How do I apply for a licence?
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If you need to apply for an export licence for your research or teaching, you must apply to the Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU) via their online system SPIRE. Please follow the steps outlined below.
Before you apply, you have to create an individual account, following the instructions on the SPIRE website. You will need the College EORI number which is GB 649 9266 78 000. Once you have registered, please notify the Research Office, specifying the nature of your application, your full name, and your login (not your password). The Research Office will then add you to the College work group, allowing you to make applications in the name of the College.
It is essential that you notify the Research Office to allow the College to identify applications and licences granted in its name. If you make an application without completing this step, you will be doing so as an individual and any licence granted will be to you personally, meaning that you will have sole responsibility for compliance and that the College will be unable to monitor and support this activity.
1. Search the UK Control Lists
The Government provides an online tool for checking items against the consolidated list of military and dual-use Controls. The ECO Goods Checker is free to use and is also accessible from within the SPIRE system.
It is important that you use this tool to identify the entries on the UK Control Lists that apply to your items. Entries are categorised and coded with a ‘control rating’. You will need the control rating later in your application. If you require assistance in confirming the control ratings for your activities, you can contact the Research Office.
Make sure to use short and simple search terms rather than longer phrases or compund words. Otherwise, you might miss entries that apply to your items and your application might be rejected. We highly recommend reading the ECO Goods Checker Example Searches.
2. Choose the correct licence type
There are numerous export licences available. You must apply for the licence that is most suitable for your project, or the ECJU might refuse your application and ask that you re-apply for a different licence type.
More details on licence types are also available under “Guidance” within the SPIRE system. If you need assistance in choosing the correct type of export licence, you can contact the Research Office for advice.
The most commonly used licence types are:
a. Standard Individual Export Licence (SIEL)
This licence type will be appropriate for most projects.
A SIEL allows you to export the items in their quantities to the end user and consignee as stated in your application. You cannot export more of the items, or any other items, or to anyone else other than those listed in your application. A SIEL is valid for two years. Turnaround time for most SIEL applications is between 20 and 60 working days. For further details on SIELs, see the Government’s guidance.
b. Open Individual Export Licence (OIEL)
This licence type may be appropriate for certain long-term projects but will take longer to process. You will also need to justify why you require an OIEL, demonstrating a clear business need and a track record of at least five qualifying exports.
An OIEL allows you to make multiple exports of specific controlled goods to named destinations. OIELs are usually valid for three or five years. You will not always need to name the consignee or end user on your application for an OIEL. There are different types of OIELs available, covering military items/dual-use items, dealer-to-dealer firearms, cryptographic equipment, and others. The ECJU aims to process 60% of OIEL applications within 60 working days.
c. Open General Export Licence (OGEL)
OGELs are licences that can be used for exports of certain controlled items to certain destinations without submitting an application. In order to export under an OGEL, you first need to contact the Research Office who will ensure that your work meets the relevant criteria. The OGELs most relevant for the College allow:
- Exports of dual-use items to the EU;
- Exports of certain dual-use items to Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and the US;
- Exports of certain military items;
- Exports of certain chemicals to certain countries; and
- Exports of certain telecoms equipment to certain countries.
For more information on OGELs, see the Government’s guidance.
3. Complete the application form
Once you have chosen the correct licence type, select “New Application” within the SPIRE system and complete the application form. Answer every question on the form accurately and comprehensively to avoid receiving Requests for Further Information (RFI). Each part of the form is explained within the SPIRE system under “Guidance”.
4. Prepare supporting documents
Your application requires two to four supplementary documents before submission:
All applications require a Technical Specification document.
It contains details about the items you intend to export and the design, execution, and purpose of your activity or project. In most cases, a research proposal with sufficient detail on the substance and timing of your activities and the materials involved can serve as the Technical Specification document. The information in this document must be consistent with the information on your application form.
End-user Undertaking (EUU)
All SIEL applications require an End-user Undertaking (EUU). You can find the form on the Government’s website. The information on the EUU, especially the goods description and quantities, must be identical to that on your application form.
Furthermore, the EUU must be:
- Dated within six months of the application date;
- Completed legibly and in English;
- Accompanied by a cover letter on headed paper of the end user;
- All information on the cover letter, including the header, must be in English or accompanied by an authorised translation; and
- Signed by a person authorised to sign on behalf of the end user organisation.
