The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) is responsible for implementing and enforcing the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), which regulate the export and reexport of most commercial items. Items that BIS regulates are referred to as "dual-use" - items that have both commercial and military or proliferation applications - but purely commercial items without an obvious military use are also subject to the EAR. The EAR, however, do not control all goods, services, and technologies. Other U.S. government agencies regulate more specialized exports. For example, the U.S. Department of State has authority over defense articles and defense services.
Any item that is sent from the United States to a foreign destination is an export. "Items" include commodities, software or technology, such as clothing, building materials, circuit boards, automotive parts, blue prints, design plans, retail software packages and technical information.
How an item is transported outside of the United States does not matter in determining export license requirements. For example, an item can be sent by regular mail or hand-carried on an airplane. A set of schematics can be sent via facsimile to a foreign destination, software can be uploaded to or downloaded from an Internet site, or technology can be transmitted via e-mail or during a telephone conversation. Regardless of the method used for the transfer, the transaction is considered an export for export control purposes. An item is also considered an export even if it is leaving the United States temporarily, if it is leaving the United State but is not for sale, (e.g. a gift) or if it is going to a wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary in a foreign country. Even a foreign-origin item exported from the United States, transmitted or transhipped through the United States, or being returned from the United States to its foreign country of origin is considered an export. Finally, release of technology or source code subject to the EAR to a foreign national in the United States is "deemed" to be an export to the home country of the foreign national under the EAR.
A relatively small percentage of total U.S. exports and reexports require a license from BIS. License requirements are dependent upon an item's technical characteristics, the destination, the end-user, and the end-use. The exporter, must determine whether the export requires a license. When making that determination consider:
Most exports from the United States do not require a license, and are therefore exported under the designation No License Required “NLR.” Except in those relatively few transactions when a license requirement applies because the destination is subject to embargo or because of a proliferation end-use or end-user, no license is required when:
If a license is required for the transaction, a license exception may be available. License Exceptions, and the conditions on their use, are set forth in the EAR.
If the item requires a license to be exported, apply to BIS for an export license. If the application is approved, a license number and expiration date will be issued to use on the export documents. A BIS-issued license is usually valid for two years.