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Your Guide to Export Control and Licences.

Certain goods are subject to control by the UK Government’s Export Control Organisation (ECO). Therefore, the export of strategic goods and technology may require licences. Do you need an export licence?

Whether or not you need a licence for exporting your products will be determined by these four factors:

  • Nature of the goods

  • The destination

  • End use of the products

  • Licensability of trade activities

Indeed, some categories of goods can be controlled such as products designed for military use, those that can be used for civil or military purposes, associated technology products, goods that can be used for torture and radioactive sources. Generally, these items are listed on one of the UK Strategic Export Control Lists, which determine whether any goods, software or technology require an export licence. However, sometimes goods that have no clear military use may also require a licence because of their end-user. For example, a valve being used on a military ship will become controlled.

Types of licences

There are several types of licences – such as the Open General Export Licences (OGELs), the Standard Individual Export Licences (SIELs), the Open Individual Export Licences (OIELs), and there are other licences, which cover transhipment and trade control activities.

  • OGELs permit the control of the strategic and military items that require an authorisation.

  • SIELs are specific to an exporter and permit the shipments of specific items to the consignee or end-user.

  • OIELs are designed for long-term contracts or projects. They should be filled by the overseas end-user or the consignee.

Why are export licences important?

Licensing is important for the safety of the goods and customs may request an insurance, evidence or invoice. They also allow the government to control the export and import of controlled goods or to controlled countries.

Getting the incorrect licence can result in penalties, which vary depending on the nature of the offence. It can also affect your business in term of logistical problems.

How can you apply for an export licence?

If you need a licence for strategic goods, you can use SPIRE to get an export or trade licence.


If you are exporting controlled military goods to the United States, you must comply with the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). It refers to the US-UK Defence Trade Cooperation Treaty, which streamlines and improves defence export processes between both countries. ITAR cover defence articles and services. While, the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) cover the commercial and dual-use items and technologies.

You need help with understanding the export control and licences?

  • Register for our half-day Introduction to Export Control and Licenses training course on 29th June, which will present an overview of each regulation: their relationships, their impact on businesses and their use within the company.

For more details, please email

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