Guidance

Standard Individual Export Licences

How to apply for a SIEL so you can export controlled goods, and the conditions of use attached to them.

Exporting specific controlled goods to specific destinations

If you want to export controlled goods - such as military and dual-use items - you will need an export licence issued by the Export Control Organisation (ECO).

A Standard Individual Export Licence (SIEL) is the most common of several different types of strategic export control licences.

In particular, it gives you permission to export specific items to specific destinations. The goods must be addressed to a stated person or company, and you may also have to identify the end user. The goods must be of the same quantity and value as described on the licence.

You will need to apply for a SIEL if you need an export licence and you cannot meet all the stated terms and conditions of an Open General Export Licence (OGEL).

This information should be read in conjunction with the guides on export licences.

What are SIELs?

A SIEL is a form of export licence for controlled goods, specific to one exporter and one consignee.

Controlled goods are items of strategic importance, including:

  • dual-use goods (military and civilian)
  • torture goods (including drugs used in execution by lethal injection)
  • radioactive sources
  • military goods
  • electronic technology

SIELs are normally valid for two years and allow the export of:

  • specific items as listed on the licence
  • specific quantities and values of each item
  • specific consignees and end users for your exports

The ECO also issues a form of SIEL that covers long-term contracts, projects and repeat business. Items covered by this type of licence do not have to be sent in a single shipment.

You should apply for a SIEL to the ECO. Each application must include support documentation, such as End-user Undertakings (EUUs).

Licence-processing statistics

The ECO has targets for how long it takes to process export licence applications. The ECO aims to process at least 70% of licence applications within 20 days of receipt. However, you should be aware that exports to sensitive destinations (such as where sanctions and embargoes are in force might take significantly longer to process).

To see the latest licence processing timescales by destination you are recommended to check the latest quarterly statistics. Search the ECO Reports and Statistics website.

Find out more about the ECO’s reporting targets in the guide on export control licensing process and how to appeal.

Applying for a SIEL

Original end-user documentation, completed by the end-user company overseas, must be included with your application. This helps prevent UK exports being diverted or re-exported to undesirable end users.

Find out about documentation requirements for SIEL applications in the guide on End-user and stockist undertakings for SIELs and consignee undertakings for OIELs.

Application refusals and appeals

If you are an exporter and your application for a SIEL has been refused, you have the right to appeal. You must do so in writing within 28 days of the refusal letter.

Read about appealing against the refusal of a licence application in the guide on the export control licensing process and how to appeal.

SIEL conditions and amendments

You should adhere to all the terms and conditions of your licence.

Permanent SIELs

Holders of SIELs must follow standard conditions. Your licence can be revoked if you do not comply.

Standard SIEL conditions require that you:

  • produce the licence to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) officers with shipping documents when goods are presented for exportation
  • for exports to European Community (EC) member states, you must produce the licence to HMRC officials and specify a place for the goods to be inspected at least three days before exportation
  • ensure a copy of the licence accompanies the goods to an EC destination
  • for exports by post, include the licence in a separate envelope attached to the package; photocopies are acceptable for sequential postings of technology
  • for electronic transfer, keep detailed records of the type of technology, dates and end users

Temporary SIELs

You may need a temporary SIEL if you are exporting goods for demonstration, exhibition, or repair and maintenance purposes (along with associated minimum electronic transfer required to undertake such tasks).

In the case of incidental electronic transfers, temporary SIELs are intended for cases where a UK exporter might, for example, be exhibiting overseas and need to email the minimum technology required to maintain, repair, install or operate the goods listed on the licence. A temporary SIEL is not intended for cases where a UK exporter passes technology to an overseas customer by email and subsequent download. Such transfers require a permanent SIEL.

In the case of temporary SIELs, you must return the goods to the UK before your licence expires, and advise or send the Licence Reception Unit within the ECO any expired licences. If you don’t use your licence at all, you should return it to the unit with a cover letter of explanation.

Goods exported on a temporary licence must not be disposed of abroad, unless the ECO has given specific permission for this to happen. Nor should you allow the goods to remain abroad beyond the expiry date without first contacting the ECO. You should not assume that such permission is necessarily granted. Such cases are considered on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria. Often such cases need to be referred to advisory government departments before reaching a decision.

