Frequently Asked Questions
Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) and the SDN List
As part of its enforcement efforts, OFAC publishes a list of individuals and companies owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of, targeted countries. It also lists individuals, groups, and entities, such as terrorists and narcotics traffickers designated under programs that are not country-specific. Collectively, such individuals and companies are called "Specially Designated Nationals" or "SDNs." Their assets are blocked and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.
The best way to get the SDN list is from OFAC's website. The list is disseminated in a number of different formats, including XML and fixed field/delimited files that can be integrated into databases.
The SDN list is frequently updated. There is no predetermined timetable, but rather names are added or removed as necessary and appropriate.
All changes for the current calendar year are cumulatively available in a .PDF file and in a text version. The entire list may also be browsed using OFAC's Sanctions List Search Tool. Cumulative changes for prior years back to 1994 are also available in ASCII format by following this link. The same link will take you to a *.PDF version of the file for calendar years back to 2001.
If you have checked a name manually or by using software and find a match, you should do a little more research. Is it an exact name match, or very close? Is your customer located in the same general area as the SDN or another entry on one of OFAC's sanctions lists? If not, it may be a "false hit." If there are many similarities, contact OFAC's "hotline" at 1-800-540-6322 for verification. If your "hit" concerns an in-process wire transfer, you may prefer to e-mail your question to OFAC. Unless a transaction involves an exact match, it is recommended that you contact OFAC Compliance before actually blocking assets.
SDNs are individuals and entities located throughout the world that are blocked pursuant to the various sanctions programs administered by OFAC. SDNs can be front companies, parastatal entities, or individuals determined to be owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of, targeted countries or groups. They also can be specially identified individuals such as terrorists or narcotics traffickers. U.S. persons are prohibited from engaging in any transactions with SDNs and must block any property in their possession or under their control in which an SDN has an interest. SDNs are designated primarily under the statutory authority of the Trading With the Enemy Act, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. OFAC also administers several other sanctions lists including the Foreign Sanctions Evaders (FSE) List and the Sectoral Sanctions Identifications (SSI) List. U.S. persons are not required to block the property of individuals and entities on these FSE and SSI lists (unless the targets are also on the SDN list), but other prohibitions and investment restrictions apply.
The Bureau of Industry and Security ("BIS") of the U.S. Department of Commerce maintains separate lists for the purposes of the programs that it administers (including the Denied Persons List and the Entity List). The Denied Persons List consists of individuals and companies that have been denied export and reexport privileges by BIS. The Entity List consists of foreign end users who pose an unacceptable risk of diverting U.S. exports and the technology they contain to alternate destinations for the development of weapons of mass destruction. Accordingly, U.S. exports to those entities may require a license. Authority for the Denied Persons List and the Entity List can be found in Title 15, Part 764, Supplement No. 2 and Title 15, Part 744, Supplement No.4 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, respectively.
The foreign policy objectives and legal requirements of OFAC's lists are significantly different from those of the BIS lists. The unique goals of the OFAC and BIS programs preclude the creation of a combined OFAC and BIS list.
For historical information about names that have been added to, updated, or removed from OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals List or one of OFAC’s other sanctions lists, please see our Archive of Changes page. Designation, removal, and update information is organized chronologically by list and by year. In addition, all changes to OFAC’s lists are announced on OFAC’s recent actions pages and OFAC maintains all of its recent actions records going back to 2001. Users can now search the entire collection of recent actions notices by using the search field at the top right of the recent actions page.
Consistent with OFAC regulations, persons may seek to be removed from the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List or Other OFAC Sanctions Lists. For information concerning the process for seeking such removal, please refer to OFAC’s Filing a Petition for Removal from an OFAC List webpage, which references the delisting petition procedures set forth at 31 C.F.R. § 501.807. The procedures set forth at 31 C.F.R. § 501.807 are available to any person seeking to be removed from any OFAC list, regardless of whether that person is a “blocked person” within the meaning of that rule.