Often the most direct and quickest way to have the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) respond to your export questions is through the telephone. Indeed, the BIS likes to tout the service as a wonderful benefit to the world.
There are drawbacks, however. If you are calling to the BIS's general counselor desk (agency does not list the contact information of all the various counselors and officials, so the general help desk is sometimes all you have) it can be a complete crap shoot. Some counselor will talk to you only if you identify both yourself and your company completely. The counselor may have only superficial or incorrect knowledge about your issue. Indeed, the information and advice given might be contradicted by the information and advice that another BIS officer may have offered. Worse still, unless you have taped the conversation (which may be illegal), you have no proof of what was said to you. If the export goes wrong or you are accused of violating the law, again, you will have no proof about what was to told to you.
Exporters should use the BIS's help desk, but should not rely on it unconditionally. You must make your own independent confirmation of the state of the law.
By the way, is emailing the BIS or filling out its online contact form any better? Sure. A written response is much better. There is a downside, however. You still need to identify yourself and your company, a condition that can compromise your ability to be frank. Ideally, you should hire a third party, preferably a lawyer, when you need to contact government officials.
Principal and a founding member of GRVR Attorneys.