Export controls: dual-use items, software and technology, goods for torture and radioactive sources

Guide to licensing procedure and other restrictions for export of controlled dual-use items, software and technology, goods for torture and radioactive sources.

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You will need an export licence to export any controlled dual-use items from the UK to another country outside the EU. Most dual use items do not require a licence if they are exported to the EU or the Channel Islands.

Dual-use items (including software and technology), are those items which can be used for both civil and military purposes. The term also includes all goods which have non-explosive uses or assist in any way with the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

You can assess your goods, software and technology against the UK Strategic Export Control Lists to determine whether or not they are controlled. The online checker tool can also be used to help determine if the items are controlled and identify the appropriate control entry.

If your items are not listed on the UK Strategic Export Control Lists, you may still need a licence under End-Use Controls or trade sanctions and embargoes.

You can use our online licensing system to apply for all types of export licences.

If you export controlled items without the correct export licence you could be breaching export controls is a criminal offence. Penalties vary depending on the nature of the offence but they range from:

  • your licence being revoked
  • goods being seized
  • a fine
  • imprisonment for up to 10 years

Dual-use items, software and technology

You will need a licence to export controlled dual-use items from the UK to another country outside the EU. Most dual-use items do not require a licence if they are exported to the EU. The exception to this ruling covers items which are listed in Annex IV of EU Regulation 428/2009. These items always require an export licence, regardless of destination.

Dual-use items include physical goods, software and technology. They are set out in these broad categories:

Control categories items
0 nuclear materials
1 materials, chemicals, micro-organisms and toxins
2 materials processing
3 electronics
4 computers
5 telecommunications and information security
6 sensors and lasers
7 navigation and avionics
8 marine
9 aerospace and propulsion

Each category is then divided again from A to E:

A systems equipment and components B test, inspection and production equipment C materials D software E technology

Check if your goods are controlled

Use the consolidated list of strategic military and dual use items including UK national controls to find out whether your goods are controlled.

We also have an online checker tool which you can use to find out if your items are controlled and identify the appropriate control entry.

There is also the Control List Classification Service on the online export licensing system.

Other items requiring additional permissions

In a small number of cases, dual use items or information may have a classification of ‘official-sensitive’ or above.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has set a mandatory requirement for the control of the release by industry of equipment or information with a classification of ‘official-sensitive’ or above, including in their marketing campaigns to foreign end-users. This includes UK material classified ‘restricted’ or above, graded prior to April 2014, and internationally security classified material. Control of release is therefore conducted through the MOD Form 680 application process.

Find out more about the MOD Form 680.

You can apply for MOD Form 680 approval on the  online licensing system.

Nuclear exports

International nuclear exports depend upon recipient countries meeting certain security standards and safeguards, as well as what is called pre-notification or assurance of a proposed export. This is the case in particular for nuclear items, equipment, material or technology which are listed on the NSG Trigger List.

Find out what you need to do if you are exporting NSG Trigger List items for civil nuclear purposes.


A supporting document is required to export chemicals listed in Schedule 3 of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) to countries that have not ratified the convention.

Find out what additional documents you need to export Chemicals listed in Schedule 3 to these countries.

Weapons of mass destruction end-use controls and military end-use controls

If your items are not listed on the UK Strategic Export Control Lists, you may still need a licence under the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) end-use controls.

You must not export any items if you suspect, or have been informed, that the items might be used to make chemical, biological or nuclear weapons of mass destruction.

There are also controls on the

  • brokering of controlled dual use items intended for WMD purposes
  • transfer of software or technology for a WMD purpose, within the UK, out of the UK or from outside of the UK to another country
  • the provision of technical assistance for a WMD purpose, out of the UK or from outside of the UK to another country

Transfer of technology concerns both the electronic and non-electronic transfer of controlled goods. This can be done in a number of ways. For instance, electronic transfers can involve the use of email, fax, computer file transfer, telephone or video conferencing. Non-electronic transfers include face-to-face communications.

The provision of technical assistance broadly means providing any type of technical support such as assembly, maintenance or repair to controlled goods.

Find out more about the supplementary controls on WMD.

Even if the items which you intend to export are not listed on the strategic export control lists you might still require an export licence under this control if the items are going into military goods in a country subject to an arms embargo.

Find out more about sanctions and arms embargoes.

If your items aren’t controlled on a list, but you’re concerned your items or services may be used for WMD or military end-use purposes, you can get advice through our online licensing system.

Goods which could be used for torture

You will need an export licence in order to export goods which could be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment from the UK to another country. Some of these items are prohibited for export.

Find out more about export controls and prohibitions on these goods.

Radioactive sources

You will need an export licence for exporting certain radioactive sources from the UK to another country. The Export of Radioactive Sources (Control) Order 2006 controls the export of certain high-activity radioactive sources as defined under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources.

Find out more about exporting controlled radioactive sources.

Temporary exports for events, maintenance and repair

If your goods are controlled, you must get an export licence if you’re taking them temporarily out of the UK. This includes taking goods and services out of the UK for:

  • events, exhibitions and trade shows
  • maintenance and repair
  • exporting after exhibition
  • samples

Find out if your items are controlled through our control list classification advisory service available through the online export licensing system.

Get an export or trade licence

You can use the online checker tool to find out if you can use an Open General Export Licence (OGEL) or one of the EU General Export Authorisations.

If you are registered to use open licences, you will be audited at intervals by the ECJU Compliance team. Find out more about what actions to take to comply with the law and use of open licences.

Apply for an export licence through the online export licensing system managed by the Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU).

Always check the import rules of the country you’re exporting to. Ask your importer or get help from your freight forwarder.

Sanctions, embargoes and other restrictions

Some destinations are subject to sanctions, embargoes or other restrictions. The extent of these depends on the destination and the measured imposed. If you are exporting a destinations subject to sanctions, embargoes or restrictions you should ensure you understand what is controlled.

Sanctioned and embargoed destinations often have restrictions on brokering and services beyond those set out in the UK Strategic Export Control Lists.

Find out more about countries subject to sanctions, embargoes and restrictions.

Breaches of export control legislation

As an exporter, you may discover that you have exported goods or transferred controlled technology without an appropriate export licence in place. It is also possible that a compliance inspector from the Export Control Joint Unit will identify an irregularity during a compliance audit.

If this happens, it is very important to report the irregularity to HMRC (sometimes known as ‘voluntary disclosure’) as soon as possible, as they are responsible for the enforcement of strategic export controls. If the irregularity was found on an ECJU compliance audit, the compliance inspector will have informed HMRC and you are strongly advised to do the same.

You should write to HMRC at

HM Revenue & Customs
Customs Enforcement Policy Team
1st Floor, Customs House Annex, 32 St Mary At Hill

You should provide:

  • details of the export, including dates
  • any relevant documents, such as export documentation and commercial invoices
  • details of how the breach was discovered, why it occurred and what steps you have put in place to ensure it does not happen again

HMRC will consider the matter and contact you directly, either for more information or to let you know of their decision.

ECJU contact details


Contact the helpline for general queries about strategic export licensing.

Export Control Joint Unit
2nd floor 
3 Whitehall Place


Telephone: 020 7215 4594

Notices to exporters

Notices to exporters from the ECJU contain important information about:

  • amendments to open general export licences
  • changes to the list of controlled goods
  • updates on legislation and sanctions

Sign up to receive email alerts to notices to exporters.

Training and seminars

ECJU provides a comprehensive programme of scheduled and bespoke seminars on different aspects of UK export controls.

Find out more about the export control training bulletin.

Published 24 September 2019