How to Successfully Apply for an Export Control Licence – Getting It Right

May 16, 2023
How to Successfully Apply for an Export Control Licence – Getting It Right

Export control regulations exist to protect national security and prevent sensitive technologies and information from falling into the wrong hands. If you export, you may need to obtain an export control licence to ensure compliance with these regulations.

clearBorder is a leading international trade training and consultancy business dedicated to supporting individuals and businesses in navigating the complexities of global trade regulations. With an expert team of import and export consultants who possess extensive knowledge of export control licensing and international trade compliance, clearBorder provides comprehensive services to assist businesses in obtaining the necessary export control licences and complying with relevant regulations.

The Types of Export Control Licences

Export control legislation and licences are in place to ensure that sensitive technologies and information don’t find their way into the hands of those who would pose a threat to national security.

To ensure compliance with these regulations, individuals and businesses that export may need to obtain an export control licence. The two main types of export control licences for defence related technologies are Open General Export Licences (OGEL) and individual licences.

General Export Control Licence

General licences are broadly applicable to a group of exporters or a specific type of transaction. These licences are typically easier and quicker to obtain than individual licences. General licences are usually issued for less sensitive items or transactions that are less likely to pose a threat to national security.

Individual Export Control Licence

Standard Individual Export Licences (SIELs) typically require a more detailed application process and can take longer to obtain than general licences.

The application process for an individual licence requires the exporter to provide substantial information about the item or information being exported, the end-user, the country of destination, and the proposed intended use of the item or information. The licensing agency will take further information and evaluate the potential risks associated with the transaction before granting the licence.

Things to Remember

Requirements for export control licences can vary by country, and by the type of item or information being exported. For example, U.S. export controls are a different set of regulations to UK export controls or the European Union’s.

It is essential to consult with export control specialists to determine the specific requirements for the export control licence for your particular transaction or particular export controlled goods.

Both general and individual export control licences play a crucial role in ensuring compliance with export controls. While general licences are easier and quicker to obtain, individual licences are required for more sensitive transactions or to certain destinations where national defence or security concerns are heightened. Aim to understand the export control requirements for both types of licences, and to work with export control specialists to ensure that you comply with the regulations you have to – but do not unnecessarily restrict your business by becoming captured by ones that don’t apply.

The Application Process

The application process for an export licence can be complex and time-consuming. It typically involves the following steps:

  1. Determine the need for a licence: You must first determine whether your item or information is controlled by the regulations and whether a licence is required.
  2. Gather information: You will need to provide detailed information about the item or information you wish to export, as well as information about the end user and the country of destination.
  3. Complete the application: The application form will vary depending on the type of licence you are applying for. You will need to complete the form and provide any supporting documentation.
  4. Submit the application: You will need to submit the completed application to the appropriate licensing agency.
  5. Wait for a decision: The licensing agency will review your application and make a decision within a specified timeframe.

Tips for a Successful Application

To ensure a application for an export licence, follow these tips:

  1. Allow plenty of time: The application process can take several weeks or even months. It is important to start the process early to avoid any delays.
  2. Provide accurate and complete information: The licensing agency will require detailed information about the item or information you wish to export, as well as information about the end user and the country of destination. It is important to provide accurate and complete information to avoid any delays or rejection of your application.
  3. Be responsive to requests for additional information: The licensing agency may request additional information or clarification during the application process. Respond promptly to these requests to avoid any delays.
  4. Seek professional advice: If you are unfamiliar with the application process or the regulations, it’s always helpful to seek professional advice from an export control consultant.

Common Reasons for Rejection

There are several common reasons why export licence applications are rejected. These include:

  1. Incomplete or inaccurate information: If the licensing agency does not have all the information they need, they may reject your application.
  2. End-use concerns: If the item or information you wish to export is likely to be used for a prohibited purpose, the licensing agency will almost certainly reject your application.
  3. Sanctions or embargoes: If the country of destination is subject to sanctions or embargoes, especially considering military purposes, rejection is likely.

The Consequences of Exporting Without a Licence

Exporting without a proper export licence is a serious violation of national and international trade regulations. The consequences of exporting without a licence can be severe and can vary depending on the country and the specific circumstances of the violation. Some of the most common consequences include:


Exporting without a licence can result in significant fines, which can range from thousands to millions, depending on the severity of offence.


In some cases, exporting without a licence can result in criminal charges and imprisonment, especially in cases involving the export of sensitive technologies, chemicals or materials that can be used for military or prohibited purposes.

Loss of Export Privileges

Exporting without a licence can result in the revocation of an individual or business’s export privileges. This can negatively impact future business and trade activities, and may result in a loss of revenue or even the closure of the business.

Damage to Reputation

Violating export control regulations can damage a company’s reputation and lead to a loss of trust from customers, partners, and suppliers.

Legal Action

Exporting without a licence can lead to civil or criminal legal action. This can be time-consuming, costly, and damaging to a company’s reputation.

It is crucial to obtain the necessary export control licence before engaging in any exporting activities to avoid these serious consequences. Companies that engage in exporting activities should have a robust compliance program in place to ensure that they comply with all applicable regulations.

Your Best Bet? Specialist and Independent Trade Advice

Ultimately, obtaining an export control or export licence is a crucial aspect of international trade, and failure to comply with regulations can result in serious consequences for businesses.

At clearBorder, we understand the various nature and complexities of international trade regulations, and our team of experienced import and export consultants can provide guidance and support to ensure that businesses comply with export control regulations and successfully obtain the necessary licences. Contact us today to learn more about how we can support your business’s international trade goals.