Preparing Your Business for Global eCommerce - by Doug Glass
Last Published: 2/25/2016
To protect national security, foreign policy, and economic interests, the United States has established regulations that limit, or even prohibit, certain exports. Known as export controls, these regulations also limit transactions with certain individuals, organizations, or countries. Because there are compelling reasons to prohibit certain transactions, the punishments and penalties for non-compliance are severe. Some restricted products can still be exported if they qualify for an export license. Most products exported  from the United States, including shipments facilitated by eCommerce ,  don’t require a license, but some knowledge of the regulations is needed to avoid trouble. This chapter provides an overview of common export controls.

Do I Need a License?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions we receive at the U.S. network of U.S. Commercial Service offices. The answer usually is “no,” because 95 percent of all items exported from the United States to foreign buyers don’t require an export license, even though the items are subject  to U.S. government export control laws and regulations. These laws and regulations determine whether you can sell your product to an international buyer, which countries you can export it to, and to which buyers you can   sell. However, just because your product is among the 95 percent that don’t require a license doesn’t mean that you can sell it anywhere and to anyone. 

Export Administration Regulations and the Bureau of Industry and Security

Most U.S.-sourced items and some internationally sourced items that are considered dual-use (possessing both commercial and military proliferation applications), as well as certain purely commercial and munitions  items,
are subject to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), which  are administered by the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). The EAR are available at bis. To determine whether your item is subject to the EAR, you will need to refer to the EAR’s Commerce Control List (CCL) to see if your item has an Export Control Classification Number (ECCN). Every item specifically listed in the EAR has an assigned ECCN. If your item falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Commerce and is not listed on the CCL, it is designated as EAR99. Most EAR99 commercial products will not require a license to be exported. However, depending on the destination, end user, or end use of the item, even an EAR99 item may require a BIS export license.
Although relatively few items subject to the EAR require export licenses, licenses are required in certain situations involving national security, foreign policy, short supply, nuclear non-proliferation, missile technology, chemical and biological weapons, regional stability, crime control, or anti-terrorism.


Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting

eCommerce Industry eCommerce