What It Really Means to be ITAR Compliant: Why you should stop saying you are ITAR certified

Have you ever received a letter from your biggest customer telling you that they cannot send any more purchase orders until you are “ITAR Certified”? The terms get confusing, as the wording may have also said, “ITAR Registered” or “ITAR Compliant.” Let’s sort through the issues to find out what they are really asking for and determine what generated that request in the first place.

The “Certification” Myth:

Many have heard the term “certified” in relation to ITAR. In reality, there is no such thing as being ITAR certified. There is only a regulatory requirement to be registered and a company’s obligation to be compliant. The confusion comes when you receive a letter from your customer asking you to “certify” that your business is ITAR compliant. What they are really asking is, “Are you registered for ITAR and do you have an established compliance program with all required controls in place?”

The Need to Register:

The way the regulation reads in Part 122 of the Code of Federal Regulations,(Title 22, Chapter 1, Subsection M), any company engaged in ITAR activity, even on a small scale, has a regulatory obligation to register with the Department of State.

The registration process is detailed by the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls, with the main items required for registration being:

  1. Payment of applicable registration fees
  2. A completed, but unsigned, DS-2032 Statement of Registration form
  3. Supporting documentation
  4. Completed, and signed, DS-2032 form

The registration process is primarily an application process to be placed on a list of companies engaged in ITAR activity. It does not in any way signify a company is compliant. As company registration is a base requirement for compliance, your customers are verifying in their request that you have met this initial obligation.  Complete registration instructions and guidelines can be found here, courtesy of the Department of State.


The second area a company, such as your customer, needs to verify is that your company has an established compliance program. The requesting company is applying due diligence to their supply chain ensuring that when they are distributing ITAR products or  technical data, they have not turned a blind eye to the security gaps which may, or may not exist, within their supply chain. The company is enforcing its own requirements for compliance at every stage of their operations.

The compliance the supplier wants you to “certify” is that your company has the basic internal controls to secure ITAR products and all the technical data associated with those products, such as specification sheet prints, operating instructions, etc. A good compliance program has some widely accepted key components:

  1. Management Commitment
  2. Ongoing Risk Assessments
  3. Defined Roles & Responsibilities
  4. Written Policies & Procedures
  5. Established Recordkeeping
  6. Ongoing Training
  7. Periodic Reviews & Audits

It is advisable to be prepared for the inevitable requests which will come from your ITAR customers to “certify” you are ITAR registered and compliant. However, avoid going around telling people you are ITAR Certified (that’s not a thing).

To learn more about registering with the Department of State and to gain knowledge or increase your expertise in the areas of International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR) attend Van Andel Global Trade Center’s program Training in Export controls: International Traffic in Arms Regulations & Export Administration Regulations. This informative training is underwritten by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and generously sponsored by Miller Canfield.

Topics covered during this program include:

International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR)

  • ITAR’s Regulatory Framework
  • ITAR Registration Process
  • U.S. Munitions List (USML)
  • Licenses & Agreements
  • Exemptions
  • Establishing Compliance Programs and Best Practices
  • Technology Control Plans

Export Administration Regulations (EAR)

  • EAR’s Regulatory Framework
  • Commerce Control List (CCL)
  • Export Control Classification Number (ECCN)
  • Export Control Reform Initiative
  • Reform Initiative Update
  • Transfers from the USML to the CCL

ITAR & EAR Regulatory Changes Update
ITAR & EAR Exemptions

Article originally published on November 2, 2015


Mark Bleckley is Van Andel Global Trade Center’s Associate Director. He is a licensed customs broker and has been involved in global trade for over 25 years. He has managed all aspects of import and export operations, including transportation and logistics, customs clearance, export documentation, record-keeping, compliance and management of Harmonized Tariff Schedule and country of origin, as well as, analyzing free trade agreements for maximum benefit.


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