Do My Goods Need an Export Licence?

To help exporters determine whether their goods require a licence, the Export Control Organisation has a web-based search tool called “Goods Checker”. This helps exporters decide whether their goods, software or technology are controlled by UK or EC strategic export control legislation.

Users must register with the Export Control Organisation before they use the search function and will be given a password. Having achieved a “rating”, exporters can use “OGEL Checker” to determine whether a General Licence covers the export of their goods to the destination required. 

1. Types of Export Licence


3. Sanctions and Embargoes

4. Compliance Code

5. Amendment to the Relevant Legislation


Types of Export Licence

  • Standard Individual Export Licence (SIEL)

This allows export of a specified amount and value of goods to a specific destination for a specified amount of time. The licence for permanent exports will generally be valid for two years and for temporary exports (ie exhibition, trial or evaluation) for one year.

  • Open Individual Export Licence (OIEL)

This licence is specific to the individual exporter. It covers multiple shipments not limited by value or quantity to a specified consignee or consignees in one or more countries. It does not have to be produced at export points but the licence number must be annotated on the shipping invoice. Electronic declarations under New Export System (NES) must bear the licence number. Customs points throughout the UK receive notification of all OIELs from the licensing authority.

  • Open General Export Licence (OGEL)

This licence allows the export of specified controlled goods by any UK exporter without the need to apply for a specific SIEL or OIEL.

OGELs allow exporters to export different classes of goods to specified destinations and also may exclude certain classes of goods to certain destinations. The title of the particular OGEL you are using must be recorded on the shipping declarations.

To help you check if an OGEL applies to your goods or technology and the destination to which you wish to supply you can use the web-based search tool, known as the OGEL Checker, available on the BIS website. Before you start to use OGEL Checker you must know the Control List entry reference(s), also known as “the rating”, that apply to your goods, software or technology. If you don’t know the Control List entry already you can probably find it by using the Goods Checker. In addition, you will need to check if your company has been informed that an end-use control applies. You will also need to have made reasonable enquiries as to the proposed end-use of the items, particularly if they could — or you suspect they could — be used for WMD.

The following are all the current categories for UK OGELs:

  • Military Goods
  • Dual Use Goods
  • Trade Controls
  • Transhipment

For guidance on how to comply with and register for OGELs, see the Guidance Note on Open General Licences and the Community General Export Authorisation on the Export Control Organisation website via BIS. For more general information on licences see A Brief Guide to Controls Administered by ECO on the same site.

  • Community General Export Authorisation (CGEA)

The CGEA is the European Community equivalent of an OGEL, and concerns the control of exports of dual-use items and technology. It is a community licence valid in all 27 Member States of the EU and may be used to export qualifying goods to:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Switzerland
  • USA
  • Contract Licence

For long-running contracts that are planned to exceed the validity period of a normal export licence (SIEL or OIEL), a contract licence can be negotiated with the licensing authority allowing exports to be made over the life of the contract.

  • Global Project Licence

Intended to benefit multi-nation framework agreements for the supply of weapon or defence systems, this licence allows for the export and import between the parties of equipment, parts, accessories, etc, usually with no limit on quantity and value. More information about this fairly rare type of licence is available from the Export Control Organisation at BIS.


The Shared Primary Information Resource Environment (SPIRE) is the Export Control Organisation’s system for processing licence applications. It went live in September 2007, replacing all other licence application systems.

SPIRE also allows traders to register for the use of OGELs and apply for a rating request. It has been aligned with CHIEF (the UK Customs system for handling import and export declarations) for Automatic Licence Verification (ALV) of BIS export licences.

After a company has registered on SPIRE, a letter will be sent to the company secretary for confirmation that the party entering the details onto SPIRE is approved to do so. You will need to set up your company details on SPIRE to allow you to register for the use of OGELs, request export licence ratings and apply for export licences (all types) online. The SPIRE website also contains details on how to register your company.

BIS recommends that everyone use SPIRE to re-register for the use of OGELs. Box 44 on the C88/SAD/NES will have to be coded correctly to show which type of licence is being used and, very importantly, if it is a SIEL the export declaration has to be correctly decremented, ie the quantity for each specific licence line item must be correctly recorded.

