Click here to access the Export Control Decision Tree.

United States export controls exist to protect U.S. national security, economic and foreign policy interests. Export controls govern the shipment, transmission, or transfer of certain regulated items, information or software to foreign persons or entities. Export control regulations apply, when shipping or transferring regulated (“controlled”) items, including physical items, such as biological materials, data or software outside of the U.S.  Such shipments or transfers may require approval from the U.S. Government in the form of an export license.

The University is required to exercise due diligence, and this decision tree has been crafted for the purpose of complying with U.S. export control law while preserving one of University’s cornerstone policies of academic freedom. While a majority of items, destinations and end users are not controlled, it is important that the Northeastern community follow best practices to ensure any required licenses are obtained prior to shipment or transfer. Violations of export control regulations can lead to significant civil and criminal penalties for Northeastern, as well as the individuals involved in the shipment or transfer.

The decision tree will walk you through nine “Yes/No/Not Sure” questions. Responses will indicate if additional conversation with Research Compliance is required prior to finalizing a shipment. Remember that export controls apply whenever tangible items (equipment, components, materials etc.) are being sent or hand-carried outside US borders, OR when controlled information or software code is being shared with non-U.S. Persons in the U.S. or transferred physically, digitally, visually or orally to foreign persons abroad.

If you are not sure how to answer any question, please select the Not Sure button. At the end of the decision tree, you will be asked to fill in your email address. If you answer NO to all questions, you will be sent a copy of the form for your records. If you answered yes or not sure to any question, a member of Research Compliance will follow up with you within 24 hours (you will also receive a copy of your responses to the form).

Note that export controls are frequently, but not exclusively, associated with items, information and software code within the following general areas:

  • Chemical, Biotechnology and Biomedical Engineering
  • Materials Technology
  • Remote Sensing, Imaging and Reconnaissance
  • Navigation, Avionics and Flight Control
  • Robotics
  • Propulsion System and Unmanned Air Vehicle Subsystems
  • Telecommunications/Networking
  • Nuclear Technology
  • Sensors and Sensor Technology
  • Advanced Computer/Microelectronic Technology
  • Information Security/Encryption
  • Laser and Directed Energy Systems
  • Rocket Systems
  • Marine Technology

These areas have been selected because they may include “dual-use” technology, technology that can be used for both civilian and/or military purposes. The questions in the decision tree use terminology derived from the regulations of the U.S. Departments of State, Commerce and Treasury.


Foreign Person or Entity

Foreign Person or Entity is person that does not meet the definition of a U.S. Person below or an entity that is not established or incorporated in the United States (an entity is still be a foreign entity if it is a U.S. branch of a foreign company). An example of a foreign entity would be Takeda Pharmaceuticals.


Items refer to any tangible things, materials, equipment or hardware.


Information can include technical data such as models, formulae, engineering designs and specifications, or technical assistance such as, training or instruction.


Software refers to a collection of one or more computer programs or microprograms in either source code (programming statements) or object code (machine-readable instructions).

U.S. Person

U.S. Person is a U.S. citizen, a lawful permanent resident alien of the U.S. (a “green card holder”), a refugee, protected political asylee or someone granted temporary residency under amnesty or Special Agricultural Worker provisions. Individuals on a temporary visa (F, H1B and J1) status are considered to be foreign nationals (and thus non-U.S. persons). The word “person” includes organizations and entities. Foreign persons or entities may require the University to obtain a license prior to the transfers or shipments described above.

*This material is adapted from the basic design and content of Stanford University’s Decision Tree. We appreciate Stanford in granting us the permission to adapt its content for the benefit of Northeastern University.*

last updated 11.15.2023