When one hears the term OFAC specific license application they imagine a form or a questionnaire type document. This is false. An OFAC specific license application is actually a formal written document akin to a written letter which lays out a transaction which would normally be prohibited, but for which the applicant seeks authorization from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to engage in.

Not all specific license applications are the same. However, there are some general rules to follow. Follow these three keys for drafting a successful OFAC specific license application:

1. State the purpose of the license: What are you requesting the license for? Under which OFAC sanctions program is it being requested? Will it harm the integrity of the sanctions program it is being authorized under?

Be clear in what you are trying to achieve by applying for the specific license. Make sure you communicate not only the purpose of the license application but also any relevant legal arguments as to why it should be granted. In addition, make sure that OFAC knows that authorization in your case will not harm the sanctions program or U.S. foreign policy objectives. Include arguments that establish the policy considerations of authorizing your transaction.

2. Identify the names and contact information of all parties involved. Are there banks involved? What about shippers? Are there any parties that you know will benefit from the transaction outside of those directly contemplated in a contract?

This rule seems like a no-brainer, however, sometimes applicants for an OFAC license do not think deeply enough about the issue and fail to include all the parties that could be involved. Remember, a license authorization will only cover those transactions stated in the original license application. If something is incidental to those transactions you maybe ok, however, if you forget something like the involvement of a bank or a shipper, then that license application will not cover any transactions with that party.

3. Provide documentation. When dealing with OFAC do not assume your word is gold. Make sure to include documentation to show that the transactions you propose are legitimate and are being carried out by legitimate parties. Registration documents, product descriptions, even brochures or literature about different parties or organizations involved in the transactions can be included to inform OFAC of the legitimacy of the transaction.

You are not entitled to an OFAC license. The United States Department of the Treasury can deny anyone they like of an OFAC specific license. Therefore, from the beginning put you should provide the right information and ample documentation to support it. If you can not or do not want to hire an OFAC attorney to assist you in procuring your license then the best option is to follow these keys to draft a successful OFAC license application.

The author of this blog is Erich Ferrari, an attorney specializing in OFAC matters. If you have any questions please contact him at 202-280-6370 or

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