Transferring Your Iranian Inheritance to the United States

By Caitlin Steinke and Tina Monshipour Foster, Law Firm of Tina Foster

June 22, 2016

While the US government has lifted its secondary sanctions on Iran, the majority of primary sanctions (those prohibiting transactions between US persons and Iran) remain in place. The continuing sanctions regime is especially problematic for Iranians and Iranian-Americans living in the United States. One of the most common questions we receive from those with family ties to Iran is whether the Iran sanctions permit the transfer of a family inheritance from Iran to the United States.

Do I need special permission from OFAC to bring my inheritance to the United States?

In some situations, you do not need to apply for a license. OFAC has issued a general license to allow for the transfer of personal remittances between Iran and the United States. “Personal remittances” must be non-commercial, and do not include charitable donations. A family inheritance qualifies as a personal remittance, and is thus covered by this general license. However, none of the individuals or banks involved in the transaction can be on OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list, or be members of the Government of Iran. A specific license may be required in many situations, so it is best to consult with an experienced OFAC attorney before transacting with Iran.

Can I transfer my inheritance directly from an Iranian bank to a US bank?

No. The Iran sanctions still prohibit US banks from processing transactions that credit or debit an Iranian bank. Therefore, your inheritance must be transferred through a bank in a third country in order to comply with OFAC regulations. The US government imposes severe civil and criminal penalties for violating the Iran sanctions, so it is advisable to work with an experienced OFAC attorney to ensure that the manner in which you plan to transfer your inheritance to the United States is completely legal.

What if my family inheritance is held in an Iranian bank on the SND list?

The Iran sanctions prohibit the transfer of a family inheritance that involves an Iranian bank blocked by the US government. Therefore, you will first need to apply for a specific license from OFAC to close your account with the blocked bank and transfer your inheritance to another bank.

Can my family and I use hawalas in Iran to assist us with the transfer?

No. Because OFAC regulations prohibit the transfer of personal remittances through businesses and individuals, you cannot use hawalas.

What if I inherited real property in Iran, instead of money?

You cannot sell property in Iran without a specific license from OFAC. It is best practice to hire an experienced OFAC attorney to assist you with applying for an OFAC license that will permit you to sell your inherited property without violating any applicable laws and regulations. It is very important that none of the parties to the transaction are on OFAC’s SDN list, or affiliated with the Government of Iran. Furthermore, if you intend to hire an individual in Iran to assist with the sale of you inherited property, that business relationship must also be approved through the OFAC license.


This article provides only general information, and is not intended as legal advice. Please consult with an attorney for guidance on specific legal matters.