Economic Embargoes, Trade Sanctions, Prohibited Parties, and Anti-Boycotting Laws

U.S. laws and regulations restrict and/or prohibit U.S. persons from traveling to, engaging in transactions with, or providing support to certain countries, individuals, and entities, unless the activity is licensed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). 

  • Country-based restrictions, in the form of economic embargoes, trade sanctions programs, export controls, and anti-boycotting laws, differ in scope based on the subject country and do change from time to time. 
  • Individual and entity prohibitions, which are also subject to change, are program-specific and include designations related to anti-terrorism, narcotics and firearms trafficking, as well as certain country sanctions programs.

Penalties for violations can be severe.  In addition to the U.S. laws and regulations, Yale policies may restrict and/or prohibit students from traveling to certain countries using Yale funds.

Sanctions and Embargoes

This section focuses on country-specific economic sanctions and embargo programs. These restrict to varying degrees trade, investments, travel, exchange of information or materials, and other kinds of activity that U.S. persons may conduct in sanctioned countries. For assistance, contact the Director of Export Controls at exports@yale.edu.

Economic sanctions are programs that limit access to a country or restrict the kinds of transactions or activities that may be carried out with or in that country.  These programs are administered by the U.S. Government for foreign policy or national security purposes.  Sanctions programs differ, depending on the country, and may be comprehensive as in the case of Cuba, or selective.

If you are conducting activities abroad (or with colleagues overseas), it is important that you check which countries may be the subject of a sanctions or embargo program.  The specific restrictions and targeted countries do change and some exemptions may apply, for example, to research activity and the exchange of educational information.  Visit the U.S. Treasury Department’s sanctions programs webpage for current information about specific country programs.  

Types of activities that may be prohibited in U.S. Government-sanctioned countries:

  • Banking and investment activities, including transfers of cash into the country using local banks
  • Payments to individuals, universities or other entities in an embargoed country
  • Transferring materials or data, or providing services to an individual, university, or other entity located in an embargoed country
  • Collaborations with individuals, universities or other entities located in an embargoed country
  • Travel to an embargoed country
  • Bringing in items that may have either military application or dual commercial and military use (e.g., computers, pathogens)
Last updated: 12/09/2021

U.S. laws and regulations prohibit U.S. persons from traveling to or engaging in any financial transactions relating to Cuba except in connection with certain activities as described below.  Those qualifying as U.S. persons for this purpose include:

  • U.S. citizens and residents;
  • anyone (including citizen and residents of other countries) traveling to Cuba directly from the U.S.; or
  • anyone (including citizen and residents of other countries) traveling to Cuba using Yale funding or in connection with a Yale activity, whether they travel to Cuba directly from the U.S. or from another country.

Although the U.S. sanctions on Cuba eased somewhat in December 2014 when President Obama announced a new era of U.S. - Cuba relations, recent policy changes towards Cuba have reversed that trend.  Restrictions on travel to Cuba remain in place and trips to Cuba that are primarily tourist-oriented and many other transactions relating to Cuba continue to be prohibited.

Section 1:  Permitted Activities

Yale faculty, staff and students may travel to Cuba to engage in the educational activities listed below without needing to apply for pre-authorization from the U.S. Government.  The list below is not intended to be exhaustive but rather gives an overview of the categories most relevant to the Yale community and the requirements for each activity type.

Please note that even if travel to Cuba is permissible, Yale faculty, students, and staff may not engage in transactions with entities on the State Department’s restricted list which is available at: https://www.state.gov/cuba-sanctions/cuba-restricted-list/.  Restricted parties include certain hotels, stores, and other entities. 

In addition, U.S. regulations require travelers to Cuba to retain for five years, full and accurate records demonstrating that the activity was permitted and was not primarily tourist-oriented. 

Category A:  Academic Study, Teaching, or Student Research Activities

All Yale students, faculty and staff wishing to engage in a Category A activity listed below, must first receive a letter from Yale that states that their travel meets the regulatory requirements.  To receive this letter, please contact the Office of General Counsel by emailing iocc@yale.edu and providing a detailed description of the activity you wish to engage in.     

Students wishing to engage in Category A activities, with the exception of item #2 listed below, must travel to Cuba for at least ten weeks, unless the student, is accompanied by a Yale faculty or staff member. 

Full-time faculty or staff may travel for less than 10 weeks. 

