Export Control

Guidance Regarding Access to Online Courses and Research Outside the U.S.

For faculty and students who are outside the United States (perhaps due to reasons related to COVID-19), there may be U.S. Government restrictions on enrolling in online courses or conducting research.

U.S. sanctions place restrictions on individuals from sanctioned countries (and persons who are physically in sanctioned countries regardless of their nationality). (Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and the Crimea region of Ukraine). For example:

  • Graduate students from sanctioned countries who are outside the U.S. cannot take online courses without a license.
  • Undergraduate students from sanctioned countries who are outside the U.S. generally cannot take online courses in STEM fields without a license.
  • Graduate students from sanctioned countries who are not in the U.S. cannot conduct research or perform services for persons in the United States without a license from the US government. (this includes GRA and GTA work and related support).

For example, if an existing graduate student went home to Iran or went to another country, or if an incoming Fall student from Iran is not physically present in the U.S., but instead is in Iran or some country other than the U.S., then they cannot enroll in Mason’s online classes or conduct research unless we receive a license from the U.S. Government.

What Solutions are Available?

Our office can apply for licenses from the U.S. Government to permit students to take courses or to permit students or faculty to conduct research while abroad, but time is very short for this solution in the near term. It is now unlikely that we will receive licenses in time for the Fall 2020 semester. With this in mind, you and your student may wish to consider deferring student attendance until Spring 2021 (or later).

If your student can be physically present in the U.S. in Spring 2021, they will be able to take Mason’s online courses and conduct fundamental research without a license. However, if the student cannot be physically present in the U.S. in Spring 2021, we will need to apply for a license from the U.S. federal government that would authorize any coursework or research they might conduct while abroad, and we should do that as soon as possible.

In short, if you believe you or one of your students may need a license, please contact as soon as possible, so that we can begin the process. In addition, if your preferred solution involves paying a student to perform GTA, GRA, or other services while abroad, there are international tax implications that add significant additional expenses that should be considered by all relevant parties. Please contact Mason’s International Tax Office for more information about this issue. (

Please contact us at if you have any questions about these federal requirements.

Last updated 7/13/2020