Export control resources

This page provides export control trainings, useful links, documents, and FAQs


"What is an export?" (online)

4 minutes

This online training module provides a very brief introduction into the various activities that are considered an export (you might be surprised by what you learn!). 
There are two options for accessing this online training module:

  1. Duke Learning Management System (LMS)
    By completing this module through the LMS this course will be captured on your training record. This course may be a pre-requisite to advanced export control classroom courses. For employees in a Research Costing Compliance program, this course will count as a 0.2 hours continuing education credit. Click on the link below to access:

    LMS Link - What Is an Export?

  2. Direct Link
    [will be made available soon]
"Introduction to export controls" (online)

15 minutes

This online training module provides a brief introduction to export control regulations and how they apply in a university setting. This module explains what export controls are and explains how to identify export controlled activities. 
There are two options for accessing this online training module:

  1. Duke Learning Management System (LMS)
    By completing this module through the LMS this course will be captured on your training record.  This course may be a pre-requisite to advanced export control classroom courses.  For employees in a Research Costing Compliance program, this course will count as a ½ hour continuing education credit. Login with your NetID to the Duke Learning Management System (LMS)  
    Under the Catalogue Search (right side of the screen), enter: Introduction to Export Controls at a University (00101143)
  2. Direct Link:
    Alternatively you can access the training module directly here: Introduction to Export Controls at a University
    This option is available to anyone, anywhere and does not require a NetID login. 
    Please Note – you will not receive credit in the LMS from this link
Live training

The Office of Export Controls can also offer customized topics or function-specific training by request. If you, your work unit, or your project team would like an in person training session tailored to your specific function or project contact export@duke.edu.

Frequently asked questions

What about temporary shipments that come back to the U.S.?

Temporary shipments are still considered exports and must comply with all applicable regulations.  There are however certain cases where a temporary export may not require an export license.  The Office of Export Controls will assist in making this determination.

When is Duke University considered the "Exporter of Record" or "Principal Party in Interest"?

Whenever Duke University initiates the export of an item (by any means) and stands to gain the direct benefit of that export (whether or not it is a financial benefit) then Duke is the Exporter of Record/Principal Party in Interest with respect to that export transaction.  Anytime Duke is the Exporter of Record or Principal Party in Interest it is responsible for compliance with any applicable export controls/sanctions laws or regulations.  This responsibility cannot be delegated to a shipping company (e.g. Fedex, freight forwarder) even if they are handling other complex logistical matters for Duke.

What is a restricted party?

A restricted party (aka “debarred entity”) is any entity (person, company, university, etc.) with which U.S. persons are prohibited by the U.S. Government from engaging in certain activities.  Restricted parties can be both foreign and domestic entities.  Such entities will appear on one or more of the various Restricted Parties Lists maintained by the Government. 

Several of these lists prohibit U.S. exports/re-exports to listed entities (e.g. BIS Entity List), others prohibit both exports and/or financial transactions (OFAC SDN list), and still others prohibit receipt of federal funding. 

The Office of Export Controls uses a comprehensive search method to simultaneously search all U.S. Government lists for a given entity.  Contact export@duke.edu to request a screening.

What countries are sanctioned and what do the sanctions prohibit?

Currently the U.S. Government has four countries under comprehensive sanctions programs:

  • Cuba
  • Iran
  • North Korea
  • Syria

Most exports/imports and financial transactions with entities in these countries are prohibited unless specific license are acquired.  In certain cases travel to or providing services in these countries will be prohibited as well. 

In addition to these there are several other countries with more targeted and less encompassing sanctions placed upon them.  See here for further info.

The Office of Export Controls (export@duke.edu) should be involved in any applications to the U.S. Government for a specific license to conduct prohibited activities with a sanctioned country.

Can I ship to a third party who will forward the item to a restricted party or sanctioned country?

No, such activity is considered a diversionary tactic and is still a violation of export control regulations and/or sanctions programs.  Acting with any knowledge that your exported items will be diverted in such a manner is still illegal and will carry penalties for the violator.

Such exports require specific government licenses that will be reviewed by the government on a case-by-case basis or as required by current foreign policy.  The Office of Export Controls (export@duke.edu) should be contacted to prepare and submit such license applications.

Is hand carrying an export?

Yes, anytime you bring Duke-owned items with you during your international travels (whether in checked or carry-on luggage or on your person) you have just exported such items to your country of destination and any other countries you transited.  Export controls regulations and licensing requirements apply equally to such hand-carried exports.

What is the Fundamental Research Exemption (FRE)?

The Fundamental Research Exemption (FRE) excludes certain university research results from being controlled under U.S. export laws. Technology or software that arises from Fundamental Research can be shared with foreign nationals without the need for export licensing. See here for further information.

Does FRE cover the export of physical items?

No, only research results in the form of technology or software (except for encryption object code and source code) are excluded under FRE. Physical items will always remain subject to U.S. export controls. Depending on various factors a license may be required to physically export an item.

What if the physical item I need to ship was developed from a fundamental research project?

