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On June 14, 2023, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) published a Fact Sheet providing a helpful consolidated summary of the various existing exemptions, exceptions, and authorizations relating to the provision of humanitarian assistance that are available under certain US sanctions programs to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Fact Sheet is informational only and does not supersede any legal obligations or create new, or modify existing, exemptions, exceptions, or authorizations. 

Fact Sheet

OFAC has issued similar fact sheets in the past that provide a useful consolidated reference and reminder of the existing humanitarian assistance exemptions, general licenses, specific licensing policies, and FAQs available under the OFAC sanctions programs targeting Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, and Russia that may be relevant to activities in support of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The newly issued Fact Sheet includes references to these past fact sheets and provides guidance specific to each sanctions program.  Parties considering being involved in humanitarian-related activities in comprehensively sanctioned jurisdictions or Russia should review the Fact Sheet in detail to determine whether any exemptions, exceptions, and authorizations could apply, and whether the proposed activities may be permitted under US sanctions. 

Key guidance included in the Fact Sheet is as follows:

  • Organizations are reminded that the prior rule issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency prohibiting the export of certain types of personal protective equipment (“PPE”) is expired, and is no longer in place.
  • There are certain broad exemptions, exceptions, and authorizations that the US Government maintains to allow for the provision of humanitarian assistance and the commercial sale and export of agricultural commodities, food, medicine, and medical devices to sanctioned countries, including PPE.  For example:
    • With respect to Iran, for the purposes of evaluating sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13902, persons in Iran manufacturing certain medicines, medical devices, or products used for certain purposes 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.  Persons conducting or facilitating transactions for the provision, including any sale, of agricultural commodities, food, medicine, or medical devices to Iran will also not be subject to sanctions under Executive Order 13902.   
    • In light of the recent Syrian earthquake, the Fact Sheet also summarizes particular exemptions and authorized transactions related to earthquake relief efforts, and makes a reference to the OFAC guidance document issued in February 2023, titled “Guidance on Authorized Transactions Related to Earthquake Relief Efforts in Syria.” 
  • Parties should remember that separate authorizations may be required from other US Government agencies to export or re-export products to sanctioned jurisdictions, including the US Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security.

Extended General Licenses & Amended FAQs

OFAC extended for one year the following general licenses authorizing certain activities to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic (now all valid through 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time, June 14, 2024) and amended several FAQs to reflect the newly issued general licenses and new expiration dates.  Guidance related to these general licenses is included in the Fact Sheet. 


Paul Amberg is a partner in Baker McKenzie’s Madrid office, where he handles international trade and compliance issues. He advises multinational companies on export controls, trade sanctions, antiboycott rules, customs laws, anticorruption laws, and commercial law matters.


Eunkyung Kim Shin regularly advises multi-national companies on complex international trade, regulatory compliance, and customs and import law related matters. She also counsels on cross-border compliance and commercial issues.


Andrea Tovar regularly advises multinational companies on cross-border commercial transactions and complex privacy and international trade matters. Andrea is also a member of the Firm’s Technology, Media & Telecoms Global Industry Group and Co-Chairs the North America Baker Unidos Affinity Group.

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