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Process Design Kit (PDK) Guidance

The purpose of this webpage is to quickly provide the information UCSD faculty, staff, researchers and students need to know to comply with U.S. Export Controls covering Process Design Kits (PDK) and Electronic Design Automation (EDA) Software.

What is a PDK?

A PDK is a set of files used within the semiconductor industry to model a fabrication process for the design tools used to design an integrated circuit.  PDK’s are often specific to a foundry, and may be subject to a non-disclosure agreement.  While most PDK’s are proprietary to a foundry, certain PDKs are opensource and entirely within the public domain.

What are the ECCNs of PDKs?

PDKs are enumerated in the Export Administrations Regulations (EAR) under Export Control Classification Number (ECCN) 3E001 or 3E991 while other PDK’s are classified EAR99.  EDA software is EAR99.

When does a PDK require a license for release to a foreign national?

Non-public, proprietary PDK’s classified as either 3E001 or 3E991 may require a deemed-export license prior to the release of PDK technology to a foreign national. EAR99 PDKs released within the U.S. generally do not require a license. In most cases, operation or use of EDA software will result in a licensable release if the software uses a PDK with one of the following ECCNs.

  • 3E001 – Licensable to foreign nationals from all countries (excluding Canada)
  • 3E991 – Licensable to nationals of Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Syria, North Korea, Crimea


The PDK is 3E991 but my student is a citizen of China. Is a license required for use of a PDK using EDA software? 

No. Proprietary 3E991 PDK’s only require a license for release to nationals of Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Syria and North Korea.

The PDK is 3E991 and my Post Doc is was born in Iran. Does my Post Doc need a license?

Yes, release of a 3E991 PDK to a foreign person requires a license. Note that a U.S. Permanent Resident (green card holder), refugee and asylee are not defined as foreign persons.

What is a deemed-export License?

A Deemed Export License is a U.S. Government license adjudicated by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, to release controlled technology to a foreign person within the U.S. 

What documentation is required for a deemed-export license?

  • Resume/CV (including U.S. and foreign address)
  • Passport and Visa documents
  • Work permit (as applicable)
  • PDK and ECCN
  • Value of the license
  • Letter of Explanation identifying the foreign national, PDK, manner of release, and description of the activity. (Provided by the PI)
  • Technology Control Plan (implemented by Export Control Office)

If a student needs a deemed-export license to access a PDK, the student needs to fill out, sign and return this consent form to so the Export Control Office can provide their personal information required for the license application to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Who processes a deemed-export license application?

The Export Control Office collects necessary documentation and prepares deemed-export license applications and required documentation on behalf of UCSD.

How long does it take to obtain a license?

There is no specific timeframe; however, generally license approval routinely takes anywhere between one to three months for approval after submission. Plan accordingly.  A PDK requiring a deemed-export license cannot be released or made accessible to a foreign person until the license is issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce.   There is no guarantee a license will be approved.

Doesn’t the Fundamental Research Exclusion exempt the need for a deemed export license?

The Fundamental Research Exclusion (FRE) applies to the results of research, not to research performance. Release of controlled technology subject to a non-disclosure agreement, even on an activity otherwise qualifying under FRE, still requires a deemed-export license.  This includes thesis, dissertation and other coursework assignments.

What is the ECCN of my PDK?

The following link is to a spreadsheet containing the ECCNs for the various PDKs at UC San Diego.

PDK Export Control Classification Numbers (ECCN)


For more information, email Export Control or call (858) 246-3300.