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Export control regulations are a crucial aspect of international trade, especially for companies dealing with goods and technologies that have strategic importance. The U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) is responsible for administering export controls, which include the use of Export Control Classification Numbers (ECCNs).

What is an ECCN?

An ECCN is a five-character alphanumeric code used to identify items that are subject to U.S. export regulations. The ECCN determines the level of control that applies to an item and indicates the licensing requirements for exporting it. The ECCN also helps in determining if a license is needed to export an item to a specific destination or end-user.

How is an ECCN determined?

The ECCN is determined based on the technical specifications, intended use, and end-user of the item. BIS publishes the Commerce Control List (CCL), which categorizes items based on their level of control. Items on the CCL are assigned an ECCN that corresponds to a specific category.

ECCN Categories

There are ten broad categories of items on the CCL. These include:

  1. Nuclear materials, facilities, and equipment
  2. Materials, chemicals, microorganisms, and toxins
  3. Materials processing
  4. Electronics design, development, and production
  5. Computers
  6. Telecommunications and information security
  7. Sensors and lasers
  8. Navigation and avionics
  9. Marine
  10. Aerospace and propulsion

Each category is further divided into five product groups, and each product group has specific control parameters. The CCL is regularly updated, and it's essential to stay up-to-date with the latest changes.

ECCN Licensing Requirements

Exporters must determine the ECCN of the item they wish to export and ensure that they comply with the corresponding licensing requirements. The licensing requirements depend on the destination country, the end-user, and the intended use of the item. In some cases, no license may be required, while in others, a license may be needed for the same item depending on the destination country or the end-user.

Consequences of Non-Compliance

Exporters who fail to comply with ECCN licensing requirements can face severe penalties, including fines, imprisonment, and loss of export privileges. The penalties can also extend to the company's officers and employees who may be held individually liable for non-compliance.


In summary, understanding ECCNs is critical for companies engaged in international trade. It's essential to determine the ECCN of the item you wish to export and ensure compliance with the licensing requirements. Failure to comply can have severe consequences, and it's always advisable to seek legal advice or consult with BIS when in doubt.

We hope this article has provided you with a comprehensive understanding of ECCNs and how they relate to U.S. export controls. If you have any questions or require further information, please feel free to contact us.

Ways We Can Help You

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  • Schedule a free discovery session with us during which we can learn about your company, answer your questions, and assist you in determining if Cleared Systems is the right fit for you.

  • Register for our upcoming cybersecurity and information compliance training.

  • Purchase our books on CMMC 2.0, CUI, Data Breaches, and ITAR.

  • Join our weekly free webinar sessions to ask questions and learn about the latest developments in cybersecurity and information compliance.

Author Profile

Carl B. Johnson, President of Cleared Systems, is a highly experienced and a ITAR, CMMC 2.0, Microsoft GCC High, and Microsoft DLP/AIP consultant. With over twenty years of experience in information assurance, cybersecurity, policy development, risk management, and regulatory compliance, he brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to his clients.

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