Stockist Undertaking (SU)
If you are applying for a SIEL and your items will be held by a stockist for some time before being transferred to the end user, you will need to complete an SU. You can find the form on the Government’s website. All information entered on the SU, especially the goods description and quantities, must be identical to that on the application form.
Furthermore, the SU must be:
- Dated within six months of the application date;
- Completed legibly and in English;
- Accompanied by a cover letter on headed paper of the stockist entity;
- All information in the cover letter, including the header, must be in English or accompanied by an authorised translation; and
- Signed by a person authorised to sign on behalf of the stockist entity.
A Consignee Undertaking is only required when applying for an OIEL. You can find the form and further guidance on the Government’s website.
5. Submit your application
If your project involves commercially sensitive information that should not be made available to members of the public in Freedom of Information requests, make sure to indicate this on the last page of the application form under "Submit".
When you have completed all fields of the application form and uploaded all supporting documents in accordance with the guidance available within SPIRE, you can submit your application.
If you would like feedback on your application, including whether it contains sensitive information, before submitting it, you can contact the Research Office for advice.
6. Respond to Requests for Further Information (RFI)
The ECJU might contact you with a Request for Further Information (RFI) within SPIRE. RFIs may:
- Seek details about your items’ performance characteristics to determine whether Controls apply; or
- Seek clarification of the design, phasing, or conduct of your activity.
You must reply to an RFI within SPIRE, rather than separate email or phone call. Your response will only be registered if made within SPIRE. You might receive further RFIs at later stages of the application process, so it is recommended to give full and timely responses. The time that you take to respond to an RFI is not counted towards the total processing time of your application.
If you would like advice on how to write licence applications that pre-empt questions commonly raised in RFIs and to avoid delays, you can contact the Research Office for advice.
7. Receive your application outcome
You will be notified of any application outcome within SPIRE. There are five possible outcomes:
No Licence Required (NLR)
The ECJU has determined that your export or transfer does not require an export licence. The decision letter will contain further details, e.g. that this decision is conditional upon the accuracy of the information provided in your application, and that any End-use Controls, sanctions, embargoes and other relevant laws continue to apply.
Your work can proceed as planned if College policies, such as the Relationship Review Policy (RRP), have been satisfied. However, if there are changes to the project’s design, involved materials or information, overseas funders, collaborators, staff or students, you may need to re-apply for an export licence. If any WMD or Military End-use concerns arise during the project, you must suspend activities immediately and contact the Research Office for advice. You may need to re-apply for an export licence.
The ECJU has determined that Export Controls do apply to your project and has granted an export licence. The project can proceed as planned, subject to College policies. You must make sure to make only the exports or transfers specified in the licence and to comply with any special conditions stated within your licence.
If any WMD or Military End-use concerns arise during the project, you must suspend all activities immediately and contact the Research Office for advice. You may need to re-apply for an export licence in such circumstances.
The ECJU has determined that Export Controls do apply to your project but has refused the licence. The project cannot proceed as planned. Because the ECJU also considers non-public information on national or international security when evaluating applications, it is not always possible to learn why a licence was denied. In the case of your licence application being refused, you can contact the Research Office for advice.
Incorrect Licence Type
The ECJU found that the licence type you applied for is not suitable for the proposed activity. The notification you receive may advise you to re-apply for a different type of licence.
The ECJU has withdrawn the licence application. This will usually be at the applicant’s request, or in the absence of a full and timely response to an outstanding Reuqest for Further Information (RFI).
Although the ECJU aims to process 70% of applications for Standard Individual Export Licences (SIELs) within 20 working days and 99% of SIELs within 60 working days, some applications involving sensitive destinations, research areas, or parties might take longer. To avoid delays to your project, consider Export Controls as early as possible during the planning phase, and read the guidance on this website. You can also contact the Research Office for advice.
Applications for Open Individual Export Licences (OIELs) often take more than 60 working days to be processed. The ECJU checks these applications more thoroughly because they offer greater flexibility to the exporter. OIEL applications are less common and usually less successful than SIEL applications.
Following up on applications
We recommend that you follow up on your application by sending a message to your case officer within SPIRE no earlier than 25 working days after submitting your application. The Research Office also monitors the status and processing times of all applications made in the name of the College through SPIRE.