Sanctions and Embargoes

The United Nations, the EU and national governments are empowered to bring sanctions and embargoes to bear on a particular country for a variety of reasons, usually involving regional conflicts and transgressions of international conventions. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the BIS ECO website are the most easily accessible sources of information. Also, enquiries in this respect can be addressed to the Sanctions Unit at BIS.

Compliance Code

The Export Control Organisation (ECO) section at BIS has a comprehensive Compliance Code of Practice. This document gives invaluable advice on such matters as introducing a climate of export control compliance within your company, how to recognise and deal with suspicious enquiries from overseas, etc.

Users of OIELs and OGELs will need to be aware that their records can be audited by the Compliance Unit of the ECO. To satisfy this audit, exporters will need to demonstrate their understanding of the control legislation, and show that adequate safeguards are in place within the company and that good records are maintained for examination by the authorities.

Amendment to the Relevant Legislation

In June 2008, the UK Government’s Export Control Organisation (ECO) announced changes to its Export of Goods, Transfer of Technology, and Provision of Technical Assistance (Control) Order 2003 (“the 2003 Order”) as a result of the Wassenaar Arrangement review. The relevant amendment appears in the Export of Goods, Transfer of Technology and Provision of Technical Assistance (Control) (Amendment) Order 2008 (SI 2008 No. 1281) (“the Amending Order”).

The Amending Order came into force on 3 June 2008 and comprises the following.

  • UK Military List

Prohibited goods, software and technology; military, security and paramilitary goods, software and technology and arms, ammunition and related material.

  • UK Explosive-related List

Prohibited dual-use explosive-related goods and technology.

  • UK Dual-use List

Prohibited dual-use goods, software and technology.

Dual-use items are goods, software or technology (documents, diagrams, etc) that can be used for both civil and military applications. They can range from raw materials and components to complete systems, eg aluminium alloys, bearings or lasers. They could also be items used in the production or development of military goods, eg machine tools, chemical manufacturing equipment and computers.

  • EU Human Rights List (Annexes 11 and 111 of the 2005 EC Regulation)

Prohibited Goods to non-EU Member States that could be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

  • UK National Security and Paramilitary List

Prohibited security and para-military goods to destinations in EU Member States.

  • UK National Radioactive Sources List

Prohibited radioactive sources.

  • EC Regulations Annex 1

List of dual-use items and technology prohibited from export to non-EU Member States. The list is divided into 10 categories:

  • Category 0: Nuclear Materials, Facilities and Equipment
  • Category 1: Materials, Chemicals, Micro-Organisms and Toxins
  • Category 2: Materials Processing
  • Category 3: Electronics
  • Category 4: Computers
  • Category 5: Telecommunications and Information Security
  • Category 6: Sensors and Lasers
  • Category 7: Navigation and Avionics
  • Category 8: Marine
  • Category 9: Aerospace and Propulsion.
  • Community General Export Authorisation (Annex 11 of the EC Regulation)

Dual-use items included in the Community General Export Authorisation (CGEA) EC Regulation (Annex 1V); dual-use items requiring an export licence to all destinations, including those in an EU Member State.

The Amending Order makes a number of changes to Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 to the Main Order. These are a consequence of the latest review of the Wassenaar Arrangement (WA), as well as some national policy changes. The principal changes are as follows.

  • In Schedule 1 (UK Military List), changes in the following categories:
    • b and .c
    • ML21
    • deletion of PL5006 and PL5030.
  • In Schedule 2 (UK Strategic Export Control Lists), changes in the following categories:
    • a — adding submersible vehicles
    • “sting sticks” in entry PL5001.i are removed from the general exception in Article 11 of the 2003 Order for goods in transit. The Amending Order clarifies that reference to Schedule 1 in the Trade in Goods (Control) Order 2003 and the Trade in Controlled Goods (Embargoed Destinations) Order 2004 are references to that Schedule as amended. The Amending Order also updates the 2003 Order so it refers to the most recent amendments to Council Regulation 1334/2000/EC.

Certain other categories of goods may require export authorisation from other public bodies as below.