Export Control: Frequently Asked Questions

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How do I know if my research is subject to export controls?

Export controls are U.S. laws that apply to all research and activities conducted at Lehigh whether funded or not. Export controls may cross all academic fields including but not limited to engineering, psychology, biology, chemistry, the social sciences and education.

Export control laws potentially apply to all research activities whether or not there is a specific citation to export control regulations in the grant or contract governing the project. The specific relevance of export controls to an individual's research activity depends on many factors such as the type of research, activity or technology being studied, the participation of foreign national personnel or collaborators, the acceptance of export controlled information from sponsors, engagement in foreign travel and collaborations, etc.

Activities involving one or more of the following are likely to involve export controls:

  • Requirement of sponsor pre-approval prior to publication of research
  • Sponsor restrictions on foreign national participation
  • Foreign sponsor(s) of research
  • Foreign travel, international research, or collaborating with colleagues in foreign countries
  • Hand carrying export controlled items to foreign countries (e.g. laptops, GPS, unpublished research technical data)
  • Receipt of any sponsor provided information, technology or software marked "Export Controlled"
  • Shipping any physical item(s) including software and/or transmission of technical data to a foreign country
  • Any agreements (NDA, RFP, award, contract, etc.) with export control language
  • Participation of foreign person(s) from a comprehensively sanctioned country
  • Travel to or through one or more comprehensively sanctioned countries
  • Military related research or research with the potential for military applications
  • Work with encryption source code or object code
What is meant by "fundamental research?"

Within the context of export control, "Fundamental Research" means research in science, engineering, or mathematics, the results of which ordinarily are published and shared broadly within the research community, and for which the researchers have not accepted restrictions for proprietary or national security reasons, such as restrictions on publications or on foreign national participation in research (note that temporary publication delays to ensure publications will not compromise patent rights are not considered publication restrictions). If these conditions are met, the research activity is exempt from export control laws under the Fundamental Research Exclusion (FRE).

Note: the FRE does not apply to use of Controlled Physical Items, Controlled Information, Source Code, Encryption Software, or Technical Data, even if being used in research that is exempt under the FRE. For example, if a research team is conducting Fundamental Research using a Controlled Physical Item, export control restrictions are still in effect for the Controlled Physical Item even though the research itself is considered exempt under the FRE.

What is the difference between "direct" and "deemed" export?

An export can occur in one of two ways:

  • Direct export occurs when export controlled materials / information / technology are sent, taken or released to a destination, individual, party or entity outside of the United States, in any manner.
  • Deemed export occurs when export controlled materials / information / technology are "released" to foreign national(s) who are located within the United States. Such activities are "deemed" to constitute an export to the foreign national's most recent country of citizenship or permanent residency.

A "release" of controlled technology / information can occur when:

  • controlled technology / information is made available to foreign nationals for visual inspection (such as reading technical specifications, plans, blueprints, etc.)
  • controlled technology / information is exchanged via oral or written exchange or;
  • controlled technology / information is made available by practice or application under the guidance of persons with knowledge of the technology.
What does the term "Use" mean in the context of Export Control?

Within export control, "Use" is defined specifically as the capability for an individual to engage in ALL six of the following activities:

  • operation
  • installation (including on-site installation)
  • maintenance (checking)
  • repair
  • overhaul and
  • refurbishing

In most cases, activity involving only the basic operation of a piece of controlled technology does not constitute "Use" from an export control perspective.

It is important to note that this specific definition of "Use" only applies to EAR-controlled items / technology, meaning controlled dual-use technology appearing within the Commerce Control List (CCL). Items / technology / information controlled under ITAR / United States Munitions List (USML) or those carrying an ECCN in the 600 series carry stricter requirements where "Use" is not applicable.

What is an "ECCN?"

ECCN, or Export Control Classification Number, refers to the five character alpha-numeric designation used on the Commerce Control List (CCL) to identify dual-use items for export control purposes. An ECCN categorizes items based on the nature of the product, i.e. type of commodity, software, or technology and its respective technical parameters.

