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An Introduction to EXIM Laws

Updated on April 15, 2020
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Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.


EXIM regulations like ITAR and EAR are more than a confusing acronym soup. Behind them are myriad bureaucracies involved in enforcing them. While the rules may be complex and sometimes contradictory, failure to abide by export-import rules can get you into serious trouble. What are the main export–import regulations? What do regulations like ITAR cover? And who is responsible for administering each set of EXIM law?

International Traffic in Arms Regulations

ITAR or International Traffic in Arms Regulations are outlined in 22 CFR Parts 120 through 130. The Department of State manages the export of defense services, defense articles and anything else classified as ITAR. The Department of Defense approves foreign military sales, approves public releases of information and reviews exports with the Department of State.

Products with legitimate commercial uses in the US but potential military applications may be restricted from foreign sale by EAR regulations.
Products with legitimate commercial uses in the US but potential military applications may be restricted from foreign sale by EAR regulations. | Source

Export Administration Regulations

The Department of Commerce controls dual use items classified as EAR or falling under Export Administration Regulations. Dual use items are those with both commercial and military applications can fall under EAR export controls. This means that even some off-the-shelf products readily available in the US may not be exported.

The EAR or Export Administration Regulation Act is outlined in 15 CFR parts 730 through 774. The EAR is in force part of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act or IEEPA.

The EAR controls the exports and re-exports of commercial, dual use technology listed on the Commerce Control List or CCL. The EAR is administered by the Bureau of Industry and Security or BIS.

ATF and Export/Import Rules

The Department of Justice contains the ATF, short for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives supervises the importation of arms, ammunitions and other implements of war on the United States Munitions Import List (USMIL) per 27 CFR parts 447, 478, 479 and 551. 27 CRF Part 447 outlines the implementation of section 38 of the Arms Export Control Act or AECA.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) enforces export rules on weapons for the ATF.

Nonproliferation and EXIM

The Department of Energy oversees anything seen as nuclear, be it nuclear weapons, nuclear power or items that could be used to create nuclear fuel. It has this responsibility per various nuclear nonproliferation agreements.

Nonproliferation sanctions are supervised by the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation or ISN or the Department of State. Nonproliferation sanctions are managed by the Department of State.

Foreign Trade Regulations

The Bureau of the Census administers the Foreign Trade Regulations or FTR as part of the US Commerce Department. The FTR sets the requirements for submission of export and import regulations. Foreign Trade Regulations or FTR are outlined in 15 CFR Part 30.

The FTR sets out the requirements for submission of export and import information. These rules apply to all imports unless they fall under a different set of regulations like ITAR or EAR.

Customs and Border Patrol seeks to prevent human trafficking, whether illegal immigrants, girls sold into prostitution or would-be terrorists.
Customs and Border Patrol seeks to prevent human trafficking, whether illegal immigrants, girls sold into prostitution or would-be terrorists. | Source

Homeland Security and Export/Import Rules

The office of Homeland Security is responsible for Customs and Border Protection (CBP), formerly known as ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Homeland Security supervises trade at the ports as well as screens incoming items for illegal immigrants, contraband and potential threats.

For example, Customs and Border Protection along with port security check incoming ships for illegal drugs and human trafficking, while Customs and Border Protection searches incoming trucks for illegal drugs as well as illegal immigrants.

EXIM Boycotts and Sanctioned Countries

The Department of Treasury contains the Office of Foreign Assets Control or OFAC. The Economic Sanctions Regulations of the US Treasury Department are managed by the Office for Foreign Assets Control; their basic mission is to manage embargoes. They impose restrictions on business transactions, trade and economic activity with relation to specific countries the US is embargoing. As of this writing, the OFAC controls the sanctions on countries like Iran, North Korea, Burma, Sudan and Cuba. The economic sanctions the OFAC is responsible for are outlined in 31 CFR parts 500 through 596.

Anti-boycott regulations are administered under the US Department of Commerce’s Office of Anti-Boycott Compliance or OAC. The anti-boycott regulations of the EAR are addressed in 15 CFR Part 70. These regulations prohibit taking boycott actions further than existing boycotts or creating a separate boycott. To complicate matters, the EAR also contains anti-boycott compliance and reporting provisions.

Denied trade screening is the process of screening groups and individuals in an export transaction for individuals or businesses not allowed to accept goods, businesses known to be fronts for foreign nations, businesses that forward products to embargoed companies and anyone that works to go around sanctions. The Department of Treasury has a Specially Designated Nationals List. The Department of Commerce Entity list, the Department of Commerce has a Denied Persons List, and there are other lists of other individuals restricted from trade. The master list for denied trade screening is the Consolidated Screening List at, though there is a Denied Persons List at the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS).

Legal Notice

Export and import regulations or EXIM is a complex legal matter. This article is intended for informational purposes only, and it is only a cursory introduction to the topic. Seek professional legal advice is you have questions about importing anything into the United States.


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