Category A activities are: 

  1. Participation in a structured educational program in Cuba as part of a for-credit course sponsored by Yale;
  2. Engaging in noncommercial academic research in Cuba specifically related to Cuba for the purpose of obtaining a graduate degree from Yale, or an undergraduate degree if the undergraduate student is accompanied by Yale faculty or staff member;
  3. Participation in a formal course of study at a Cuban academic institution provided Yale will accept the formal course of study for credit toward the student’s graduate or undergraduate degree;
  4. Teaching at a Cuban academic institution related to an academic program at the Cuban institution, provided the individual is a full-time employee of Yale regularly engaged in teaching; or
  5. The organization of, and preparation for, activities described above by full-time Yale faculty and staff.

Category B:  Professional Research

Yale faculty, staff and graduate students may travel to Cuba to conduct professional research provided that the following conditions apply:

  1. The purpose of the research directly relates to the traveler’s profession, professional background, or area of expertise, including area of full-time graduate study;
  2. The traveler doesn’t engage in recreational or tourist travel, travel in pursuit of a hobby, or research for personal satisfaction only; and
  3. The traveler’s schedule of activities does not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule of professional research.

Those engaging in Category B activities are not required to travel with a letter from Yale; however, they must still travel with documentation that demonstrates that they meet the requirements listed above and must retain this documentation for 5 years.  Individuals with questions regarding Category B activities should contact the Office of General Counsel by emailing iocc@yale.edu

Category C:   Other Educational Activities

All Yale faculty and staff wishing to engage in a Category C activity listed below, must first receive a letter from Yale that states that their travel meets the regulatory requirements.  To receive this letter, please contact the Office of General Counsel by emailing iocc@yale.edu and providing a detailed description of the activity you wish to engage in.     

Yale students may engage in Category C activities if they are accompanied by a Yale faculty or staff member.  

  1. Sponsorship or co-sponsorship of noncommercial academic seminars, conferences, symposia, and workshops related to Cuba or global issues involving Cuba; Yale faculty, staff, and students may also attend such events.
  2. Establishment of academic exchanges and joint non-commercial academic research projects with Cuban universities or academic institutions.

Note:  effective June 5, 2019, group people-to-people travel to Cuba is no longer permitted unless the group has already completed one or more transactions prior to that date (e.g., purchased a plane ticket or made hotel reservations) in preparation for an upcoming group people-to-people trip to Cuba.

Section 2:       Other Permitted Activities

Activities in addition to those described in Section 1 above may be permissible.  For example, the regulations allow travel to engage in certain religious or humanitarian activities or to export or import certain informational materials.

In addition, educational activities not listed above may be permitted if you apply for pre-authorization from the U.S. government in the form of a “specific license.” 

Individuals interested in activities sponsored by or under the auspices of Yale not listed in Section 1 must contact the Office of General Counsel by emailing iocc@yale.edu for guidance and assistance.  

Section 3:        Financial Transactions with Cuban Nationals (not involving travel to Cuba)

Yale may pay a stipend or salary to bring a Cuban national to Yale to teach or engage in other scholarly activity.  The regulations also allow Yale to engage in financial transactions necessary and ordinarily incident to publishing and marketing of manuscripts, books, journals and newspapers.  For example, Yale can commission manuscripts and pay royalties to Cuban nationals.   Yale can also pay Cuban nationals to create, disseminate, alter, or enhance informational materials such as films and artworks.  

Section 4:     Financial Transactions Possible with U.S. Government Authorization

Financial transactions with Cuban entities or Cuban nationals other than those described above may not be permissible or may require a specific license.  Individuals interested in engaging in such transactions must first contact the Office of General Counsel by emailing iocc@yale.edu to discuss the transaction and determine any compliance limits or requirements.

Last updated: 09/24/2020

Current U.S. sanctions and embargoes may require you to have U.S. government approval before you travel to Iran, engage in activities in Iran or in the United States with Iranian persons or entities.  

Examples of activities that may be restricted are:

  • Furnishing financial assistance, materials or services to an entity in Iran
  • Travel to Iran with a laptop
  • Research, field-work, or instruction in Iran
  • Importing merchandise from Iran
  • Collaborating, presenting or training individuals or entities in Iran

If you violate these rules, you may be subject to civil and/or criminal penalties. 

