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Humanitarian Assistance Fact Sheet: Iran


The Iran sanctions program is focused on denying the Iranian regime the funding it needs to continue its ongoing violent and destabilizing activities around the world. To ensure that

humanitarian goods can reach the people of Iran, while maintaining pressure on the Iranian regime, the United States maintains broad exemptions, exceptions, and authorizations that allow for the provision of humanitarian assistance and the commercial sale and export of agricultural commodities, food, medicine, and medical devices, to Iran from the United States or by U.S. persons or U.S.-owned or -controlled foreign entities. For COVID-19 related support, Treasury continues to stress that U.S. and non-U.S. persons may provide such humanitarian goods — including medicine and medical devices — to Iran under existing exemptions, exceptions, and authorizations in U.S. sanctions laws and regulations. For example, most medicine and medical devices, including certain personal protective equipment and other items used for COVID-19- related treatment such as medical gowns, medical eyeshields and goggles, surgical gloves, face shields, certain respirators and masks such as N95, N99, and N100 masks, and certain ventilators, already qualify for export and reexport to Iran under general licenses, without the need for further authorization from OFAC. There are certain limited categories of items that may also be helpful for COVID-19-related assistance (e.g., oxygen generators, full face mask respirators including Powered Air Purifying Respirators, certain diagnostic medical imaging equipment, and certain decontamination equipment), for which OFAC’s regulations set forth a specific licensing policy for review of license applications on a case-by-case basis due to concerns about potential end use of these specific items. OFAC is prioritizing and expediting review of these license requests.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): The following OFAC FAQs provide information on the provision of humanitarian assistance to and trade of humanitarian goods with Iran.

• FAQs 97, 98, 100, and 101 – Explanation of Licensing Procedures for the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (TSRA) Program

• FAQs 482, 483, and 484 – General Licenses for the Exportation or Reexportation of Agricultural Commodities, Medicine, and Medical Devices to Iran

• FAQ 549 – Guidance Related to Humanitarian Assistance with Regard to the November 12, 2019 Earthquake in Iran

• FAQ 637 – Guidance Related to Non-U.S. Persons Engaging in Transactions Related to the Provision of Humanitarian and Consumer Goods to Iran

• FAQs 821, 822, and 823 – Guidance Related to Humanitarian-Related Transactions and Activities involving the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) Authorized by General License 8

• FAQs 824 and 825 – Guidance Related to the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement with Iran

• FAQ 826 – Guidance Related to Additional Options for Exporting Humanitarian Goods to Iran

• FAQ 828 – Guidance Related to Humanitarian Assistance with Regard to the COVID-19 outbreak in Iran

General Licenses (GLs), Specific Licensing, and Exemptions: The following are GLs, specific licensing policies, and exemptions implemented by OFAC related to humanitarian assistance and trade with Iran.

• § 560.210 of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR) exempts from export sanctions donations of food and medicine to the Iranian people intended to be used to ease human suffering.


• General License E, issued pursuant to the ITSR, authorizes non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to export or reexport services to or related to Iran in support of certain not-for-profit activities designed to directly benefit the Iranian people, including:

o Humanitarian projects that meet basic human needs; o Non-commercial development projects;

o Environmental and wildlife conversation projects; and o Human rights and democracy-building.

o The transfer of funds by a single NGO may not exceed USD$500,000 over a 12- month period.

• § 560.530 of the ITSR includes GLs authorizing, with certain exceptions and limitations, the exportation or reexportation of certain food, agricultural commodities, medicine, and medical devices to Iran, and the provision of certain related software and services; this section also sets forth a specific licensing policy for exports of such items not authorized by the GLs. § 560.532 of the ITSR authorizes payment and financing terms related to exports and reexports to Iran authorized pursuant to § 560.530, and § 560.533 authorizes the brokering of sales for these types of items.

• § 560.539 of the ITSR authorizes all transactions otherwise prohibited by the ITSR that are for the official business of the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the International Labor Organization, or the World Health Organization by employees, contractors, or grantees thereof.

• General License 8, issued pursuant to the Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations (GTSR) and the ITSR, authorizes certain humanitarian-related transactions and activities involving the CBI prohibited by the GTSR or by the ITSR as a result of the CBI’s designation under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, as amended by E.O. 13886, that otherwise would have been authorized under the ITSR prior to the CBI’s designation. Please note that GL 8 does not authorize humanitarian-related transactions involving Iranian financial institutions designated under E.O. 13224, as amended, other than the CBI.

• §560.545 of the ITSR describes a specific licensing policy to authorize non- governmental organizations and other entities to engage in certain projects or activities in or related to Iran that are designed to directly benefit the Iranian people.

• §560.550 of the ITSR authorizes certain noncommercial, personal remittances to or from Iran that are processed by U.S. depository institutions or U.S. registered brokers or dealers in securities or that are carried to Iran.

• Specific Licensing: For transactions not otherwise exempt from sanctions, authorized by GLs, or covered by a specific licensing policy, OFAC considers license requests on a case-by-case basis and prioritizes applications, compliance questions, and other requests related to humanitarian support for the people of Iran.

Advisories or Other Guidance: The following are advisories or other guidance issued by OFAC related to humanitarian assistance and trade with Iran.

• “Guidance on the Sale of Food, Agricultural Commodities, Medicine, and Medical Devices by Non-U.S. Persons to Iran” (July 2013)

• “Clarifying Guidance on Humanitarian Assistance and Related Exports to the Iranian People” (February 2013)


Additional Items: Below is additional information that could be valuable to those seeking to provide humanitarian assistance or conduct humanitarian trade with Iran.

• E.O. 13902 – For the purposes of evaluating sanctions pursuant to E.O. 13902, persons in Iran manufacturing medicines, medical devices, or products used for sanitation, hygiene, medical care, medical safety, and manufacturing safety, including soap, hand sanitizer, ventilators, respirators, personal hygiene products, diapers, infant and childcare items, personal protective equipment, and manufacturing safety systems, for use in Iran and not for export from Iran, will not be considered to be operating in the manufacturing sector of the Iranian economy. Note that persons conducting or facilitating transactions for the provision, including any sale, of agricultural commodities, food, medicine, or medical devices to Iran will not be subject to sanctions under E.O. 13902.

• Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (SHTA) – The SHTA is the first operational channel to be established under this humanitarian framework, in partnership with the Swiss government. Initial pilot transactions were successfully conducted in late January 2020, and the SHTA was formally established on February 27, 2020. Under the SHTA, participating financial institutions commit to conducting enhanced due diligence to ensure that humanitarian goods reach the people of Iran and related financial transactions are not misused by the Iranian regime. See OFAC FAQs 824, 825, and 826 for more information.

Categories: Guidance Humanitarian Aid Iranian Sanctions Licenses OFAC Updates


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