The item would still be subject to export controls (and potential licensing) regardless of whether or not it was the result of fundamental research. As stated above FRE never exempts physical items from export control.

What if my fundamental research project involves proprietary inputs (background data) from the sponsor?

While your research results will be exempt from export controls under the FRE any proprietary data that your sponsor sends to you may be subject to export controls. Take special note of any markings on such incoming information such as:

  • "ITAR-controlled"
  • "EAR-controlled"
  • "DOE-controlled"
  • "Subject to export controls"
  • "Not for disclosure to foreign nationals"
  • Distribution Statements B, C, D, E, F, or X
Can I get a license after I’ve already shipped?

No, assuming the item you’ve shipped required a license in the first place. A licensable export requires a valid export license from the appropriate government agency before the export occurs. Such licenses may come with terms and conditions for the export which must be adhered to.

Once I have an export license can I export anything I want?

No, export licenses are not blanket authorizations to engage in any exporting activity you wish.  Such licenses are transaction-specific. The particular items, quantities, values, end-users and end-uses specified in your license application are the only ones authorized under the license issued pursuant to that application. Any changes to these factors will require a new and separate license.

Who is considered a foreign national for the purpose of export controls?

Any person who is not either:

  1. A U.S. Citizen
  2. A U.S. Permanent Resident (i.e. green card holder), or
  3. Offered Protected Status under 8 U.S.C. 1324b(a)(3)

is considered a foreign national for the purpose of export controls regulations. Also, employees of foreign entities (including U.S. persons) are treated as a foreign national no matter where located.

I have a foreign national visiting my lab; do I need an export license?

Perhaps, this will depend on many factors. Generally-speaking having a foreign national visiting or working in your lab does not alone necessitate an export license. There would need to be an actual release of export-controlled technology or software to the foreign national.

If you plan on sharing any information or software with them that is NOT already in the public domain, it is possible an export license could be required. Similarly, if you have export-controlled items in your lab and the foreign national requires direct access to them, it is possible a license is needed – further analysis by Office of Export Controls is necessary.

Also, keep in mind that if your visitor needs to take items from your lab back out of the country with them, this is an export that may require licensing. 

Bottom Line: Visits to your lab should be vetted by the Office of Export Controls. Those coming under a visa are already reviewed by standard procedure; for other less formalized visits contact export@duke.edu for assistance.

My research isn’t funded by the DOD; do I still need to consider export controls?

Yes, the source of funding is not always a proper gauge of whether or not your project could be affected by export controls regulations.  There are DOD-funded projects for which export controls are not a factor and conversely certain non DOD-funded projects are subject to export controls.

Regardless of who funds your research if you have foreign nationals in your lab using export-controlled equipment, or if your work requires traveling or shipping to a foreign destination there is a possibility that export licenses are required.  These and many other factors go into determining the applicability of export licenses.

What documents/information are needed to clear foreign customs?

Keeping in mind that each foreign country has slightly different customs rules, here are a few things to consider:

  • A Commercial (aka “Proforma”) Invoice is a standard document that foreign customs will always require.  It is this document that describes the import transaction taking place and from which customs determines applicable duties/taxes.  An invoice should always:
  • State the name and address of shipper & recipient
  • Describe the items being imported to the foreign country (including HTS code which Office of Export Controls can provide)
  • Include a value for customs purposes (even if no sale is taking place)
  • Describe the nature of the import (i.e. for research purposes, repair, etc.)
  • For temporary exports that will return to the U.S. within 12 months, an ATA Carnet is an option worth considering.  With this document you can avoid paying unnecessary duties and taxes.  Contact (export@duke.edu) for further information
  • Depending on the nature of the item being exported, the foreign recipient may need an import permit (e.g. biologicals, pharmaceuticals, consumables, etc.).  A best practice when exporting is to always check with the foreign recipient to see if they have met local requirements to import the given item(s). 
Is travel to Cuba allowed?

Yes, but only under certain circumstances. The purpose of travel must be one of the approved categories published here.  Most Duke-related travel (i.e. research or education-related travel) will be acceptable. 

Note: tourism in Cuba is still prohibited. Any items shipped or carried to Cuba are subject to export controls.

All Duke faculty, staff, or students considering official Duke-related travel to Cuba should contact export@duke.edu.

I've been invited to speak at a conference in Iran. Are there any restrictions on this?

Yes.  While travel to Iran is generally not restricted, there are prohibitions on providing services (such as lectures or speeches) while in country. The Office of Export Controls should be consulted immediately if you are invited to attend or speak at any engagement in Iran.

All Duke faculty, staff, or students considering official Duke-related travel to Iran should contact export@duke.edu.

What if someone visiting from another country visits my lab and leaves equipment/materials behind? Will I need an export license to return their own items to them?

Possibly. Just like any other export it will depend on various factors (i.e. what is it? who is receiving it? etc.). But the important point here is that you are still the U.S. exporter even if you are just returning the items that were left behind. As the exporter you are required to meet all applicable licensing/compliance obligations even though the items don't belong to Duke. Visitors should be aware of this before leaving any potentially-export controlled items behind for you to ship back to them.