What are some general licenses for the Iran sanctions program?
Interviewee: One general license is for inheritances. People are allowed to inherit money or property from relatives in Iran and then transfer those inherited properties or funds to the United States. Some other general licenses are for the exportation of food and agricultural goods, certain medicines, and certain basic medical devices. Those are commonly referred to as TSRA licenses and they authorize those transactions to relieve some of the medical and food shortage problems in Iran. The United States did not design these sanctions to punish average Iranian people. They were designed to punish the Iranian government, so there are exceptions for food, medicine, and medical devices. It is still important to consult with an attorney because not all medicine and medical devices are subject to the general license. Some medical devices that use more sensitive technologies, such as MRI machines, require a specific license, but OFAC tends to have a positive licensing policy for such goods. The person would just have to file an application with OFAC in order to do that. Other general licenses relate to people who work for the United Nations and other international organizations. There is a general license for certain academic exchanges and the exportation or importation of certain educational services. There are a handful of general licenses and an attorney who knows where to look and the policies behind those general licenses will be able to guide a client down the appropriate avenue when wanting to undertake a transaction with Iran.
One important general license authorizes the exportation of certain computers, cell phones, and other devices and technologies to Iran. This broad authorization was granted in an effort to support the ability of the Iranian people to communicate amongst themselves and with the outside world.
Can charities contribute money for humanitarian aid to people or entities in Iran?
Interviewee: Yes. There is a general license for supporting non-governmental organizations (NGOs), but a person would have to make sure that they are fully compliant with all of the restrictions and limitations of the general license. People are allowed to support organizations in Iran that meet basic human needs, which could include offering health-related services, orphanages, relief services related to natural disasters, and distribution of donated items such as food, clothing, and medicine to relieve human suffering. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that there is a limit on how much money can be sent to any particular NGO in Iran. There is a $500,000 aggregate limit over a twelve-month period of time, so the person needs to remain cognizant of the amount that is being sent and the types of goods that are being sent. There might be computers or medical devices that would relieve human suffering but this general license would not apply to that, so they have to make sure that they fall within the specific parameters of the general license before acting on it.
Are there consequences for donating to a charity that is involved with Iran?
Interviewee: Unfortunately, there is a lot of risk associated with making donations to charities that support various programs in Iran. I have worked on several cases in which the donations were being re-routed to other uses. In those circumstances, the U.S. government can hold a person liable and prosecute a case for tax evasion or money laundering. There are a lot of consequences for donating to Iranian charities or charities that focus on Iran and people need to be cognizant of those consequences. First, they should only send funds to programs that they are familiar with. Second, the organization should be as transparent as possible in its programs and expenditures. And third, the organization should have a good reputation for following the law because the organization can later be investigated by federal authorities, which could lead to its donors being investigated.