.aspx
ii. State Department Country Policies and Embargoes: http://www.pmddtc.state.gov/embargoed_countries/index.html
iii. Commerce Department’s Country Chart: https://www.bis.doc.gov/index.php/documents/regulation-docs/452-supplement-no-1-to-part-740-country-groups/file
The State Department also provides travel warnings regarding numerous countries that present safety and other risks. These warnings should be reviewed carefully in advance of planning your travel.
Note: In an Executive Order dated January 27th, 2017, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” President Trump restricted immigration from seven countries for 90 days – the affected countries are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
The order is currently in limbo. Universities nationwide have expressed great concern regarding the order, with dozens of universities issuing written responses, including Northwestern. For now, universities are discouraging those affected by the order from traveling overseas, due to the risk of encountering issues upon return to the United States.
This is a developing story, and updates will be provided here as appropriate.
5. What does “EAR99” mean?
a. “EAR99” is a catch-all designation referring to items that are subject to the jurisdiction of the Export Administration Regulations (the “EAR”), but not specifically listed on the Commerce Control List. An EAR99 designation is often utilized by companies to apply to company-proprietary items and information.
6. How do universities deal with export controls?
a. Many universities have created offices and established policies to oversee export control responsibilities. Northwestern’s Office for Export Controls Compliance (OECC) was established in November 2012, and its policy was approved in May 2014. OECC works closely with other offices, including the Office for Sponsored Research, the International Office, and Financial Operations, among others, to ensure that export control issues are properly reviewed. A critical element of university compliance with the export control regulations is the Fundamental Research Exclusion (FRE), which was first established in a National Security Decision Directive issued under President Reagan in 1985. The FRE provides a limited exclusion to the export control regulations within which universities can conduct research utilizing foreign nationals without having to obtain licenses from the federal government.
7. Am I allowed to utilize foreign nationals in my lab?
a. Generally speaking, yes, there are no sweeping restrictions against using foreign nationals in your research activities. While there may be proposed activity that do contain such restrictions, by policy, Northwestern does not accept these restrictions and relies upon the FRE, outlined above, to conduct its research freely and openly, without publication or access restrictions.
8. Are there any restrictions on what I can carry with me overseas?
a. The short answer is yes, you must be mindful of what you bring with you when you leave the country. Traveling with sensitive information, for instance, can trigger export control issues. Your laptop or storage device is a controlled item listed on the Commerce Control List (see Category 5, Part 2, “Information Security,” Product Group A, “Equipment”), and thus it is best to carefully consider what you bring with you abroad. This is particularly true with respect to the sanctioned countries referenced above. Additionally, travelers must be careful to ensure that anything carried abroad is properly secured. Northwestern University’s Information Technology office (NUIT) provides tips on how to stay secure during travel at its website: http://www.it.northwestern.edu/security/travel.html. This guidance includes information regarding securing your physical device, accessing network’s securely, protecting all data contained on your laptop, and additional resources regarding travel warnings and related concerns.
9. What other steps must be taken to ensure compliance with the export control regulations?
a. In the absence of the FRE (see above), universities can pursue licenses or other clearances to ensure that its activities are in compliance with the regulations. Licenses can take up to 6 months or longer to process and may or may not be approved. Alternatively, if specific export controls apply, the University may implement a Technology Control Plan to ensure that a controlled item is appropriately safeguarded while under the control of University personnel.
10. What should I do if I think there has been a violation?
a. Suspected violations should be reported to the Office for Export Controls Compliance at (847) 467-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible. The OECC Director will work closely with you to ensure that suspected violations are reviewed closely and, if necessary, reported to the appropriate authority. If a violation occurs, there are potential criminal and civil consequences for both the University and for any individuals involved.
11. What types of resources does the University offer on export controls?
a. In addition to its Policy of Export Controls Compliance, and additional resources on the OECC website, OECC conducts quarterly training for research administrators as well as additional training sessions arranged through a variety of outlets. Additionally, export compliance training is available through the CITI initiative, which features training in a number of areas, including an introduction to export compliance, export compliance for researchers and research administrators, and a variety of other topics. This training can also be accessed via Northwestern’s LEARN @ Northwestern platform. OECC is also available to provide training and consultation upon request.