How to determine if your goods need an export licence

Frequently asked questions about rating your goods

This page answers common queries raised at Export Control Organisation (ECO) seminars about the 'rating' or classification of military and dual-use goods.

1. What is a 'rating'?

Under the Control List Classification Advice Service, ECO assesses whether items are listed on a UK Strategic Export Control List. If an item is referenced on these lists it will have a 'Control List entry' or 'rating' code or number.

As an initial guide to identifying the appropriate 'rating' for your items you can see a table of military goods ratings for export. These broad headings are divided into further sub-categories which form the actual 'rating' entry. The entry provides a description of the items. 'Rating' is the process of determining if your items can be categorised under a relevant description.

2. Does the 'rating' depend on the destination country or identity of the end-user?

Generally, no, although certain goods are controlled only when exported to a certain country (such as Iran).

The identity of the end-user comes into play under End-Use Controls.

3. Does the 'rating' depend on the actual end-use of the goods?

No, it is purely based on the specification of the goods in question. However, even where goods are not normally controlled, they can be made licensable, where there are either Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) or Military End-Use Control concerns. 

4. Why can we only have four items on a rating enquiry?

This is due quite simply to resource issues.

5. What items require an export licence?

You should refer to UK Strategic Export Control Lists - the consolidated list of strategic military and dual-use items.

You should also be aware that items might also require a licence under either the End-Use Controls or because of sanctions and embargoes.

6. How can we determine if our products are controlled?

There are various ways to determine if your products are controlled:

You should be aware that the UK Trade Tariff only provides a broad initial indication of whether some goods are restricted. You should not use the Tariff as your unique reference point to determine if your goods are controlled, but should check the Control Lists themselves.

It is advisable and best practice to check whether your items are controlled as early as possible and build this into your management processes. This may be well in advance of any specific enquiry or order and can be at the design or development stage of a new product.

For military goods, you should also be aware of the MOD F680 procedures.

7. If a company makes their own 'rating' decision and that turns out to be wrong, are we liable?

Yes you would be liable. You are advised to take out insurance against this happening and speak to your insurer.

8. What if I have a specific export order to fulfil and am unsure about whether the goods require a licence?

If you have confirmed business and envisage an export in the near future then it is best that you apply for a licence. ECO will either:

  • grant a licence
  • refuse the application
  • advise that a licence is not required

In each instance, the final licence response will advise you of the status of your goods. If you are advised that no licence is required, then you should use the End-User Advice Service for future queries relating to shipments to specific end-users of non-listed goods.

9. Are components on the Control Lists always controlled?

You should check the wording of control entries very carefully since some entries include all specially designed components (including most of the military list) while others include only those components listed and some do not control components at all.

Read more about UK Strategic Export Control Lists - the consolidated list of strategic military and dual-use items.

10. What does 'specially designed or modified for military use' mean?

This means the original design intent of the goods.

11. Does painting an item green make it 'modified' for military use?

If the paint used is standard, plain green paint then no. If the paint has been modified in some way - for instance, to make it infra-red reflective - then yes.

12. What are dual-use goods?

These are goods that have both military and dual-use applications.

See Controls on Dual-Use Goods. Depending on the product you are looking to export, you might be able to use an Open General Licence (OGEL) or the Community General Export Authorisation (CGEA) which provides licensing coverage for specific dual-use goods being exported to less restricted destinations. 

13. What if we don't know what the items were originally designed for, for instance if they were designed a long time ago or if the original manufacturer has long since ceased to exist?

You need to do your own due diligence and make an informed decision on the knowledge that you possess at the time. If in doubt, contact the ECO and make either a Control List Classification Advice Service request or make a licence application via SPIRE. Use the SPIRE service.

14. If my product is not described on the Control Lists does that mean a licence is not required?

No. There might be either Military or Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) End-Use Controls. Read more about End-Use Controls.

15. What sort of details do I need to provide to get End-User Advice?

In short, you need to provide details of who you are, your UK address and the identity and address of any overseas entities that you are dealing with. You do not need to provide details of the goods that you are intending to export.

Your request for end-user advice needs to be completed online via the SPIRE export licensing database (registration required).

16. Will I be able to get a 'No Licence Required' letter related to my request for a technical assessment via the Control List Classification Advice Service?

No. The previous Ratings Service is now discontinued and we no longer issue 'old style' No Licence required letters.

17. But my bank or insurer demands that I get an NLR style letter before they release payment. What can I do?

This is not correct. Organisations representing banks and the insurance industry have been advised of the current procedures. If banks make these demands upon you then you can refer them to this guidance.

18. What sort of details will exporters have to present to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC)?

HMRC require a range of general documentation for exports and their requirements are not affected by the ECO's advisory service procedures.

If Control List Classification Advice has confirmed that you need a licence, you will need to apply for one.

If ECO has advised you that your goods are not listed, then you should ensure that you include this notification in the package of documents that you put before HMRC to accompany the export. If, in addition, you have sought End-User Advice and ECO has confirmed that it has no concerns with the named entities, then you need to also include this notification.

The important aspect is to demonstrate to HMRC that you have taken appropriate steps.

19. ECO has issued end-user advice saying that it has no concerns with my goods. However, our goods still get stopped at Customs. Why?

HM Revenue & Customs do their own checks based on their own intelligence and risk assessment.This process is entirely independent of exporters seeking ECO advice, and rightly so, since it is only at the frontier that we have the possibility of checking that the goods exported match those that have been declared.

If HMRC do decide to detain an export, then the process of clearing should run more smoothy if you have all the right documents together as set out above.

20. How long is End-User advice valid for?

End-User advice is valid at the time it is given, but it can change in the future because information about companies changes from day to day. The nearer the advice is given to the date of export, the greater the likelihood that it remains valid.

21. Does End-User Advice consitute a legal 'inform'?

Not in the usual sense, but if exporters are advised to get a licence in response to a request for End-User Advice, they may well be deemed to have suspicions about end-use which would require them to apply for licences.

22. How does ECO provided End-User Advice relate to advice provided by HM Treasury in relation to financial sanctions

Advice provided by the Treasury in relation to financial sanctions is totally independent of the advice provided by the ECO in relation to export control related sanctions and end-users. You will however have to comply with all relevant sanctions that apply to your business.

23. How often are the Control Lists updated?

The international regimes are recognised international country forums who meet and discuss changes to the Control Lists throughout the year. Depending on the particular regime, this is generally achieved by plenary sessions once a year and additional working groups. Any resulting and agreed changes are fed into one major change to the Control Lists. Read more about UK Strategic Export Control Lists - the consolidated list of strategic military and dual-use items.

To keep informed about changes to the Control Lists, you should register for the ECO's automatic email updates (Notices to Exporters).