Frequently Asked Questions
Cross-Programmatic 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On December 9, 2022, the United Nations (UN) Security Council adopted UNSCR 2664, which establishes a humanitarian carveout to the asset freeze measure across United Nations sanctions regimes. The carveout enables the flow of legitimate humanitarian assistance and activities supporting the basic human needs of vulnerable populations while continuing to deny resources to malicious actors. On December 20, 2022, OFAC announced the issuance or amendment of four categories of general licenses (GLs) that support the conduct of U.S. government and humanitarian-related activities across a number of sanctions programs, including in OFAC sanctions programs that implement UN sanctions regimes.
Specifically, across a number of sanctions programs, OFAC issued or amended four categories of GLs authorizing the following activities:
- the official business of the U.S. government;
- the official business of certain international organizations and entities;
- transactions incident to certain humanitarian and other activities by nongovernmental organizations; and
- the provision of food and other agricultural commodities, medicine, medical devices, replacement parts and components, or software updates for medical devices for personal, non-commercial use.
For more information on the sanctions programs covered by these new or amended GLs, please see the Federal Register here and here. For information on specific exemptions or authorizations under a particular OFAC sanctions program, please see the relevant OFAC implementing regulations and OFAC’s Sanctions Programs and Country Information page.
For humanitarian-related activity that may fall outside the scope of these authorizations, OFAC considers specific license requests on a case-by-case basis and prioritizes license applications and other requests for guidance that are related to humanitarian activity. Please see OFAC’s License Application Page for additional details regarding the specific licensing process.
If individuals, nongovernmental organizations, international organizations, or other entities, including financial institutions, have questions about engaging in or processing transactions related to these authorizations, they may contact the OFAC Compliance Hotline by email OFAC_Feedback@treasury.gov or by phone at (800) 540-6322 or (202) 622-2490. As with specific license requests, OFAC prioritizes responding to questions related to humanitarian activity.
U.S. financial institutions may operate accounts, including processing funds transfers, for persons engaging in activities authorized by the GLs related to: (i) the official business of the U.S. government, (ii) official business of certain international organizations and entities, (iii) certain humanitarian and other specified activities by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and (iv) the provision of agricultural commodities, medicine, medical devices, replacement parts and components, or software updates for medical devices for personal, non-commercial use. In assessing whether a particular transaction is in compliance with such GLs, financial institutions may reasonably rely upon the information available to them in the ordinary course of business, provided that the financial institution does not know or have reason to know that the transaction is outside the scope of the applicable GL.
Separately, non-U.S. persons, including NGOs and other entities, as well as foreign financial institutions facilitating or assisting these activities, do not risk exposure to U.S. sanctions for engaging in or facilitating transactions that are otherwise exempt or authorized for U.S. persons pursuant to these GLs.
For general information on OFAC’s due diligence expectations and compliance programs, please see A Framework for OFAC Compliance Commitments and FAQ 819.
If financial institutions have questions about engaging in or processing transactions related to these authorizations, they may contact the OFAC Compliance Hotline by email at OFAC_Feedback@treasury.gov or by phone at (800) 540-6322 or (202) 622-2490. OFAC prioritizes responding to questions related to humanitarian activity.
For an organizational chart of the United Nations (UN), which lists the UN Programmes, Funds, and Other Entities and Bodies, as well as its Specialized Agencies and Related Organizations, including the World Bank, please see this page on the UN website. The IO GLs also authorize the activities of the fund entities administered or established by the foregoing UN organizations, as well as the activities of the international organizations and entities themselves, in addition to the activities of their employees, contractors, and grantees.
No. OFAC’s action of December 20, 2022 does not restrict the scope of any existing exemptions or OFAC authorizations for humanitarian activities, including existing general licenses authorizing certain NGO activities in sanctioned jurisdictions such as the Crimea Region of Ukraine, Iran, and Syria, which have not been amended by this action, and pre-existing web general licenses that have been incorporated into the relevant program regulations, such as Venezuela GL 20B. Persons conducting humanitarian activities pursuant to these programs may continue to rely on existing exemptions and OFAC authorizations, subject to the applicable conditions and limitations, which may differ by sanctions program.
For information on specific exemptions or authorizations under a particular OFAC sanctions program, please see the relevant OFAC implementing regulations and OFAC’s Sanctions Programs and Country Information page.