Office of Foreign Assets Controls - OFAC

The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Controls (OFAC) administers economic sanctions programs with regard to a number of countries, using asset blocking and trade restrictions to accomplish US foreign policy and national security goals. The current list of sanctions programs:

  • Balkans-related
  • Belarus
  • Burma
  • Central African Republic
  • Core d’Ivoire
  • Counter Narcotics Trafficking
  • Counter Terrorism
  • Cuba
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Iran
  • Iraq-related
  • Lebanon-related
  • Former Liberian Regime of Charles Taylor
  • Libya
  • Magnitsky
  • Non-Proliferation
  • North Korea
  • Rough Diamond Trade Controls
  • Somalia
  • Sudan
  • South Sudan-related
  • Syria
  • Transnational Criminal Organizations
  • Ukraine-related
  • Yemen
  • Zimbabwe

Some of these programs severely restrict transactions — for instance, the transfer of anything of value, other than small gifts or humanitarian aid, with Iran or anyone in Iran is prohibited, although transactions with citizens of Iran who are not members of the Iran government when they are outside Iran are permitted. Other programs are less likely to restrict activities the MIT community would engage in. Each sanctions program has an Overview of Sanctions document, and some have further clarification in additional documents such as guidelines.

OFAC also maintains the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (the SDN list) of individuals and companies owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of, targeted countries, as well as individuals, groups, and entities, such as terrorists and narcotics traffickers designated under programs that are not country-specific. Their assets are blocked and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.  

OFAC’s SDN search tool simplifies checking this, but the government maintains a total of 35 lists with various restrictions. You can check most of these using the National Export Initiative’s consolidated list, or consult MIT’s Export Control Officer.