ECCNs are different from Harmonized Tariff System Codes or Schedule B numbers, which are used globally to identify products, and do not specify export controls on a given item.

Webpage: "What is an ECCN?" (BIS)

How do I find the ECCN for a given item?

There are a number of ways to obtain the correct ECCN for a given item / commodity / software / technology.

The first is to contact the manufacurer or vendor of the item; be prepared to provide specific details of the item, such as the make, model, serial number, etc., as different types of the same category of item may have different ECCNs depending on the specific technical details, capabilities and underlying components.

ECCNs can also be obtained through searching the Commerce Control List (CCL), using details about the item and its components. In order to conduct an exhaustive search of the CCL, you'll need to search several different terms related to the item, as a basic search may not reveal all aspects of an item controlled by the CCL.

The Commerce Control List Index is a good starting place to help narrow down where items of a given type / category may appear in the broader CCL; however you'll need to also search the CCL for additional information to help determine whether a given ECCN is relevant to the specifc item being searched.

Another helpful tool is the online CCL Order of Review tool. This interactive decision tool will help you classify items which may appear on the CCL, and is best utilized by individuals who have sophisticated technical knowledge of the item being classified and its specifications and capactities. 

Video: Export Controls - Classifying Your Item (BIS)

Video: Introduction to "Specially Designed" (BIS)

Commodity Classification Info for Large Company Technology

What if an item does not appear in the CCL / does not have an ECCN?

Items that are not listed on the CCL are given the designation of EAR99. EAR99 items generally consist of low-technology consumer goods and do not require a export license in many (though not all) situations.

If you plan to export an EAR99 item to an individual or entity from a sanctioned / embargoed country, to an end-user of concern, or in support of a prohibited end-use, an export license will likely be required. Please contact Lehigh's Export Control Officer for consultation on the need for an export license.

What do faculty members need to know about export control?

Faculty have primary responsibility for maintaining compliance with export control laws, regulations, and policies, in the conduct of research and scholarly activities. The Export Control Officer (ECO) and Office of Research Integrity will assist faculty in compliance with these activities.

The Export Control Compliance Manual (ECM) assists researchers and administrators in maintaining compliance with export controls requirements. Faculty should also review our guidance titled "Information for Faculty". All policies and guidance relevant to export control can be found on this page

What do I need to know about international travel?

All international travelers are required to:

For more information please review our guidance on Information for International Travelers.

What do I need to know about presenting at conferences abroad?

Presenting at a conference abroad carries potential export control related risk, especially if the conference is located within a sanctioned country or may have attendees who are citizens of a sanctioned country. 

There are several steps that should be taken prior to attending or presenting at a conference abroad:

  • Determine whether the conference is open to all qualified attendees, or is restricted to specific audiences or citizens of specified countries. Open conferences permit attendees to take and share notes on what is being presented, and is intended for the further development of scientific knowledge. Restricted meetings, particularly those centered around military, defense and/or nuclear related topics, may carry specific restrictions on what can be shared. Contact ORI if you have questions about a specific conference.
  • Ensure that the conference sponsor(s) are not restricted entities. ORI can screen conference sponsors for restricted status upon request. 
  • Limit the content of the presentation, and any follow-up discussion / Q&A, to information that has been published previously, information within the public domain, or information intended to be published openly, without any sponsor restriction, within the scientific literature. Sharing information with non-US persons related to project(s) that carry specific export control restrictions, either dual use (EAR) or military / defense related (ITAR), may constitute an export control violation. 
Under which conditions would software be export controlled?

Software may be export controlled under a number of scenarios, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Software which makes use of non-publicly available encryption technology. The EAR defines "publicly available" software as software "that has been made available to the public without restrictions upon its further dissemination."
  • Software related to the use / control / operation of export controlled items / technology. For example, proprietary software written to operate a highly controlled laser may carry export control restrictions due to the direct connection to a piece of export controlled technology.
  • Software produced under an award which carries specific export control restrictions, such as restrictions on the open and free publication / presentation of the software's code.

Additional Info

Encryption and Export Administration Regulations (EAR)

Encryption Items Not Subject to the EAR

Exception for Mass Market Hardware / Software