Open General Licences: an overview
Registering for an Open General Licence, information, guidance and advice on licences, which type you need for your goods.
Open General Licences (OGLs) are pre-published export, trade or transhipment licences in the public domain. There are various types of OGLs including Open General Export Licences (OGELs), Open General Trade Control Licences (OGTCLs) and Open General Transhipment Licences (OGTLs). All these licences are issued by the Export Control Organisation (ECO), part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).
OGLs are designed to licence controlled military or dual-use goods that are of a less restricted nature or are being exported to non-sensitive destinations. Using OGLs can potentially benefit your business by saving you time in applying for either a Standard Individual Export Licence (SIEL), an Open Individual Export Licence (OIEL), or an Open General Trade Control Licence (OGTCL) if you are undertaking licensable trade activities of specific controlled items.
If you can meet all the terms and conditions of an appropriate OGL then you can register to use the licence via the SPIRE export licensing database.
By registering to use an OGL on SPIRE, you are legally bound to comply with all the specified conditions and keep appropriate records - otherwise you risk being in breach of the licence. As an exporter it is your responsibility to check and comply with the licence requirements before use and to keep updated with any changes through the ECO’s notices to exporters update service.
Types of OGLs
There are a wide variety of OGLs available, which are categorised as follows:
- Dual Use Open General Export Licences - dual use items are goods and technology with both military and civilian applications
- European Union General Export Authorisations - EU GEAs are the EU equivalent of an OGEL and are designed to provide licensing coverage for certain specified dual use items to specified non-EU destinations
- Military Goods Open General Export Licences - permit for the export of less-restricted controlled military goods
- Transhipment OGLs - this category known as OGTLs allows, subject to certain conditions, controlled goods to be exported from one country to another via the UK
- Open General Trade Control Licences - these are known as OGTCLs. They control the trafficking and brokering activity between one third country and another where the transaction or deal is brokered in the UK or by a UK person
- Other types of Open General Export Licences - these include various OGLs which do not fit neatly into other categories, including the Radioactive Sources OGEL, the Sporting Goods OGEL, the OGEL (Iraq) and the OGEL (Goverment of Sierra Leone)
Which OGL is right for me?
You need to decide which OGL is applicable to your export activity depending on the type of goods and destination of exports and the conditions contained in the licence.
The title of each licence usually gives an indication as to its purpose but you must never rely on this alone. You must read the licence thoroughly before using it to make sure you can comply with all its terms and conditions. This includes:
- checking the list of permitted or non-permitted destinations specifically listed on each OGL
- double-checking the control entry heading or ‘rating’ codes permitted on each individual OGL. A ‘control entry’ or ‘rating’ code is referenced on the UK Strategic Export Control Lists.
If you use an OGL without checking that you can comply with the goods, destination or other specified conditions, then you will be in breach of the licence conditions.
OGL format and details
Each OGL is written in a certain legal format comprising several parts, including:
- terms and conditions of the licence
- schedules - containing a list of items permitted for export with a specific licence and a list of destinations eligible or ineligible for export
- explanatory notes
You need to read, understand and adhere to all the specific schedules, terms and conditions and other details of the licence.
Useful OGL advice and systems
If you are unsure of the item ‘rating’ codes referred to in a specific OGL you can read the guide on strategic exports: when to request an export licence.
The ECO provides a number of database tools to help you:
- Control List Classification Search Tool - this tool available on the ECO’s SPIRE export licensing system enables you to search on previous ‘rating’ assessments made by the ECO Technical Assessment Unit. You can use the classifiation search tool accessible on the SPIRE website.
The Control List Classification Advice Service is suspended until further notice. Please refer to Notice to Exporters 2014/16 for more information.
- Goods Checker - this tool helps you to identify whether your product is listed on the UK Strategic Export Control Lists. You can use the Goods Checker on the ECO Checker Tools website (registration required).
- OGEL Checker - this tool helps you to identify an appropriate OGL/OGEL. By using the tool you can check on the terms and conditions, and whether you can meet all of these criteria. You can use the OGEL Checker on the ECO Checker Tools website (registration required).
Registering for OGLs
It is a condition of the licence that you must register with the ECO before using most OGLs or an EU General Export Authorisation (EU GEA).
Please note that registration is not required for OGTLs.
What does registration involve?
In using an appropriate open licence for your export activities, exporters and traders are also reminded that it is your responsibility to carefully read and understand the licence and all its terms and conditions. To help determine if you can meet open licence conditions and legally register for a licence, you are recommended to use the OGEL Checker website (registration required).
When registering via SPIRE, the ECO’s export licensing database, you need to:
- carefully select the OGL / EU GEA you would like to register for from a drop down list
- confirm your current contact details including address and named contact point with telephone number and email address. The person named will be contacted concerning arrangements for ECO compliance audits in order to inspect records of shipments made under an open licence.
Don’t forget to update your SPIRE contact details if you change either your company name, VAT number, or move. If you do not register licences to a specific site you could be seen as being non-compliant. If your details are incorrect the licence will be invalid and any associated export is illegal.
Holders of OGLs are subject to regular ECO compliance audits.
Using and presenting OGLs
Shipments exported under authority of an OGL do not require the physical presentation of the licence document to HM Revenue & Customs.
However, you must state the exact licence name or unique SPIRE reference number on any accompanying commercial documentation, including in Box 44 of the Single Applicant Declaration (SAD) submitted via CHIEF to HMRC.
Misuse of OGLs
You should be aware that there are legal penalties for exporting controlled goods against an OGL which does not permit that export.
In such cases, the Secretary of State has the power to suspend and revoke OGLs.
If you are suspended from being able to use OGLs, then you will need to apply for a Standard Individual Export Licence. This is a less flexible licence type which is issued in relation to a specific end-user and specific destination. It is therefore in your commercial interests to use OGLs responsibly by checking that you can fulfill all the specified terms and conditions.
Amendments to OGLs
There are frequent updates to OGLs. Notifications of any amendments to OGLs are published by the ECO in notices to exporters updates.
As an OGL holder it is a requirement that you subscribe to the ECO’s notices to exporters.
You must comply with the conditions of the licence which is in place at the time of the export. All OGLs remain in force until they are revoked although their provisions may be varied at any time.
BIS ECO helpline
020 7215 4594 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Published: 23 August 2012
Updated: 12 December 2012
- Corrected summary description which was previously slightly misleading, amended broken links, added related guides and clarified certain points throughout guide about licensing responsiblities
- First published.
Related guides: Other types of open general export licence Open Individual Export Licences Open General Trade Control Licences Military Goods Open General Export Licences Do I need an export licence? EU General Export Authorisations Dual-use open general export licences Compliance and enforcement of export controls Assessment of export licence applications: criteria and policy Making better licence applications UK Strategic Export Control Lists Transhipment licences Export control training for exporters of strategic goods Standard Individual Export Licences Overview of export control legislation Firearms and export control forms Maritime anti-piracy documentation service Licence types: FAQs Exporting in support of UK government defence contracts