Applying for a Specific License with OFAC

A specific license application needs to be filed when a client wants to engage in a specific transaction involving sanctions that are not otherwise authorized pursuant to an exemption or general license.

In some situations, people need to close bank accounts that they have in sanctioned countries or wind down economic activities involving a sanctioned target. Another common transaction is the sale of a business or stocks, or other investments that people might have acquired either lawfully or unlawfully involving sanctions. Since the country is now under sanctions, they need to ask for permission from OFAC to dispose of these assets or otherwise engage in those kinds of transactions. To learn more or discuss your situation in more detail, contact an OFAC lawyer today.

Process of Filing a Specific License

Unlike a court case, when filing for a specific license there is no hearing. It is an application process that is filed either online or via mail through a letter to OFAC.

The process is substantially similar to preparing a request for interpretive guidance, where someone gathers the information regarding the proposed transaction first. Next, they draft a license application, which is usually done in letter form, and then they submit that application to OFAC and wait for OFAC to respond

The first steps include gathering the information necessary, including the identities of all the parties involved. They would need to identify the transaction, what is being sold or acquired, and everybody involved in the transaction from top to bottom. This also includes any customers and middlemen who will have an interest in the transaction. Providing all of that information in a license application will hopefully improve the likelihood that OFAC will provide a ruling on their application.

Burden of Proof

There is no explicit burden of proof, but it is important to include detailed, accurate, and verifiable information to OFAC so that the agency can make an informed decision regarding their application.

Evidence and Documentation

It all depends on the particularities of someone’s case. As such, there is no specific evidence or documentation that is required. Depending on the transaction they want to engage in, they should have supporting documentation that substantiates and supports what someone wants to do and why they want to do it.

Time Frame

Regarding how long it takes to file a specific license application, it is similar to a request for interpretive guidance. For example, if someone’s application covers a more complex transaction, it might take longer to get the information necessary to prepare and analyze a specific license application. Additionally, there will likely be considerable delay once they have filed their license application. At times, OFAC can take 6 to 12 months or longer to rule on a specific license application.

There is no guarantee or exact science to determining how long the entire process might take. But from prior experience, it takes between four and six months for OFAC to rule on simpler transactions. License applications covering more complex transactions can take up to a year or longer for them to process.

Appealing an Unfavorable Ruling

Technically, it is possible to appeal OFAC’s decision regarding a specific license application because it is considered a final agency action. For example, if the agency denies the application, someone can appeal it in federal court or they can revise and refile their license application if they have new information for OFAC to consider. If they proceed with an action in federal court, the chance of success is incredibly low because the courts afford OFAC with extreme deference regarding its decisions. As such, it is usually best practice to present their best arguments to OFAC directly in the application and to cooperate with the agency as it makes its decision.

Appeals can be filed in US District Court in DC or in any other US District Court where venue is proper.

Dealing With a Lack of a Response from OFAC

If OFAC has failed to respond to someone’s application, they can call OFAC and speak with an information specialist who can inform them of the status of their application. The specialist may also put them in contact with the licensing officer assigned to their application. It is important to remember that OFAC can be busy. The agency deals with a lot of important national security and foreign policy matters, and their specific application may not be addressed right away.

Benefit of an Attorney

You do not need an OFAC sanctions attorney to file this request, however, for several reasons it is helpful to have someone with knowledge of OFAC sanctions filing the request.

Someone with experience in OFAC sanctions can analyze the policy implications of a requested transaction. It is helpful to be able to identify for OFAC why the specific transaction you want to undertake is consistent with US policy and does not harm US policy. Doing this will hopefully improve the chances of having your license granted. Contact an OFAC lawyer today to discuss your case further.