The importation and exportation of most goods and services to/from Iran is not permitted unless OFAC has issued a license authorizing that activity. There are two types of licenses issued by OFAC, general and specific licenses.
General licenses permit transactions that the U.S. government believes are not going to violate U.S. sanctions’ policy goals.
A general license basically states that all U.S. persons can engage in the specific activity and/or transactions outlined in general license. Examples of activities that are allowed under general licenses are sending family money, sending noncommercial personal remittances to/from Iran, selling real/personal property acquired as inheritance or before one became U.S. person, and more. If a general license exists for the desired activity, one does not need to apply for a specific license.
A specific license is required for something that an individual or entity wants to engage in that is not allowed under sanctions regulations and there is no general license that authorizes that activity.
In that case, that individual or entity would need to apply for a specific license asking for personal and specific authorization from the government to engage in that specific kind of activity. Applications for obtaining a specific license are usually in the form of a letter that is sent to the government via their online portal.
A common mistake that is made is when individuals apply for a specific license when OFAC has already issued a general license permitting that activity. If a general license exists, the government will not issue a specific license in the individual’s name, instead, they will just return the application without taking any action on it. They will send a one-page “return without action” letter that has no legal significance and cannot serve as a license.
If you thought you were granted a specific license but you are not sure, send us a copy via our mobile app or email (email@example.com) and we will be happy to take a look at it for you and let you know if the document is a specific or general license.