What are export control laws?

Export control laws are U.S. laws that were developed for foreign policy and national security reasons. They regulate the distribution of strategically important technology, services, and information to foreign nationals and foreign countries.

How can export controls affect my research?

“Export” is defined not only as a physical transfer/disclosure of an item outside the U.S., but also as a transfer/disclosure in any form of a controlled item or information within the U.S. to anyone who is a foreign national (not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident). This is called the “deemed export” rule. As a result, unless an exclusion or exemption is available, the university may be required to obtain prior government approval (in the form of an export license) before allowing the participation of foreign national faculty, staff, or students in affected research. In some cases, a license may not be available at all based on the country involved.

In addition to affecting those who may participate in the research project on campus, the following are examples of situations in which a license may be required:

  • Presentation/discussion of previously unpublished research at conferences and meetings where foreign national scholars may be in attendance
  • Research collaborations with foreign nationals and technical exchange programs
  • Transfers of research equipment abroad
  • Visits to a laboratory by foreign scholars
What kinds of projects raise export control questions?

Basically, any research activity may be subject to export controls if it involves the actual export or “deemed” export of any goods, technology, or related technical data that is either 1) “dual use” (commercial in nature with possible military application) or 2) inherently military in nature.

Work in the following areas is considered high risk:

  • Engineering
  • Space sciences
  • Computer Science
  • Biomedical research with lasers
  • Research with encrypted software
  • Research with controlled chemicals, biological agents, and toxins

In addition, if any of the following apply to your research, you should contact staff at the Office of Research Integrity.

  • Sponsor restrictions on the participation of foreign nationals in the research
  • Sponsor restrictions on the publication or disclosure of the research results
  • Indications from the sponsor or others that export-controlled information or technology will be furnished for use in the research
  • The physical export of controlled goods or technology is expected
As a principal investigator, what do I need to do?

The PI has the best understanding of his or her research and therefore the best information as to whether the particular technology, data, or information involved in that research is or may be covered by export control regulations. The PI is responsible for doing the following:

  • The PI should carefully review the information on export controls provided on this web site. Additional training on export controls is provided on the Training Materials website and is available to PIs, their departments, and their departmental administrators. Further guidance may be provided by the Office of Research Integrity.
  • Before preparing a proposal or beginning any research, the PI should determine whether there may be any export control issues to address. The PI should coordinate with the UNLV Office of Sponsored Programs regarding the research and the provisions of the proposal solicitation and/or award agreement in order to determine if there are potential issues. See “UNLV Export Control Procedures” for further information on this process.
  • If any such issues are identified, or if any question exists, the Office of Sponsored Programs and the Office of Research Integrity will work with the PI to determine whether any export control restrictions may apply to the research.
  • If it is determined that export controls apply to the project, the PI must adhere strictly to any applicable restrictions and cooperate fully with the university’s efforts to monitor compliance.
  • After work on the project has begun, the PI should notify the Office of Sponsored Programs and the Office of Research Integrity prior to implementing any changes that may give rise to the application of export controls, such as a change in the scope of work or the addition of new staff to the project.
Is anything excluded from export control laws?

Yes. There are several exclusions, and two are particularly relevant to academic research: the fundamental research exclusion and the public domain exclusion.

These exclusions can be lost, however, if researchers sign side agreements (including material transfer and nondisclosure agreements) that contain publication restrictions or restrictions on who can participate in the research. It is crucial that you not sign any such agreements – or any agreements that mention export controls – without consulting with the Office of Sponsored Programs and the Office of Research Integrity staff.

What happens if we violate the export control laws?

The consequences for noncompliance are very serious for both the university and the researcher:

  • Criminal penalties: up to $1 million per violation and up to 10 years in prison.
  • Civil penalties: seizure and forfeiture of articles, revocation of exporting privileges, fines of up to $500,000 per violation.
  • Criminal penalties: $50,000 to $1 million or five times the value of the export, whichever is greater, per violation, up to 10 years in prison.
  • Civil penalties: loss of export privileges, fines $10,000 to $120,000 per violation.
  • Criminal penalties: fines ranging from $50,000 to $10 million and imprisonment ranging from 10 to 30 years for willful violations.
  • Civil penalties: from $11,000 to $1 million for each violation.
Where can I get help?

Any time you have a question about the application of export controls to any stage of a specific research project, contact Chelsea Holmes in the Office of Research Integrity at chelsea.holmes@unlv.edu.