Iran Sanctions


The U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has imposed broad comprehensive sanctions against Iran, as outlined in the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR) (31 CFR 560). These sanctions restrict certain academic collaborations and exchange of materials and equipment.

If your activities involve collaboration with Iranian residents or with individuals "ordinarily resident" in Iran, travel to Iran, or shipping any items to an Iranian entity or individual, you are required to contact the GVSU Office of Research Compliance and Integrity (ORCI) for consultation.

Common Activities Usually Requiring an OFAC License

  • Providing an Iranian national (who is either located in Iran or who is located outside of the U.S. and Iran but is “ordinarily resident in Iran”) a “service.” This could include technical assistance or analysis.
  • Traveling to Iran and bringing anything other than personal belongings, such as University-owned equipment or material.
  • Imports from Iran or exports to Iran of anything other than informational materials or humanitarian donations.
  • Transferring funds to an Iranian financial institution or to an individual/entity on one of the U.S. government’s restricted party lists.

Do not conduct these activities without consulting with the ORCI to determine the need to obtain an OFAC license!

Who This Applies To

The regulations apply to “US persons.” That includes any US citizen, permanent resident alien, entity organized under the laws of the United States (including foreign branches), or any person in the United States.

Ordinarily Resident

Note that some of the prohibited activities apply to individuals who are "ordinarily resident" in Iran, even if the individual you are working with is not currently in Iran at the time of the activity.

Examples of individuals usually considered "ordinarily resident":

  • Undergraduate and graduate students from Iran attending an institution outside of the U.S.
  • Employees at non-U.S. institutions with temporary appointments (e.g., visiting professors, adjunct professors, etc.)
  • Individuals still owning property in Iran and/or who frequently visit Iran

Examples of individuals NOT usually considered "ordinarily resident":

  • Individuals in the U.S. holding a student or work visa (including faculty, staff, and students at U.S. institutions)
  • Individuals having dual citizenship in an OFAC-sanction country and a non-OFAC-sanctioned country
  • Individuals with permanent residency in a non-OFAC-sanctioned country
  • Full-time, tenure-track (or equivalent) professors at non-U.S. institutions 

If you are working with an Iranian collaborator who is not located in the U.S., please consult with the ORCI to determine if the individual you are working with is considered "ordinarily resident."


The penalties for engaging in restricted activities without the proper export control license can be severe, and individuals can be held personally liable. Both individuals and the University can face criminal and civil penalties if export control violations occur.

Prohibited Transactions

The following transactions are prohibited, unless a license is issued by OFAC or they fall within one of the ITSR exemptions.

1. Exportation, reexportation, sale or supply of goods, technology, or services to Iran.

  • “Services” means providing anything of value, even if no money is exchanged.
  • Includes services performed in Iran or by an entity organized under the laws of Iran, or a person residing in Iran
  • Includes services performed outside of Iran by a citizen, national or permanent resident of Iran who is ordinarily resident in Iran


  • Providing technical assistance to an Iranian national in Iran or Iranian institution
  • Providing technical assistance to an Iranian national “ordinarily resident in Iran,” but temporarily located outside of the U.S. or Iran
  • Providing unpublished data or research results to an individual in Iran (including an Iranian student who regularly attends a U.S. institution, but is outside of the U.S. at the time of data transfer)
  • Conducting research in Iran, including surveys and interviews
  • Teaching or lecturing as a guest of an Iranian institution


2. Importation of goods or services from Iran.

  • Includes any goods or services of Iranian origin or owned or controlled by the Government of Iran, other than information and informational materials


  • Accepting samples shipped from Iran for testing


3. Transactions involving blocked property or with Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) and other restricted parties

  • U.S. governmental agencies maintain lists of individuals and entities that are barred or restricted from entering into certain types of transactions with U.S. persons and entities.
  • The ORCI has access to software that can easily search these lists.


4. Facilitation of transactions with Iran or attempted evasion of the regulations

  • US persons cannot approve, finance, facilitate, or guarantee transactions by a foreign person that would be prohibited by the regulations if performed by a US person or from within the US
  • US persons are prohibited from transactions that evade or avoid or attempt to violate the regulations


  • Providing technical assistance to an individual in Iran without the proper export control license, despite knowing that such an activity requires a license.

