Frequently Asked Questions

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Cross-Programmatic Compliance Services Guidance

495. Why did OFAC issue the Guidance on the Provision of Certain Services Relating to the Requirements of U.S. Sanctions Laws (the “Compliance Services Guidance”)?

OFAC has received numerous inquiries, many from foreign companies at outreach events, regarding whether U.S. persons may provide, and whether U.S. persons have been able to provide in the past, certain types of legal and compliance services to covered persons. The Compliance Services Guidance provides clarity in response to those inquiries. For purposes of the Compliance Services Guidance, “covered persons” means U.S. persons and foreign persons other than any person (i) whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to any part of 31 C.F.R. chapter V, including persons listed on OFAC’s List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN List), or (ii) to whom a U.S. person is prohibited from exporting services or from whom a U.S. person is prohibited from importing services pursuant to any part of 31 C.F.R. chapter V. The Compliance Services Guidance does not describe every allowable service relating to the requirements of U.S. sanctions laws.

496. Does the Compliance Services Guidance represent a change in OFAC’s policy with respect to the provision of legal and compliance services?

No. The Compliance Services Guidance does not reflect a change in OFAC’s policy with respect to the provision of these types of legal and compliance services. OFAC is issuing the Compliance Services Guidance in response to numerous inquiries to ensure that both U.S. and foreign individuals and entities understand that U.S. persons may provide services consistent with the Compliance Services Guidance.

497. In providing services consistent with the Compliance Services Guidance to a foreign covered person, can a U.S. person opine on the legality of a transaction under U.S. sanctions laws, including by providing a legal opinion, certification, or other clearance as to the legality of such transaction, where it would be prohibited for a U.S. person to engage in such transaction?

Yes. In providing services to a foreign covered person, a U.S. person may opine on the legality of a transaction under U.S. sanctions laws, including by providing a legal opinion, certification, or other clearance as to the legality of such transaction, where it would be prohibited for a U.S. person to engage in the transaction. U.S. persons may not provide such services to persons who are subject to certain restrictions under OFAC’s regulations, such as persons listed on OFAC’s SDN List.

U.S. persons, wherever located, may not otherwise approve, finance, facilitate, or guarantee any transaction by a foreign person, including one that meets the definition of a covered person, as defined in FAQ #495, where the transaction by that foreign person would be prohibited by 31 C.F.R. chapter V if performed by a U.S. person or within the United States. For example, U.S. persons could not vote on a transaction (e.g., as a board member), or execute transaction documents (other than as to the legality of the transaction, as specified above), where the transaction would be prohibited if performed by a U.S. person or within the United States.

498. The Compliance Services Guidance states that a U.S. person may solicit information from covered persons and conduct research to make a determination as to the legality of transactions under U.S. sanctions laws. What are examples of research that would be allowable under the Compliance Services Guidance?

U.S. persons may conduct research using the internet, including searches of commercial databases, as well as published reference materials for the purpose of determining the legality of transactions under U.S. sanctions laws. In addition, U.S. persons may solicit information regarding a transaction from covered persons, such as, for example, the currency involved; any involvement of U.S. persons, directly or indirectly; and the identity of the covered person’s counterparty.

499. What type of research exceeds the scope of the Compliance Services Guidance?

A U.S. person may not conduct research that otherwise involves the importation or exportation of services where such transactions are prohibited by any part of 31 C.F.R. chapter V, unless such transactions are authorized by OFAC.