Failure to comply with any condition attached to a temporary licence may lead to forfeiture of the goods or to prosecution by HMRC.

To find out more about the consolidated criteria, see the guide about assessment of export licence applications: criteria and policy.

Time period for SIELs

SIELs normally last for 2 years, or 1 year for temporary licences. However, they can be revoked.

Export control updates

Updates to licence conditions and export control regulations are also regularly issued by the ECO. Subscribe to the Export Control Organisation’s Notices to Exporters.

SIEL compliance and penalties

If you hold a SIEL, you must satisfy the ECO that you are complying with all the terms and conditions of the licence, including familiarity with current export legislation.

Companies are liable to receive compliance visits from the ECO if they hold SIELs for electronic transfers of software or technology.

To check this, the ECO will undertake a compliance audit of your company, usually within three months of a licence being granted. The ECO also uses audits to check whether companies are exporting goods or technology without an appropriate licence.

While ECO Compliance Officers do not specifically audit all SIELs, relevant records may be checked in relation to an associated compliance audit.

Timing of compliance audits

Compliance audits can take place from between three and 12 months to 36 months. Most exporters are visited every 12-18 months. The exact timing depends on the ECO’s risk assessment of your company. This takes into account factors such as:

  • licence usage
  • number of licences used
  • compliance record
  • procedures in place, volume of exports, goods
  • destinations on the licences
  • any special conditions
  • exports involving electronic transfers of software or technology

Most non-compliance issues found by the ECO relate to documentation and records. The emphasis is on helping companies take action to comply with the licence requirements. Remedial measures are usually set out in a warning letter, with a timescale for implementation.

Read more about compliance checks and enforcement of export controls on strategic goods and technology.

Penalties for non-compliance

Exporters should be aware that there are legal penalties for exporting controlled goods without a licence. This includes potential seizure of goods by customs, financial penalties or even a prison term.

For exporters subject to compliance audits, and who have failed to demonstrate a sufficient level of compliance, the ECO will revisit exporters previously issued with a warning letter to check whether the necessary action has been taken to ensure compliance. If there has been little or no progress, it may consider suspending the relevant licence. In serious cases, HMRC officials may decide to prosecute.

Frequently asked questions about SIELs

Answers to common queries raised at export control seminars about SIELs.

1. Can SIELs be issued quicker than 20 working days?

Sometimes licences may be issued quicker but this will depend on the goods and the destination. If you can submit your licence application, technical specifications and EUU as soon as possible, then this will improve the chances of a licence being issued within the target time or sooner.

2. Can the quantity stated on a SIEL application be for more than is required at the time of the application?

Yes, but it must match the information provided in the EUU and it must be reasonable.

3. Can a licence be amended once it is issued?

Export licences are not transferable and may not be altered except by the ECO.

Some minor changes can be made by the ECO in case of a change of company name or address. If either an exporter’s or consignee’s name and address change then you need to notify the ECO.

4. Why have I received a No Licence Required (NLR) letter in response to my application?

If you know your goods are not listed, you should only apply for a licence if you have concerns over the end-user.

5. How long are NLR letters valid for?

There is no validity date given on NLR letters - they represent the opinion of the ECO at the time they are given. However, they do expect exporters to keep up to date with changes to the legislation. Subscribe to the ECO’s Notices to Exporters.

6. Can the original SIEL be used to return items that have been sent back to repair?

Yes, provided there is sufficient quantity left on the licence. However, doing this may mean you cannot fulfil the original order if the licence becomes exhausted before you ship the quantity you originally intended. If the licence has been exhausted or the quantity remaining is insufficient, then no, you cannot use the original licence.

Ideally, you should consider the relevant repair Open General Export Licence (OGEL) - that may suit your purpose and if so you should use that licence. If not, and you need to use a SIEL, and you may have to think about applying for an additional SIEL to ensure you can fulfil the order after the first SIEL is exhausted.

Further information

BIS ECO helpline

020 7215 4594

Subscribe to the Export Control Organisation’s Notices to Exporters

Contact details for the ECO on the BIS website

Search the ECO Reports and Statistics website)

Published 12 September 2012