Open Individual Export Licences
Open Individual Export Licences allow exporters to export multiple shipments of specific goods to specific destinations.
Please note: Changes were introduced to the OIELs process in February 2015. Read the guidance on the new OIELs process.
Exporting multiple shipments of controlled goods
If you want to export controlled goods, such as military or dual-use items, to specific countries, you will need an export licence from the Export Control Organisation (ECO).
The basic export licence, the Standard Individual Export Licence (SIEL), gives you permission to export specific items to specific destinations. The goods must be addressed to a stated person or company, and you also have to identify the end user. The goods must be of the same quantity and value as described on the licence.
An Open Individual Export Licence (OIEL) is a type of licence issued by the ECO which is more flexible and tailored to an exporter’s needs. OIELs allow a named exporter to export multiple shipments of specific goods to specific countries, subject to meeting detailed terms and conditions.
An OIEL can potentially save you time and money so, if you meet the eligibility criteria, you should give serious consideration to making an application. OIELs cover multiple shipments of specific controlled goods to named destinations. Unlike SIELs, applications for OIELs do not normally require consignees or end-users to be named up-front, except in a small number of cases (see ‘goods recipients’ below).
There are no open individual transhipment licences, which means that controlled goods cannot be imported into the UK for export elsewhere under an OIEL. Read more in our guide about transhipment licences.
Controlled goods are items of strategic importance, including:
- military goods
- dual-use goods (goods which can be used for both civil and military purposes)
- technology (information related to controlled goods)
- radioactive sources
There are various categories of OIELs which you might be able to apply for, depending on:
- the nature of your business
- having a ‘clear business need’
- and/or your track record in applying for export licences
- the conditions of the licence
Please note: there will always be circumstances that require individual SIEL applications where specific exports still require individual consideration by other government departments.
Types and duration of OIELs
There are 7 types of OIELs:
- dealer-to-dealer (firearms)
- cryptographic (hardware/software/technology)
- UK continental shelf (off-shore installations)
- media (journalists, also aid workers)
- through life support military goods OIEL (introduced in February 2015)
These categories broadly cover exports of goods listed on the government’s UK strategic export control lists including: firearms and ammunition dealers, suppliers of cryptographic technology, exports to UK continental shelf installations such as oil platforms, media (press/TV) and similar companies exporting protection equipment, and exports for the through-life support of defence exports.
These allow you to export items and technology on the government’s strategic export control lists.
Military OIELs are usually valid for 5 years unless goods are being exported to the EU when the validity will be reduced to 3 years.
Find out more about the consolidated list of strategic military items in the guide on the UK strategic export control lists.
These allow you to export items and technology on the government’s strategic export control lists.
Dual-use OIELs are valid for 5 years.
Find out more about the consolidated list of dual-use items in the guide on the UK strategic export control lists.
Dealer-to-dealer OIELs (firearms)
UK-registered firearms dealers can use dealer OIELs to export approved types of firearms and ammunition to other gun dealers within the EU. At least 2 working days before each shipment, dealers must send copies of a valid EC5 dealer-to-dealer form to the Home Office. The form can be faxed to 0870 336 9030.
You must hold a certificate under section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968 if you want to exhibit, demonstrate or export temporarily or permanently any item listed under Category B of the EC Directive on the Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Weapons (91/477/EEC).
If you want to send firearms and ammunition to any other consignee in an EU country, you should apply for a SIEL.
Dealer OIELs are normally issued for 3 years.
For more information, see the guide on firearms and export control forms.
This licence can be used by exporters of certain cryptographic hardware or software and those items which are only for use:
- by a business or academic collaborator of the licensee in their own commercial cryptographic product development activities
- in an application designed for a civil business use
- by a group undertaking of the licensee
- in medical devices
Read Guidance on the new OIELs process for more details on these conditions.
The licence does not cover and cannot be used for the export of:
- hardware, software or technology which has cryptanalytic functions
- any item with a security grading above Unclassified. (Grading can only be issued by a UK Government organisation authorised to provide such grading)
- items that are intended for a military or Government end-use
Cryptographic OIELs are not needed for exports to EU member states or countries covered by the European Union General Export Authorisation (EU GEAs).
