Export licensing system aims to make paper a thing of the past

Export licensing system aims to make paper a thing of the past

By Richard W. Walker

GCN Staff

The Commerce Department's Bureau of Export Administration has made it a snap for U.S. businesses to apply for export licenses on the Web.

The Simplified Network Application Process is the bureau's digital alternative to paper export-license submissions.

SNAP, which was fully rolled out about a year ago, has attracted more than 1,800 users representing about 900 companies that export goods abroad, SNAP project manager George Ipoch said.

Exporters have filed about 8,000 export-license applications online since the system went live, he said. SNAP has performed so effectively that online filings already exceed paper applications by a ratio of about 60 percent to 40 percent, Ipoch said.

'We're working toward getting that paper number even lower by doing a lot of outreach, seminars and so on,' he said. 'It's a process that's a lot easier for the exporter and for the bureau as well,' he said.

Exporters need only a Secure Sockets Layer-enabled Web browser with 128-bit encryption to submit applications on the site.

But before they can use SNAP, exporters must obtain an applicant identification number and a personal identification number.

Getting an ID number and PIN is one aspect of SNAP that is still paper-based. The procedure can be done only by mail because the bureau requires users to provide company letterhead and original signatures with their PIN request.

When exporters apply for a license, they receive an application control number to track the status of their application, which they do using an automated telephone system, rather than going to the SNAP site.

Tracking's the same

'That really hasn't changed,' Ipoch said. 'It's still the same tracking process regardless of whether the application is electronic or paper.'

Once a license application is submitted, it takes about 20 days to process, or up to 40 days if it has to be approved by other agencies, such as the State or Defense departments.

In the early planning stages, security was the biggest concern, Ipoch said. To secure information that exporters submitted online, managers opted to use SSL encryption.

In design phase, bureau project managers provided the basic architecture for SNAP and the system was built by OCR Services Inc. of Gaithersburg, Md., using Enterprise Server from Netscape Communications Corp.

Bureau officials began piloting the system to a group of exporters in February last year so the system already had about 300 users when it was formally announced last July.

Faster online

The chief benefit of SNAP is that it is an alternative to time-consuming, paper-laden process, Ipoch said.

'Using SNAP, the exporter can fill out a form at their own PC, submit to BXA and know it's going to be on a license officer's desk within several hours,' Ipoch said. 'If you compare that to the paper process, the exporter has to fill out the entire form on a typewriter and mail it to BXA, where it has to be scanned and verified.'

Commerce Secretary William Daley has high expectations for SNAP. 'Our goal is very clear'go entirely paperless, have 100 percent of licenses filed online,' he said.

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