FAQs: Export Control

What should I do if I think export controls may apply to a research project?

Do everything you can to make sure that the work research performed at MIT falls within the parameters of the following exclusions:

Fundamental Research Exclusion: Both ITAR and EAR include language that excludes the results of “fundamental research” from export requirements for export licenses or other government approvals. The exclusion applies for basic and applied research in science and engineering performed by universities so long as that research is carried out openly and without restrictions on publication, foreign national access, and dissemination.

Educational Information Exclusion: Authorizes the disclosure, without a license, of educational information released by instruction in catalog courses and associated teaching laboratories of academic institutions. This information includes general scientific, mathematical, or engineering principles commonly taught in universities.

Publicly Available Information Exclusion: Applies if the information is in the public domain, i.e., if it is publicly available technology and software that is generally accessible to the public through unlimited and unrestricted distribution. Special rules apply to encryption software even if “open source” or publicly available software is being developed.

If you are unsure if your activity falls under one of these exclusions or if you have any questions, please contact Janet Johnston, Export Control Officer, Research Administration Services, at 253-2762 or via e-mail at jcjohnst@mit.edu, or stop by NE18-901.

More information about what is affected by Export Control

What is an export?

An export is the actual shipment or transmission of items, services, or technical data subject to either the EAR or the ITAR out of the United States, or the release of technology, software, or technical data subject to either EAR or ITAR to a foreign national in the United States. Technology, software, or technical data is “released” for export through:

  • visual inspection by a foreign national of U.S.-origin equipment and facilities,
  • oral exchanges of information in the United States or abroad,
  • transfer or shipment via any means (physical or electronic) to a foreign entity
  • providing a service, or the application to situations abroad of personal knowledge or technical experience acquired in the United States

See other Export Control Definitions

What is export control?

Export control is composed of federal laws and regulations that restrict the flow of certain materials, devices, and technical information related to such materials and devices outside the United States. They are set forth in the Arms Export Control Act, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) implemented by the Department of State, the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) implemented by the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the Commerce Department, the laws and regulations implemented by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and the laws and regulations implemented by the Department of Energy (DOE).

See other Export Control Definitions

How do I know if export control applies to a research project?

Export controls apply if the topic of the research appears on either the U.S. Munitions List (ITAR) or the Commerce Control List (EAR). There are exclusions and exceptions to the application of the regulations.

Furthermore, it depends on both the technologies (i.e., the work scope) and the countries (either foreign destinations or foreign personnel) involved. ITAR applies if the subject of the research appears on the ITAR munitions list. Under ITAR, the country of destination is irrelevant; export of a controlled item to any foreign country or any foreign national would be in violation of the law.

The application of EAR is more complicated. It depends on both the technology involved and the country of destination. For example, you might have a technology that can be exported to Canada but not to Venezuela. In most cases, technologies are very precisely defined, and the definitions affect the applicability of the law. For example, telecommunications equipment involving lasers that transmit at wavelengths above 1750 nm may be controlled, while similar equipment using a smaller wavelength is not controlled.

For more information, please use Stanford's Export Control Decision Tree.

More information about what is affected by Export Control