In November 2018, the U.S. government fully re-imposed sanctions against Iran that had previously been lifed in 2016.  Those traveling to Iran or engaging in activities with Iranian persons or entities, must contact the Director of Export Control Licensing at exports@yale.edu for guidance and assistance.

*Note:  Yale College students may not undertake travel to Iran that is: 1) funded by Yale; 2) awarded credit by Yale; or 3) in connection with a trip abroad by a recognized student organization, as individuals, or in groups.  For more information please review Yale University’s International Travel Policy for Yale College Students available at https://cipe.yale.edu/travel-resources/travel-policy.  Yale graduate and professional students should contact their Dean of Student Affairs to find out if similar restrictions apply. 

A.     Activities Permitted

While the U.S. government continues to enforce a comprehensive embargo of Iran, in 2014, the U.S. government issued new regulations that allow U.S. academic institutions to engage in certain educational activities with Iran.  Yale faculty, staff and students may engage in the educational activities listed below without needing to apply for a specific license from the U.S. Government.  However, prior to engaging in any of these activities, Yale faculty, staff, and students must contact the Director of Export Control Licensing at exports@yale.edu to confirm that their activities fall into one of the exemptions listed below and to find out if additional rules may restrict their activities.    The list below is not intended to be exhaustive. 

1.  Academic Study, Research or Teaching Activities

  • Exchange Agreements:  Yale departments/schools may enter into academic student exchange agreements with universities in Iran.
  • Courses and Research in Iran:
    • Yale faculty, students, or staff may participate in undergraduate level courses in Iran or engage in noncommercial academic research in Iran at the undergraduate level in any discipline (*however, see note above regarding Yale College student travel to Iran).
    • Yale faculty, students, or staff students may participate in graduate level courses or engage in noncommercial academic research at levels above the undergraduate level, but the research or courses must be in one of the following disciplines: humanities, social sciences, law, or business.
  • Online Courses:  Yale departments or schools can offer undergraduate level online courses in humanities, social sciences, or business to individuals who ordinarily live in Iran.  Introductory undergraduate courses in science, technology, engineering and math which are ordinarily required for the completion of an undergraduate degree in humanities, social sciences, law or business are also allowed. 

2.    Other Educational Activities

  • Admissions: Yale departments or schools may engage in financial transactions related to recruiting and admitting students from Iran to Yale programs
  • Faculty Hiring:  Yale departments or schools may engage in financial transactions related to the recruitment, hiring, or employment in a teaching capacity of faculty located in Iran, or who are currently outside Iran but ordinarily live in Iran, and regularly are employed in a teaching capacity at an Iranian university.   
  • Informational Materials:  Yale faculty, students, or staff can export, import or transmit informational materials such as publications, photographs, microfiche, and artworks to or from Iran.  The regulations clearly state that this exemption does not include “information and informational materials not fully created and in existence at the date of the transactions, or the substantive or artistic alteration or enhancement of informational materials, or the provision of marketing and business and consulting services.” 
  • Publishing:  Yale faculty, students, and staff can engage in activities that are “necessary and ordinarily incident to the publishing and marketing of manuscripts, books, journals, and newspapers in paper or electronic format…” In short, Yale persons can participate in activities that are part of the normal academic peer-review or publishing process. 
  • Conferences in Iran:   There has been a debate recently as to whether or not U.S. persons can travel to Iran to participate in or speak at academic conferences.   Any Yale faculty, staff, or student wishing to travel to Iran to participate in a conference (or any activity listed above) must first contact the Director of Export Control Licensing at exports@yale.edu

3.   Personal Travel                 

Unlike the embargo of Cuba, the U.S. embargo of Iran does not broadly restrict personal, recreational or tourist travel. In short, Yale faculty, students or staff may engage in personal or recreational travel within Iran subject to Yale policies for student travel listed above

B.         Other Permitted Activities

Activities in addition to those described in A above may be permissible.  For example, the regulations allow travel to engage in certain humanitarian activities.  In addition, educational activities not listed above may be permitted if you apply for pre-authorization from the U.S. government in the form of a “specific license.”  Individuals interested in activities sponsored by or under the auspices of Yale not listed above must contact the Director of Export Control Licensing at exports@yale.edu for guidance and assistance.

