Export Control FAQs

Export Control FAQs

Export controls regulate and restrict the release of critical technologies, information, and services to foreign nationals, within and outside of the United States, and foreign countries for reasons of foreign policy and national security. Many items may be export-controlled including, but not limited to, equipment, software code, chemical and biological materials, and technical data.  These laws and regulations, which include international sanctions programs, also restrict activities within certain countries and with designated institutions, entities, and individuals, even if no controlled items are involved. Export controls apply to virtually all fields of science and engineering and restrict both physical shipments and electronic transmission of information. These laws apply to all activities – not just sponsored research projects.

The goal of export controls is to protect national security interests, including promoting and protecting critical U.S. intellectual property and technology.

The export control regimes collectively cover items, information, and software considered to be important to U.S. national security and foreign policy. “Items” include products, equipment, devices, organisms, components, materials, etc.  Additionally, these regulations also control the equipment, materials, information, and software necessary for producing, developing, and using controlled items. Further, restrictions are also placed on certain entities and individuals as recipients of exports.

Exports include:

  • Actual shipments or transmission out of the U.S. of a controlled item or information, no matter the mode of transmission (i.e. Dropbox, email, courier, etc.)
  • Releasing or otherwise transferring (including verbally or visually) information or a controlled item to a foreign person in the U.S. (a “deemed export”)
  • Transferring registration, control or ownership of certain controlled items to a foreign person, or
  • Use or application of controlled technology on behalf of or for the benefit of any foreign person or entity, either in the U.S. or abroad.

The most relevant areas outside the purview of export control regulations are classes and research in economics, history, languages, linguistics, literature, mathematics, music, philosophy and political science.  Individuals working in these areas, however, may still be using items that are export controlled (e.g., computers with encryption software).

  • Shipments outside of the U.S. of research equipment
  • Research involving export-controlled items or information
  • Participation by foreign nationals in Northeastern research in the U.S. or abroad (where no exception applies)
  • Presenting unpublished research/data (where no exception applies)
  • Traveling to a sanctioned or embargoed country
  • Using any USML defense article or related technical data

It depends.  An award requiring “review and approval” makes the fundamental research exemption inapplicable, since this language contemplates the potential denial of approval to publish.  A brief prepublication review (e.g. 30 days), is permissible to confirm that any future publication would not inadvertently divulge proprietary information provided to the PI/researcher.

Any foreign national is subject to the “deemed export” rule, for example, all persons in the U.S. as tourists, students, business people, scholars, researchers, technical experts, airline personnel, salespeople, military personnel, diplomats, etc.

The rule does not apply to a foreign national who is granted:

  1. permanent resident status (i.e., a “green card” holder); or
  2. U.S. citizenship; or
  3. status as a “protected person” under U.S. law (i.e., refugees, asylees).

It depends on which regulations apply to the circumstances. Under BIS guidance, the agency looks only at the latest citizenship or legal permanent residence. The DDTC, however, takes into account all of a person’s citizenships and country of birth and imposes the controls that correspond to the most restrictive citizenship.

Application abroad of personal knowledge or technical experience acquired in the U.S. constitutes an export of that knowledge and experience that is subject to the EAR. Therefore, in certain technical areas, the professor may need to obtain an export license or otherwise qualify for a license exception, prior to working in the lab.

Yes. Export control regulations apply irrespective of the funding source.

Yes, research compliance will need to evaluate your itinerary (including any stop overs), the supplies and materials you plan to take, as well as any entities or persons you plan to collaborate with.

If you are planning to go to a country that is listed on the University’s list of Countries with a Heightened Cybersecurity Risk, you will be asked to take a loaner laptop, per University policy.

Please reach out to Research Compliance well in advance of the planned research activities.  Research Compliance will perform a review of the activities and provide guidance and advice on next steps.

National Security Decision Directive (NSDD 189) established that fundamental basic and applied research results (except certain encryption source code) would outside of export controlled (EAR or ITAR) technical data and thus may be shared broadly with non-U.S. persons without specific government authorization (i.e. a license).  The value of NSDD 189 is that it allows U.S. persons to benefit from collaborations with a global community of scholars.

NSDD 189 defines fundamental research as “basic and applied research in science and engineering where the resulting information is ordinarily published and shared broadly within the scientific community, as distinguished from research, the results of which are restricted for proprietary reasons or specific US Government access and dissemination controls.”

Northeastern does what it can to ensure that fundamental research activities are clearly defined as outside the scope of the EAR and ITAR, consistent with its commitment to the free and open exchange of ideas, but there are occasions when the exclusion does not apply, including when working on certain types of government contracts.  Confidential technical information received from an outside party, such as a government or industry sponsor, will generally not fall within the fundamental research exclusion.

Accepting restrictions on publication or personnel access are not consistent with the exclusion or with University policy (research activities at KRI, LLC are exempt from this policy). Thus, before a researcher accepts controlled unclassified information (CUI), export-controlled confidential technical data, or agrees to publication or access restrictions, the research must consult Research Compliance to assess the risks and develop an appropriate Technology Control Plan.

Before you exchange technical data and explore specific research projects, please consult Research Compliance.  Research Compliance will help you screen the entity to ensure there are no restrictions placed on that entity by the U.S. government.  In addition, Research Compliance will confirm if you should expect any technical data or information to be subject to export controls as the relationship progresses.

Yes, there is a strong intersection between research security concerns and export controls.  Export controls are put in place to protect the U.S. economy and security.  Often research security violations are associated with technology that would be controlled by either the EAR or ITAR regimes.  Northeastern has several resources available on our Research Security & Transparency pages.

In addition to exploring the other offerings in this section, including the decision tree and the export control manual, please contact Research Compliance.  We would be happy to set up a briefing based on your specific questions or concerns.

Last Updated on February 2, 2021