Where a destination is prohibited for other reasons, cryptographic OIELs do not apply.
Cryptographic OIELs are normally valid for 5 years.
For more information about destinations subject to sanctions, see the guide on current arms embargoes and other restrictions.
UK Continental Shelf OIELs (off-shore installations)
This OIEL authorises the export of controlled items for use exclusively in offshore installations and associated vessels within the UK sector of the continental shelf.
Continental Shelf OIELs are normally valid for 5 years.
Media OIELs (journalists, also aid workers)
This category covers equipment used for protection by journalists and aid workers working abroad, such as in areas of conflict. Items covered by a media OIEL include:
- military helmets
- body armour
- bullet-proof or bullet-resistant clothing
- nuclear, biological and chemical protective items
- non-military four-wheel drive civilian vehicles with ballistic protection
- flak suits
- specially designed components for any of the above items
If you export items under a media OIEL, you must ensure they are returned to the UK when no longer needed.
Media OIELs are normally valid for 5 years.
Through Life Support OIEL (introduced February 2015)
Following the initial export of a military platform (vehicle, aircraft, ship) or major equipment (such as a weapons system), this OIEL will authorise:
- the subsequent export of systems, sub-systems and components, for the platform or major system
- the export from the UK to a government or other person outside the EU
Exporters applying for this OIEL will need to demonstrate a clear business need supported by the evidence of an export licence(s) granted by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills for a military platform or major equipment.
Renewal, if required, is at the end of the 15 year OIEL validity.
A copy of the Through Life Support contract, and amendments, supplied by the exporter at the time of application and subsequently on request, will replace the requirement for any annual consignee undertakings.
Application is made using the standard Military/Dual-Use OIEL application form.
As with all licences, this OIEL can be amended, suspended or revoked at any time.
Applying for an OIEL
Making your business justification
Exporters have to demonstrate a clear business need for an OIEL. You are also expected to use the OGEL Checker to confirm that an Open General Export Licence (OGEL) cannot be used in place of an OIEL. We suggest you keep a printout of the OGEL Checker result to present with your application for an OIEL.
If you are in doubt as to whether or not you either have or can demonstrate a clear business need, please contact our OIELs team via the OIELs option on the ECO Helpline 020 7215 4594, or email firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘OIELs’ in the subject line.
Recommendations when applying for an OIEL
In order to make a successful OIEL application you should:
- avoid applying to export to a long list of possible future destinations - limit the application to known or likely business plans
- be careful and realistic in identifying which goods are to be exported to destinations
- be careful in applying for sensitive destinations
An Open General Export Licence of broad scope, such as OGEL (Low Value Shipments), will provide a good idea as to what countries are considered more sensitive.
Look at the Export Control: licensing performance dashboard to help identify less-sensitive and more sensitive destinations.
Further guidance is available in the guide to the new OIELs process.
Essentials in making your OIEL application
Your OIEL application must include detailed technical information about the goods being exported. You are, however, usually not required to provide consignee or end-user details or undertakings at the time of application. However, you do need to obtain an original undertaking before the goods are shipped and ensure the undertaking is valid at the time of shipment.
For more information, see the guide on End-user and stockist undertakings for SIELs and consignee undertakings for OIELs.
Goods must be described/specified using a ‘general goods description’ that can replace multiple goods lines. Goods descriptions should be drafted in such a way as to give as much flexibility for all future exports over the duration of the licence, but without seeking to cover goods that are not actually exported.
Extensive guidance, with example goods descriptions, is provided from the SPIRE licence application screen. And a dedicated ‘OIEL Help’ option on the ECO Helpline 020 7215 4594 (or email email@example.com with ‘OIELs’ in the subject line) provides additional support for exporters, including assistance from specialist Technical Officers.
The general rule for OIEL applications is that recipient countries will be specified on the OIEL application but named consignees and named ultimate end-users will not be specified, unless requested.
