International Trade 101: Classification and ECCNs

An Export Control Classification Number (ECCN) is a five-character alphanumeric code that is used to identify items on the Commerce Control List (CCL). The CCL is a list of goods, technology, and software that are subject to export controls under the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). Understanding the EAR begins with applying these terms correctly.


The ECCN is assigned to each item on the CCL based on its nature and potential end use. The first character of the ECCN corresponds to the category of the item on the CCL, and the remaining four characters provide more specific information about the item. For example, an item with an ECCN of “1A004” would be in Category 1 (Materials, Chemicals, “Microorganisms,” and Toxins) and would have specific characteristics that make it controlled within that category.

The ECCN is important for exporters because it determines the level of controls that apply to the export of an item. The EAR divides the CCL into ten categories, and each category has its own set of controls and licensing requirements. The ECCN is used to determine which category an item belongs to and whether a license is required for its export.

Exporters are responsible for determining the ECCN of their products and ensuring that they are in compliance with the relevant controls and licensing requirements. This may require them to consult the CCL and seek guidance from the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), which administers the EAR. BIS offers an interactive tool to help determine the ECCN.

In addition to the ECCN, exporters may also need to consider other factors when exporting from the US, such as the destination country, the end user, and the intended use of the item. These factors can affect the level of controls that apply to the export and may require the exporter to obtain additional licenses or approvals.

Understanding the EAR:

DSU offers a number of courses that touch on the classification of exports. The most comprehensive is DSU’s TRD-307, Understanding the EAR, a six week online course that introduces exporters to the regulations and licensing requirements.