Beginners' guide to export controls

What export licence do I need?


There are a variety of different types of licences that you may be able to use to export your goods. The main categories of licences issued by the Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU) are outlined briefly below.

Open General Export Licences

Open General Export Licences (OGELs) are available for less restricted exports to less restricted destinations. OGELs are pre-published licences with set terms and conditions which you must adhere to. There are currently over 40 OGELs available which cover a wide range of circumstances. Some are for military goods and others are for dual-use goods. A small number of OGELs cover both.

Being an OGEL holder can potentially benefit your business by saving you time and money.

Before using, you will need to pre-register for each licence you intend to use. You will also need to carefully read and understand the relevant OGEL you intend to use. You will need to make sure that you can meet all the outlined terms and conditions of the licence - eg that you only export to the exact destination allowed or that you keep the necessary records.

To check whether there is an OGEL that covers the export you wish to make, you can use the OGEL Checker. This database leads you through all conditions of the licence.

As a registered OGEL user, you will be subject to regular ECJU Compliance Audits so you need to be aware of the compliance and enforcement of export controls.

Standard Individual Export Licences

If your goods, technology, software, destination or situation is not covered by an OGEL, you will need to apply for a Standard Individual Export Licence (SIEL). SIELs are company and consignee specific, for a set quantity and/or value of goods. You will need to provide support documentation such as End-User Undertakings with with the application.

Open Individual Export Licences

The ECJU also issue an Open Individual Export Licence (OIEL) which is designed to cover long-term contracts, projects and repeat business. This is a concessionary form of licence which is company specific, but not necessarily consignee specific. There is no set quantity or value of goods, although conditions covering this may be set on the licence. Under an OIEL, you will receive regular compliance audits from the ECJU, so minimal support documentation is needed.

You will usually need to establish a track record of exporting before you can apply for an OIEL. It should replace at least 20 SIEL applications a year.

Other types of licences

There are also licences covering transhipment and trade control (trafficking and brokering) activities, as well as a global projects licence.

    • Department for International Trade ECJU Helpline
      020 7215 4594