What is an export controlled or licensed product?

An export controlled or licensed product is one that is subject to control by the UK government’s Export Control Organisation (ECO) and therefore requires an export licence to bring them in and out of the UK.

Export licences are needed for importing and exporting of military and paramilitary goods, dual-use and technology, works of art, plants and animals, medicines and chemicals.

If your offering falls into this category, you will need to find out how to apply for an export licence (or import license) and what compliance responsibilities you’ll have. It’s vital that you are aware of your responsibilities and who the relevant UK licensing authorities are.

documents for customs clearance

Do I need an export licence?

Whether or not you need an export licence for your goods will be determined by the following factors:

  • nature of the goods due to be exported
  • destination concerned
  • ultimate end use of the goods
  • licensability of trade activities.

It is highly likely your goods will be controlled if they fall into any of the below categories:

  • specially designed or modified for military use and their components
  • dual-use items – those that can be used for civil or military purposes – which meet certain specified technical standards and some of their components
  • associated technology and software
  • goods that might be used for torture
  • radioactive sources.

Restrictions on the export of technology and defence goods do not just apply to weapons or military hardware. They also apply to goods that are designed for civil use but can be used for military purposes, usually referred to as dual-use goods – items such as machine tools, computers and marine equipment. There are also some restrictions on moving military goods between third countries (that is, not involving the UK).

If you’re planning to export anything with a potential military use you should always seek advice on whether a licence is required.

More information

The Institute of Export & International Trade runs an Export Controls Profession enabling and promoting excellence in compliance with export and import controls and trade sanctions in the UK and globally.

You can find out more about it here or watch our webinar introducing the profession.

For further information, you can also read Export controls: an introductory guide from the Department for International Trade (DIT) Export Control Joint Unit.

There is excellent and comprehensive information on whether your product is subject to licensing or controls at the UK government web site. It’s a resource worth checking out if your product falls into any of the following categories:

  • Animals and animal products, including live animals
  • Objects of cultural interest, including antiques and works of art
  • Prescription drugs, medicines and the materials used to make them
  • Flowers, wildlife, plants and seeds
  • Chemicals and pesticides
  • Vehicles.


Topics: Export Licences and Legislation & Regulation
Export Action Plan