C.       Financial Transactions Possible with U.S. Government Authorization

Financial transactions with Iranian entities or Iranian nationals other than those described above may not be permissible or may require a specific license.  Furthermore, while US regulations do allow for U.S. banks to process transfers of funds related to Iran, U.S. banks may not directly debit or credit an Iranian bank account.  In other words, transfers of money to and from Iran must first be processed through a bank in a third country (e.g. Kuwait).  The fact that Iranian accounts cannot be directly debited or credited has and continues to provide significant hurdles to engaging in activities with Iranian nationals.   Individuals interested in engaging in any financial transactions with Iran even if they do not involve travel to Iran must first contact the Director of Export Control Licensing at exports@yale.edu to discuss the transaction and determine any compliance limits or requirements.

Last updated: 04/14/2016

Prohibited Parties

The U.S. government prohibits transactions (such as payments, trade, and exports) by U.S. persons with certain individuals or entities. The U.S. government agencies authorized to administer such programs maintain online lists of these “prohibited parties.”

If you are conducting transactions with other persons, whether individuals or entities and whether in the U.S. or abroad, these restrictions apply to you. Transactions may include:

  • Payments for goods or services (cash, check, wire transfer, or other means)
  • Contributions and donations of funds, materials or support
  • Shipments and trade

When U.S. persons conduct unauthorized transactions with prohibited parties, they risk significant penalties including freezing of assets and ineligibility for federal awards. For assistance, contact the Director of Export Controls at exports@yale.edu.

Regulations administered by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Controls prohibit “transactions or dealings” with persons and entities designated by OFAC as “specially designated nationals,” or “SDNs,” absent a special license.  These persons and entities are listed on OFAC’s website.  The list is changed frequently and must regularly be checked in connection with contemplated business transactions.  For these purposes, a transaction includes any engagement for pay, or other contractual relationship, regardless of the amount in question.

Other U.S. government agencies also identify persons and entities with which one may not engage in business transactions because of terrorism risks or legal restrictions imposed on them. In addition to the SDN list, these lists should be checked before engaging in a transaction with a foreign person or entity. These include:

  • Denied Persons.  The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS, in Department of Commerce) maintains a list of “Denied Persons” to whom BIS has denied the privilege to export, usually because they have previously violated U.S. export control laws.
  • Entity List.  BIS also maintains an “Entity List,” which includes individual foreign companies that are known or believed to be involved in weapons proliferation activities. The Entities List includes companies located in Afghanistan, China, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, Syria, the UK, the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere.  Specific restrictions applicable to each entity are identified on the List.
  • Unverified List.  BIS maintains an “Unverified List,” which includes foreign persons who in the past were parties to a transaction with respect to which BIS could not conduct a pre-license check or a post-shipment verification. Transactions with a person on the Unverified List raise a red flag with respect to the export.
  • Debarred Parties List.  The Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) within the Department of State maintains a list of “Debarred Parties,” who are denied the privilege of participating directly or indirectly in the export of defense articles, technical data or services.
  • Nonproliferation sanctions.  The State Department maintains several lists of persons sanctioned under various statutes related to weapons nonproliferation.

Contact the Director of Export Controls at exports@yale.edu to request assistance with screening a transaction against these lists.

Last updated: 12/09/2021

Anti-Boycotting Laws

U.S. anti-boycott laws prohibit individuals and entities from participating in a boycott that the U.S. government has not approved. The U.S. Department of Commerce publishes a list of recent examples of boycott requests.

The anti-boycott laws require the University to report any cooperation with an international boycott; any requests it receives to cooperate with a boycott; and any operations in or related to a boycotting country or with a government, a company or a national of a country on the U.S. Department of Treasury’s boycotting list. The countries currently on the boycotting list are Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and the Republic of Yemen.

Individuals conducting activities in a boycotting country must be aware of these anti-boycott laws. All members of the Yale community must refuse to cooperate with a boycott and report any boycott request immediately to the Yale Office of General Counsel at (203) 432-4949. In addition, any Yale activities in or transactions with the government, a company or a national of the listed countries should be reported to the University Tax Office. Violations of the anti-boycott laws may carry serious civil and criminal penalties for the University and individuals.

The following actions and agreements when undertaken to further an unapproved boycott would violate U.S. anti-boycott laws:

  1. A collaboration with a foreign university to jointly offer an academic  program in which the agreement includes a provision to restrict participation by Israeli citizens.
  2. Answering “yes” or “no” to the question, “Do you do any business in Israel?”  where the purpose of the question is to comply with an unapproved boycott.
  3. A full professorship that does not permit the appointment of a Jewish woman.
Last updated: 12/09/2021