Foreign Government Requests


Receipt of Requests

Any country that is party to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (PDF), may submit a request to the U.S. seeking import restrictions on archaeological or ethnological materials. The request should provide information relating to the statutory criteria in Section 303 of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (the "Act"). Such requests are conveyed through diplomatic channels to the U.S. Department of State, where they are received on behalf of the President of the United States.

Review of Requests

The Department transmits information about such a request to the Cultural Property Advisory Committee. The Committee reviews this information as it relates to the four criteria – known as determinations – set forth in the Act. These determinations are:

  1. The cultural patrimony of the State Party is in jeopardy from pillage of its archaeological or ethnological materials;
  2. the State party has taken measures consistent with the 1970 UNESCO Convention to protect its cultural patrimony;
  3. application of import restrictions in the context of a concerted international effort, to archaeological or ethnological material of the State Party would be of substantial benefit in deterring a serious situation of pillage, and less drastic remedies are not available; and
  4. application of import restrictions in the particular circumstances is consistent with the general interest of the international community in the interchange of cultural property among nations for scientific and educational purposes.

The Department may invite written comments from outside interested parties, and may hold open sessions of Committee meetings to receive additional comments. The Committee submits to the Department a report of its findings and recommendations regarding entering into an agreement that allows the imposition of import restrictions.


The Department considers the Committee's findings and recommendations before making a final determination. If a decision is made to enter into an agreement with the requesting government, negotiations ensue until an agreement is concluded. It is possible that the Department of State may act on a recommendation to impose an interim emergency restriction.

Import Restrictions

After an agreement is entered into, the Department of the Treasury promulgates the import restriction by posting a notice in the Federal Register that includes a detailed description of the categories of objects to be subject to restriction, known as a Designated List. This List is developed in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State. The importation of objects from categories described on the List is allowed by DHS if the objects are accompanied by export permits issued by the country of origin, or by documentation that demonstrates they left the country of origin prior to the date on which the import restriction went into effect.

Ongoing Review and Proposals to Extend Agreements

The Department convenes meetings of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee to review the effectiveness of agreements. If the Department of State proposes to extend an existing agreement, the Committee is convened to consider such proposals and makes findings and recommendations relevant to determinations in Section 303 of the Act.

Effective Period of Agreements and Emergency Actions

The effective term for an import restriction under an Agreement is 5 years, unless extended. The effective period for an emergency restriction is also 5 years, with the possibility of a single three-year extension. (See the Chart of Import Restrictions (PDF) for links to and further information on all current and expired restrictions.)