Five Unexpected Items Subject To Export Licenses

Fun Fact

Military equipment is inevitably subject to export restrictions, as one would expect. The same principle applies to aerospace and defense items in general—preventing hostile entities from acquiring weapons, engines, and similar technology is a logical concern. However, a range of restricted items might not immediately come to mind as export-restricted.

Here’s a brief overview of some of the most unexpectedly regulated items.

Sony PlayStation

The PlayStation 2 console had export control issues because its powerful processor chip was manufactured in the United States, making it a controlled technology. Shipping the PS2 to China without an export license was ruled illegal by the U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) in 1999.

Freight forwarders in Miami were arrested in 2010 for violating export laws by shipping PlayStation 3 consoles to Paraguay, a country on a Restricted Parties List. Some PlayStation software documentation includes agreements not to export or re-export it to embargoed persons or places.

Life Jackets

According to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), life jackets are considered potentially dangerous objects. They are categorized as “dual-use goods” because they have civilian and military applications. Exporting life jackets outside the United States without an export license is illegal due to potential risks to U.S. foreign policy interests.

Western Red Cedar

Timber from the western red cedar tree is highly sought after for various uses, including construction, sailboats, and musical instruments. However, exporting western red cedar wood harvested from federal or state lands is illegal under U.S. export law. There are exceptions for wood from Alaska or lands held in trust for recognized Indigenous groups.

Paraffin Wax

Paraffin wax is used in everyday products like candles, crayons, and chewing gum. It is considered a petroleum product and is subject to export restrictions. Paraffin wax is also used to formulate rocket fuel, explosives, and weaponry, making it highly restricted for export to prevent its use in harmful applications.


Exporting a horse from the United States to any destination, including Canada, requires an export license. More specifically, an export license is needed for transporting horses by sea. Per the regulations, license applications will receive approval if the BIS (Bureau of Industry and Security) and the Department of Agriculture ascertain that the horses are not destined for slaughter.

The regulations do not elaborate on why sea travel requires a license, and there is some humorous speculation about possible reasons. Maybe pirates? Or a bizarre typo—perhaps the regulation was meant to restrict the export of seahorses?

In any case, before you put your horse on a boat, make sure you get a license.

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