Making better licence applications
Avoiding common errors in goods and product descriptions, understanding common definitions and applying or registering for strategic export licences.
Avoiding mistakes in export licence applications
The Export Control Organisation (ECO) has to return roughly half of all export licence applications to the exporter, either for more information or because the application has been completed wrongly. These incomplete or incorrect applications cause delays in processing.
This guide outlines some of the most common mistakes or aspects of the process you should be aware of when submitting your licence application.
Instead, ECO aim’s to ensure that all exporters submit their applications correctly first time, therefore avoiding unnecessary delays. This guidance is issued in the context of ECO’s Service and Performance Code.
Completing goods descriptions correctly on an export licence application
How you describe the item or items - and in how much detail - is very important. The ECO need to know what the goods were originally designed for, as well as their current intended use.
If any of the items were specially designed or modified for military use (or for the development, production or use of military items) then ECO will need details of the original military use. For example, if an inertial navigation system has been designed for a military application, ECO need to know which type of military application. You need to explain for what purpose it was designed - either for a combat aircraft, naval frigate, tank, gun laying platform or other use.
When writing your goods descriptions, you need to:
- be clear, concise and specific
- include model or type number where appropriate
- include the value of each item or goods in sterling in the appropriate column, even if the value is only nominal. Note that you cannot enter zero as a value
- ensure that the goods description matches those on the End-user Undertaking - failure to check this will mean your application will be returned to you which could significantly delay processing times
- use the same description to HM Revenue & Customs in any export documentation, so that they can link any licence with the shipping documentation and, if necessary, the containers themselves
- provide the detailed goods description in the technical specifications sent with your licence application
Correctly completing End-user or Consignee Undertakings with an export licence application
An End-user Undertaking (EUU) is a document which an exporter should provide with almost every licence application. The purpose of EUUs is to verify end-use. They need to be completed by the end-user or consignee.
There are exceptions for some temporary licences. Additionally, in some cases, an international import certificate may be sufficient. Where government contracts are involved, a purchase order or contract may also be sufficient.
Sample EUU forms are available, with guidance notes explaining requirements. Read guidance about end-user and stockist undertakings for SIELs and consignee undertakings for OIELs
It is important to remember that all forms need to:
- be signed and dated by the end-user themselves
- include a description of the goods, their intended use and where they will be used or based
- describe the new product and use of that new product created when goods are to be incorporated into another product
- ensure that the goods description on the EUU matches that on the licence application. Failure to check this will mean ECO will have to ask you to get the end-user to complete the forms again, which could delay your application considerably
Definition of Consignees and End-users
The ECO talks a lot about consignees, end-users and third parties on licence applications. Consignees and end-users are sometimes the same people, but quite often are not, and there is often confusion between them. The definitions of the parties involved are as follows:
The first recipient of exported goods. This may be where the export remains (in which case they will be the end-user), but not necessarily. The consignee can be an authorised distributor, associated company, agent or anyone else.
The final recipient of exported goods which are passed on from the consignee. This might be a country’s armed or security forces, company, research institution, or individual.
These are any other entities or individuals associated with the export of these items, excluding freight forwarders. These could include agents, parent or other related companies, or ultimate end-users.
If the consignee is passing the goods on to someone else without modifying them, then the final recipient is the end-user.
If the consignee is doing something with the items, such as putting them into another item, then they are considered to be the end-user.
If the items are then to be exported to a third country, excluding the UK, then the recipient should be shown under third parties as the ultimate end-user.
Specific information on Open General Export Licences
An Open General Export Licence (OGEL) is a publicly accessible licence which you might be able to use, if you can meet all the specified terms and conditions.
It is important that you:
- don’t assume that the licence title indicates the full extent of the licence’s conditions
- carefully read and adhere to all terms and conditions. This includes permitted or excluded destinations and shipments and what records you must keep. Use OGEL Checker to check licence conditions.
- keep up to date with licence amendments. You can subscribe to receive the ECO’s Notices to Exporters
- make sure that you are using the correct up-to-date OGEL
- register to use the licence. You can [apply for an export licence using SPIRE
- keep accurate records as outlined by the licence conditions
- are aware of your compliance requirements as an OGEL holder
Specific information on applying for an Open Individual Export Licence
An Open Individual Export Licence (OIEL) is a concessionary licence which is specific to an individual exporter and covers multiple shipments of specific goods to specific destinations.
First application for an OIEL
When you first apply for an OIEL, you need to submit your application via the SPIRE licensing system, setting out:
- the reasons for your request
- evidence that this type of licence is most appropriate for your proposed export
Failure to explain this will mean that the ECO will have to get back to you and is likely to delay your application.
Points to remember when completing your OIEL application
When completing your OIEL, be careful not to list too many countries in your application. You might plan in the future to export your goods to 25 countries but, at the time of your application, only have contracts in 5. You should bear in mind that it will take far longer to assess all 25 countries, so including all of them might hold up your application significantly.
The ECO advises strongly not to include countries where contracts are yet to be signed. You can always apply for another OIEL at a later date.
When entering details of the goods on the application, you should bear the following in mind:
- put the name of the item(s) and a description which explains very briefly - ie in about one sentence - what they are designed for and what they will be used for. Exporters often enter a complete product history which is not necessary. You can group together similar items in one entry as long as you make clear what the items are designed for and what they will be used for. Again this needs to be brief
- do not say ‘see attached lists’ - you need to put the details on the application itself otherwise ECO might have to return your application and delay the process
- if applying for a replacement OIEL then you should enter exactly the same words that were on your previous licence, unless there are any changes in the scope of the items you wish to export
- enter detailed information on the item(s) and their use in the field entitled ‘Details of its relevant specific application/use for each item specified’
Checklist summary of basic pitfalls to avoid in export licence applications
It is helpful to go through the following checklists before submitting your licence application.
Awareness of exporter responsibilities
Check that you:
- have read the relevant guidance on the GOV.UK website
- are aware of sanctions and embargoes currently in force - read the guidance about current arms embargoes and other restrictions.
- are aware of the average licence processing timescales by destination - access the ECO Reports and Statistics website.
- know the ‘rating’ or ‘control entry heading’ of your goods - if not see guidance on Strategic exports: when to request an export licence.
- have used the Goods Checker or OGEL Checker on the Checker Tools website or the Control List Classification Search Tool available on the SPIRE website
- are aware of relevant terms and conditions
- if you are using an OGEL, it has recently been amended and you have checked that your goods are still covered
- you subscribe to the ECO’s Notices to Exporters to be kept informed of licensing amendments
- all the technical information up to date
- you have included a full and detailed goods description and supporting specifications and technical documents
- specified the quantities and values?
- included comprehensive information about goods modifications?
Details of earlier or related licences
Have you put in details of previous or related applications?
Have you given clear written instructions for freight forwarders and agents who complete customs declarations on your behalf?
Your business contact details
Are your own contact details up to date and correct?
Completing the licence application correctly
Have you completed all fields on the application?
BIS ECO Helpline
020 7215 4594 or email: email@example.com
[Apply for an export licence using SPIRE
Published: 29 August 2012
Part of: Import and export controls
Related guides: Exporting in support of UK government defence contracts Open General Licences: an overview Open Individual Export Licences Military Goods Open General Export Licences Licence types: FAQs Transport controls End-user and stockist undertakings for SIELs and consignee undertakings for OIELs Standard Individual Export Licences Compliance and enforcement of export controls Export control training for exporters of strategic goods Dual-use open general export licences Global Project Licence Do I need an export licence? Trade controls (trafficking and brokering) Other types of open general export licence