How to determine if you need a license for a product to sell it internationally and a brief description of the Bureau of Industry and Security.
Last Published: 5/22/2017

Export Licensing for eCommerce Transactions

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.

eCommerce Industry eCommerce Risk Management Export Controls Export Licenses