Licences that allow activity prohibited by financial sanctions

Any person or organisation involved in a transaction with those subject to financial sanctions will first need a licence from OFSI.

EU sanctions will continue to apply in the UK until 11pm on 31 December 2020. This page will be updated if legislation or guidance changes during the transition period

Where a transaction involves someone who is subject to financial sanctions (whether directly or indirectly), you must obtain a licence to allow the activity to take place without breaching financial sanctions. You should not assume that a licence will be granted or engage in any activities prohibited by financial sanctions until you have a signed licence.

OFSI can issue licences on specific legal grounds and has published a list of existing licence types.

This licence process is for transactions involving those designated under UN or EU sanctions regimes. For information on licenses for those designated under the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering act 2018, see Licences that allow activity prohibited by UK financial sanctions

OFSI licence application form

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When should you apply for a licence?

You should apply as early as possible and at least four weeks before a licence is needed. Licence applications can be legally and commercially complex. In certain circumstances, the EU or UN need to approve them or be made aware of them. This can lead to a longer turnaround time. You may wish to consider taking independent legal advice before applying for a licence.

Applying for a licence

You need to provide as full an explanation as possible of the proposed transaction for which you need a licence, whatever the nature of the proposed transaction is.

Incomplete applications will be returned and will lead to delays in you obtaining a licence – OFSI’s four week turnaround indicator is based on the receipt of properly completed applications.

Therefore, it’s in your interests to complete the application in line with OFSI’s requirements.

OFSI require information on:

  • the amount of an intended payment
  • the intended purpose of the transaction/funds
  • the intended payment route(s)
  • the sender and receiver of funds, including any intermediaries and beneficiaries
  • how the funds will be accounted for

Completed applications should be submitted to:

What types of licences are available?

OFSI can only issue a licence where there are legal grounds to do so. You need to assess which ground is relevant to your application, referencing the relevant regulations.

Licences can be obtained where the proposed transactions is for:

  • humanitarian purposes
  • covering expenses such as food, rent and medicines (referred to as basic expenses)
  • reasonable professional legal fees or reimbursements of legal services expenses
  • prior contracts (if the contract started before the sanction was imposed)
  • covering the payment of fees/service charges for routine holding or maintenance of frozen funds or economic resources
  • extraordinary expenses, where considered appropriate

The Asset Freeze Licence application form should be used for all licence applications relating to EU sanctions regimes. If they relate to one of the following regulations, you should email OFSI instead:

  • Al-Qaida (Asset Freezing) Regulations 2011)
  • Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2008
  • Counter-Terrorism Act 2008

What is prohibited?

Prohibited transactions are outlined in the relevant regulation for the financial sanction. Visit the relevant country or terrorist group page for information and a link to the relevant regulations.

Urgent applications

OFSI will seek to engage with applicants on the content of completed applications within four weeks. You should not assume that the licence will be granted or engage in any activities prohibited by financial sanctions until you are have a signed licence.

OFSI prioritises humanitarian applications and will process urgent applications where there are life-threatening circumstances. Please take this in to consideration when you are applying for a licence. Applications incorrectly marked urgent may cause delays to genuinely urgent applications.

Do I need a separate licence to export goods to those subject to financial sanctions?

Yes. Export control licences permit prohibited activity under trade sanctions and embargoes. Even where an export control licence has been granted, you may still require an OFSI licence and it is not guaranteed that an OFSI licence will be granted.

An OFSI licence is required if:

  • the goods are going to a person or organisation subject to financial sanctions
  • the funds are transferring through a person or organisation subject to sanctions

These licences are explained further in our guidance.

Licence process in relation to terrorist groups

For licence applications relating to the Al-Qaida (Asset Freezing) Regulations 2011 or the Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc. Act 2010 (TAFA), you should write to OFSI (rather than completing the form above), setting out the full facts and details of the licence needed.

Our licensing policy on counter-terrorism matters is also available if you require more information.

Published 4 August 2017