If an exporter’s business model and IT systems allow, exporters may create smaller, more manageable OIEL applications. For example, OIEL licence applications can be split by recipient country into seven Country Groups, using the ‘Country Group’ drop down menu on the SPIRE application form, with one OIEL per Country Group. If you can keep your destinations within just one of the seven country groups, this may reduce delays in processing.
An OIEL application to a single destination may provide greater flexibility than a SIEL, and may be processed faster than standard OIELs as it will be SIEL-like in processing terms. Although technology is not incorporated, the ECO may still wish to know where the item’s ultimate end-use will be when the technology has been manufactured.
Exporters must add ultimate end-user destinations, including after incorporation, separately from third parties using the ‘Ultimate End-Users’ application screen.
Provisos on OIELs
‘Goods Recipient’ destinations listed on the licence will have provisos stating the sectors to which exports are restricted.
Viewing the final OIEL before issue
Draft versions of very complex licences may be sent to exporters for their comments. This will allow exporters to advise the ECO of any issues with the document prior to it being finalised. The default time period for this review is 10 working days, after which, if no response has been received, the licence will be issued.
Processing times for OIELs
The ECO has a target of processing 60% of OIEL applications within 60 working days but complex cases may take up to 120 working days.
Renewing an OIEL
When applying to renew an existing OIEL your business justification need only state in the ‘Application Justification’ section that it is a renewal of an existing licence. However, you must explain in this section why you are renewing any destination to which you have exported less than 5 times in the last year under the existing licence.
Making changes to OIELs
OIELs are not transferable and cannot be altered, except with the permission of the ECO.
The main permitted changes are:
- the exporter’s change of address
- the consignee’s (if required on the OIEL) change of name or address
Minor changes to OIELs
During your licence period, you may request small changes to your OIEL without having to submit a new application. These include the name or address of an existing consignee (if included) already on the licence (documentary evidence required).
If you need a bigger change, and can demonstrate a clear business need, and can wait up to 60 days (as other Government departments may require full circulation of the revised OIEL), we may be able to help. Contact the OIELs team on the ECO Helpline 020 7215 4594 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘OIELs’ in the subject line.
Changes to OIEL holder’s name or address
If your business changes its name, write to your Licensing Case Officer at the ECO, including:
- the OIEL licence number(s) affected
- your new company name/address
- the name and address of new owner, if applicable
- the new Companies House registration number, if applicable
Adding additional sites to a company’s OIEL
If you need to add another site to your OIEL, you should write to your Licensing Case Officer at the ECO, including the following details:
- the OIEL licence number(s) affected
- your company name/address
- the new site details
We can add single or multiple sites to an OIEL by writing this into the OIEL as an extra condition.
Extending OIEL validity periods
If your current OIEL validity is coming to an end and you have applied for a new OIEL, you can ask the ECO to extend the period of an existing OIEL if there is a delay in the new OIEL being issued. Please email your Licensing Officer setting out your business reasons.
OIEL terms and conditions
Each OIEL includes both standard conditions and may have additional specific provisions. Please read and follow all the conditions carefully. An unlicensed shipment can lead to the licence being revoked, with the potential for seizures, fines, penalties by HMRC, or even imprisonment.
Requirement to hold consignee undertakings and keep accurate records
If you hold an OIEL, you must obtain a written consignee undertaking that the goods are not intended for re-export to a destination not listed as permitted on the licence.
You must also keep records of all shipments of your goods for the period of the licence. These records must be made available for inspection by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) officials at an ECO compliance audit.
For more information, see the guide on End-User and stockist undertakings for SIELs and consignee undertakings for OIELs.
Conditions relating to specific use of goods
You cannot export controlled goods under an OIEL if you are aware, or have been informed by the authorities, that the goods will be used in connection with:
- chemical, biological or nuclear weapons
- other nuclear explosive devices
- missiles capable of delivering such weapons
Under EU regulations, dual-use items may not be exported using an OIEL if intended for military end-use.
