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FAQs – OFAC Online Courses

Federal Regulations Impacting Online Courses Abroad

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. Northwestern faculty, staff, and students are required to comply with OFAC regulations.

Licenses to provide a service to sanctioned countries are required under some circumstances. For example, there are OFAC restrictions related to taking online courses abroad for heavily sanctioned countries. These countries change over time but currently include Cuba, Iran, Syria, North Korea and certain regions of Ukraine. There may also be licensing requirements for software and other items. OFAC violations may result in civil or criminal penalties. See this link for additional background information. 

1. Why am I affected?

Federal regulations require individuals from Cuba, Iran, Syria, North Korea and certain regions of Ukraine to obtain approval from the U.S. government (i.e., a license) to participate in educational or research activities, including coursework, from outside the United States. Students who do not participate in these activities outside the United States or its territories are not affected.

2. Why is my account on hold (and how to tell if it is)?

International students with citizenship or residency from heavily sanctioned countries have an “OFAC Registration Hold” placed on their account. The Office of International Student and Scholar Services (OISS) notifies students about the OFAC registration hold via email. You can email regarding any questions related to OFAC Registration Hold. 

3. How can the hold be lifted?

OISS lifts the hold once a student can verify they are in the United States by completing international student check-in on the OISS portal or that they have a valid OFAC license.

4. Will the hold affect me in the U.S.?

Students from sanctioned countries do not need an OFAC license to attend or participate in online courses from within the United States or its territories.