Exempt/Authorized Transactions

The following transactions are exempt from, or authorized by, the OFAC regulations under certain circumstances. Carefully read the criteria for each. Please contact the ORCI prior to utilizing one of these exemptions/authorizations to ensure it is allowable to use for your specific planned transaction.

1. Importation/exportation of information or informational materials

  • “Information and informational materials” includes: publications, films, posters, photographs, microfilms, microfiche, tapes, compact disks, CD ROMs, artworks, and news wire feeds
  • This exemption does not apply to:
    • Information and information materials not fully created and in existence at the time of the transaction
    • Substantive or artistic alteration or enhancement of informational materials
    • The provision of marketing and business consulting services
    • Transactions incident to the export of software subject to the Export Administration Regulations
    • The export of goods for use in the transmission of data


2. Peer review and publishing activities

  • Allows for transactions “necessary and ordinarily incident to” the publishing and marketing of manuscripts, books, journals, and newspapers.
  • Includes collaborating on the creation and enhancement of written publications, and substantive editing of written publications
  • Does not apply if one of the parties is the Government of Iran. (Academic and research institutions and their personnel are not considered parties of the Government.)


3. Personal communications

  • Includes postal, telegraphic, telephonic, or other personal communication which does not involve the transfer of anything of value


4. Certain academic exchanges and the exportation/importation of certain educational services

  • Allows US academic institutions to enter into academic exchange agreements with Iranian institutions
  • Allows US academic to export services:
    • In connection with filing and processing applications and acceptance of payments for submitted applications and tuition from or on behalf of students in Iran or ordinarily resident in Iran
    • Related to recruitment, hiring, or employment of faculty located in Iran or ordinarily resident in Iran
    • To individuals in Iran or ordinarily resident in Iran to sign up for online undergraduate courses in the humanities, social sciences, law, or business, or introductory level science and engineering courses “ordinarily required for the completion of undergraduate degree programs”
  • Allows US persons to take undergraduate courses or conduct undergraduate academic research in Iran
  • Allows US persons to take graduate courses in humanities, social sciences, law, or business or conduct graduate level academic research in the humanities, social sciences, law or business in Iran
  • Allows US persons to export services to Iran for activities such as combating illiteracy and increasing access to education
  • Allows US persons to administer college entrance exams or professional certificate exams in Iran


5. Activities and services related to certain nonimmigrant and immigrant categories

  • Allows persons eligible for certain visa categories (including F and J visas) to carry out activities in the US for which the visa was granted
  • Allows US person to export services to Iran in connection with filing an individual’s application for certain non-immigrant visa categories
  • Allows release of technology or software to students ordinarily resident in Iran who are attending school in the US as authorized, provided all of the following conditions are met:
    • The release is ordinarily incident and necessary to the educational program in which the individual is enrolled
    • The technology is designated EAR99 under the Export Administration Regulations or constitutes Educational Information not subject to the EAR
    • The release does not otherwise require a license from the Department of Commerce
    • The student to whom the release is made is not enrolled in school or participating in the educational program as an agent, employee, or contractor of the Government of Iran or a business entity or other organization in Iran


6. Travel

  • Allows for transactions “ordinarily incident to travel to or from Iran,” including:
    • Importation and exportation of accompanied baggage for personal use
    • Maintenance within any country including payment of living expenses and acquisition of goods or services for personal use
    • Arrangement or facilitation of such travel including nonscheduled air, sea, or land voyages


7. Services related to conferences in the US or in third countries

  • Allows for importation/exportation of services for a person ordinarily resident in Iran when the services are directly related to the participation in a public conference, performance, exhibition or similar even
  • Allows for services directly related to sponsorship by a US person of a public conference or event in a third country that is attended by persons ordinarily resident in Iran, provided that participation in the event is open to the public and not tailored in whole or in part for Iran or persons ordinarily resident in Iran
  • Does not apply to the Government of Iran, an Iranian financial institution, or person whose property and interests are blocked by the US government


8. Transfer of funds involving Iran

  • Allows payments arising from and that are necessary to give effect to an underlying transaction that is authorized by OFAC and the payment does not involve debiting or crediting an Iranian account or involve an individual or entity on a government restricted party list


For More Information

Please contact the Office of Research Compliance and Integrity ((616) 331-3197; [email protected]) to discuss any planned GVSU-related work involving Iran. You are required to consult with the ORCI prior to engaging in any GVSU activity involving Iran.

Page last modified April 20, 2020