Other standard conditions
No items may be exported to a destination within a Customs Free Zone. (Note: An Economic Free Zone (EFZ) OIEL will be introduced shortly for dual-use goods).
In the meantime if you need an EFZ destination because of your specific company requirements, please contact the OIELs team on the ECO Helpline 020 7215 4594, or email email@example.com with ‘OIELs’ in the subject line.
For intra-EU transfers a copy of the licence must accompany the items to their destination
Ministry of Defence approval is required for exhibition of UK Military List items.
Temporary OIEL conditions
If you require an OIEL in order to make temporary exports, you need to return any goods to the UK within 12 months of export.
OIELs issued for temporary shipments might be granted for demonstration or exhibition purposes. Goods exported under these conditions must not be disposed of while abroad.
If the goods are part of a permanent exhibition, you will need to apply for a SIEL, if the OIEL does not provide for this. For more information, see the guide on Standard Individual Export Licences.
Rejection of OIEL applications
The main reasons that an OIEL application might be rejected at the beginning of the application process are:
- failing to provide an adequate business-need justification
- not following the new guidance on goods descriptions
Or the inclusion of:
- unrealistic country lists - such as a ‘shopping list’ to cover possible future needs
- too many countries on an OIEL
If, for business reasons, you need a single, very large OIEL that will take a long time to process through the various departments, please contact our new ‘OIELs option’ on the ECO Helpline or email firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘OIELs’ in the subject line.
ECO will work closely with exporters at the pre-application stage to minimise the number of OIEL applications that are rejected at the application stage, or withdrawn or stopped during subsequent processing. If in doubt, please contact us before you submit your application.
See also the guide on making better export licence applications.
You should be aware that there is no formal appeal procedure if your OIEL application is rejected. If this happens, please work with us to resolve your licensing needs.
If you have had an application for an OIEL rejected, you may still be able to apply for a SIEL, covering some or all of the same destinations and goods. For more information, see the guide on Standard Individual Export Licences (SIELs).
Complying with OIEL conditions
If you hold an OIEL, you must satisfy the ECO that you are complying with all the procedures needed for using the licence, including familiarity with current export legislation. To check this, the ECO will undertake a compliance audit of your business. The ECO also uses audits to check whether businesses are exporting controlled items with an appropriate licence.
Read more detail on Compliance at Guidance on the new OIELs process.
Read more general information compliance and enforcement of export controls.
Reasons for revoking an OIEL
The emphasis in an ECO compliance audit is to help businesses take action to comply with the licence requirements.
Remedial measures, if required, are usually set out in a warning letter, with a timescale for implementation. If you have failed to demonstrate a sufficient level of compliance, the warning letter will then be followed by a revisit to check whether you have taken the necessary action to ensure compliance. If the same non-compliance issues are identified at a re-visit, ECO will suspend the relevant licence. Revocation of a licence will only result if there are further instances of non-compliance.
Penalties for non-compliance
Exporters should be aware that there are legal penalties for exporting controlled goods without a licence. These include potential seizure of goods by customs, financial penalties or even a prison term.
BIS ECO Helpline
ECO has introduced an improved Exporter Help system to ensure high-quality OIEL applications.
The ECO Helpline 020 7215 4594 now has an ‘OIELS’ help option. Or you can email email@example.com with ‘OIELs’ in the subject line.
More detailed information on all the topics on this page can be found at Guidance on the new OIELs process.
Published: 14 August 2012
Updated: 13 February 2015
- Updated to take account of changes in the OIEL application process introduced in February 2015.
- First published.
Part of: Import and export controls
Related guides: Do I need an export licence? End-user and stockist undertakings for SIELs and consignee undertakings for OIELs Compliance and enforcement of export controls Assessment of export licence applications: criteria and policy Standard Individual Export Licences UK Strategic Export Control Lists Open General Licences: an overview Firearms and export control forms Making better licence applications Licence types: FAQs Electronic transfer abroad of controlled military technology and software Other types of open general export licence Transhipment licences Global Project Licence