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Overview of Federal Regulations

The U.S. Department of State’s International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Export Administration Regulations (EAR), , govern not only the shipment or transfer of export-controlled items (e.g., technical data, software, materials, and equipment) outside the U.S. but also access to certain controlled items to non-U.S. persons within the U.S. In addition, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) regulations impose sanctions and embargoes on transactions or exchanges with designated countries, entities, and individuals.

List of OFAC Sanctioned Countries and Military End Use Countries

OFAC Sanctioned Countries: These countries change over time but are currently Belarus, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, and certain regions of Ukraine (Crimea, Donetsk, Luhansk, and Sevastopol).

Military end-use countries: These countries change over time (currently Belarus, Burma, Cambodia, China, Russia, and Venezuela). There are also restrictions for several countries if the collaborator or intended recipient is affiliated with a military end-user or is a military end-use entity. As a result, collaborations or shipments, including material transfer agreements, tech transfer activities, licensing agreements, and joint ventures with these countries require more due diligence.

International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR)

The Department of State’s responsibility for controlling the permanent and temporary export and temporary import of defense articles and services is governed primarily by 22 U.S.C. 2778 of the Arms Export Control Act. The United States Munitions List (USML) is a list of articles, services, and related technology designated as defense and space-related by the United States federal government.

Export Administration Regulations (EAR)

The Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) is charged with developing, implementing, and interpreting U.S. export control policy for dual-use commodities, software, and technology. The Commerce Control List (CCL) identifies those items regulated by BIS. The list includes commercial and dual use items not subject to ITAR or other federal regulations. Dual use items are those with both commercial and military/security applications.

Fundamental Research Exclusion:  Most Northwestern research activities are excluded from export controls because of a general exception for fundamental research. Both provide that no licenses are required to disclose technical information if the information is in the public domain. Information is in the public domain if published and generally accessible to the public or “fundamental research in science and engineering at accredited institutions of higher learning in the U.S. where the resulting information is ordinarily published and shared broadly in the scientific community.”  The fundamental research exclusion applies to basic and applied research in science if the research is carried out openly and without publication restrictions (EAR 734.8. ITAR 120.34 (8) Northwestern protects the fundamental research exclusion by not accepting any restriction on publication or foreign nationals.

Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)

Many university activities—even virtual ones—with comprehensively sanctioned countries or individuals in those countries may require U.S. federal authorization (e.g., licenses or exemptions). The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Department of the Treasury administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on U.S. foreign policy and national security goals. OFAC issues both civil and criminal penalties for non-compliance.

Please contact the Export Controls & International Compliance Office for a consultation before participating in activities in a sanctioned country or with individuals or entities who are located in sanctioned countries, including but not limited to:

List of Activities in a Sanctioned Country

travel.svgworking from a sanctioned country

collaborating.svgcollaborating (even virtually with individuals in a sanctioned country)

remote.svgallowing students to take remote coursework, including independent studies from a sanctioned country

shipping.svgsending or receiving shipments

money.svgmaking financial transactions

exchange.svgexchanging items (e.g., equipment, technology, software, materials, etc.)

Comprehensively Sanctioned Countries

The most comprehensively sanctioned countries include:


Iran (Learn more)


Certain regions of Ukraine (Crimea, Donetsk, Luhansk and Sevastopol)

North Korea

RUSSIA:  On Feb. 24, the U.S. government imposed severe financial and export control restrictions on Russia and entities supporting the Russian government. The restrictions are likely to change and may affect current or future University collaborations, agreements, and research projects.

OTHER IMPACTS – Duo and Zoom banned

As of May 2022, software and app providers Duo and Zoom banned their services in heavily OFAC-sanctioned countries. Northwestern faculty, staff and students based in, or traveling to, these countries or regions will be unable to access or communicate via most University-provided technology.

Please contact Export Controls with any questions or for assistance.