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Certified Sanctions Specialist “CSS”

Certification Program

The Association of Certified Sanctions Specialists offers an examination that addresses knowledge and skills common to all sanctions professionals in varied employment settings, including financial institutions, international corporations, law firms, consulting companies, government, and other trades and businesses.

The objective of the certification program is to set the standard for the sanctions profession, and to make Certified Sanctions Specialists (CSS) widely recognized as trained and credentialed specialists in the sanctions field. It is a multiple-choice, proctored exam that can be taken in testing centers across the globe.

Why this Certification?

This certification is offered by the only association that is for the sanctions compliance professional. We see sanctions compliance as it truly is – a distinct skill set and knowledge base that is apart from anti-money laundering or financial crime.

The certification exam is universal and does not just focus on one country or one industry. It validates competence and skill across the sanctions spectrum, including policy, due diligence, screening, compliance, investigations into sanctions evasion and more.

Once you become a Certified Sanctions Specialist, you will be seen as an expert in legal and regulatory proceedings regarding sanctions, increasing your credibility and competitive advantage.

As a private organization, having Certified Sanctions Specialists on your team improves your image and reputation, and shows that you are dedicated to having a trained compliance staff.

Benefits of Certification for the certified sanctions specialist


In today’s era of specialization, sanctions experts are required to have a vast array of knowledge. They need to be competent to set conduct compliance and sanctions examinations, establish compliance and sanctions programs and keep current on legislative issues. What fulfills the need to have a personal sense of knowing one’s capabilities? Certification.


Certification will support and enhance career advancement opportunities. Employers know that most certified professionals have personal characteristics and technical skills that are positive attributes to institutions; for example, a high achiever.


The days are over that just anyone can be a sanctions compliance officer. Every financial institution should be hiring a knowledgeable specialist to fill compliance positions. With the CSS credential, the interviewing institution is likely to give more consideration to the certified candidate.

Financial Rewards

Certification should be recognized by various institutions across the globe through financial incentives. Certification will also increase the demand for CSS and enhance the value of the skills and services of the Certified Sanctions Specialist.

Benefits of Certification for the employer


Financial institutions, companies doing business internationally, such as maritime shipping, oil and gas, telecom, etc, attorneys seeking expert witnesses, consultants and investigators should market if they employ certified sanctions specialists. It is a very strong statement to the public, regulators and auditors when a compliance department can state that they have certified specialists.


Specialists who are certified tend to be high achievers, have a higher self-esteem and seek opportunities for professional growth. These are professionals that want to know the latest information in the sanctions field and take pride in the services they deliver; a valuable asset for the institution in which they are employed.

CSS Exam Prep Virtual Classroom

The CSS Exam Prep Virtual Classroom is a live web-based study course, which provides candidates of the Certified Sanctions Specialist (CSS) designation additional guided instruction to help retain and reinforce the key concepts covered in the CSS study guide. The CSS Exam Prep Virtual Classroom will keep you on track towards becoming a Certified Sanctions Specialist.

The CSS Exam Prep Virtual Classroom includes:

• Electronic CSS Study Guide (PDF)
• CSS Virtual Classroom – Exam Prep
• In-depth analysis of the content covered in the CSS Study Guide
• Practice questions to assess understanding of the material and raise test-taking confidence
• 6 easy-to-follow 2-hour virtual classes over a six week period
• NOTE: All classes are recorded and posted within 24 hours, if you cannot attend the live virtual classroom

What Will You Learn?

Turn on the news and you hear about sanctions. They are used in ways never seen. The CSS program defines the body of knowledge underlying sanctions risks, administration, compliance and enforcement.

The exam covers sanctions from an international and cross-sector point of view.

In as little as three months, individuals and teams can gain certification.

You will:

  • Learn sanctions concepts, purpose and definitions
  • Be able to identify sanctions evasion techniques across sectors
  • Understand due diligence and KYC for sanctions compliance purposes
  • Discover key elements of a compliance program
  • Learn IT and other operational practices for sanctions compliance
  • Gain a detailed understanding of risks of non-compliance

Steps to Getting CSS Certified

Step 1: Check eligibility

Candidates wishing to sit for the CSS Examination must:

  • Document a minimum of 40 qualifying credits based on education, other professional certification and professional experience in the field.
  • Submit supporting documents

Click below to download candidate handbook, which provides information on the process to obtain the CSS Certification.

Download Candidate Handbook

Step 2: Select and purchase your CSS exam package

You have two options:

  • The Standard CSS Examination package includes the CSS Study Guide and the CSS Exam.
  • The CSS Examination with Prep Virtual Classroom Package includes the CSS Study Guide, the CSS Exam, and 6 virtual classrooms.

Please click on the link below to get additional information on pricing and schedules.


Step 3: Take CSS Exam Prep Courses (Package 2)

If you purchased the Virtual Classroom Package, you will be scheduled for the next session.

NOTE: These classes provide you with 12 hours of credits towards your eligibility requirements

Step 4: Schedule your Exam

Select exam type (we offer two options):

  • Virtual Proctoring Option. This option allows the tester to take the exam at the home or office.
  • Testing Center Option. We have over 5000 locations available around the world in which our members can register to take the exam.

Find a testing center near you


Who can take the exam?

Individuals who have met the minimum qualifications can sit for the exam. Eligibility requires a minimum scoring based upon a combination of factors. Persons who have not yet met the minimum levels required can take continuing education programs with ACSS or other sources to reach the minimum requirements. (40 credits, see

What topics will be on the exam?

The exam will focus on various aspects of the sanctions subject. A job analysis will determine the content and the importance of each knowledge area for the specialists in the field. The certification exam will be tailored to international best practices and basic frameworks for sanctions efforts around the world.
I. Sanctions Regime Types, Goals, Prohibitions and Effects
II. Sanctions Imposers and Targets
III. Sanctions Evasion: Typologies and Schemes
IV. Essential Components of a Risk-Based Sanctions Compliance Program in Different Industry Settings
V. Role of Technology and List Screening
VI. Other Operational Issues Contributing to an Effective and Efficient Sanctions Compliance Program
VII. Enforcement and Conducting or Supporting Investigations into Sanctions Violations

Who is eligible to take the exam?

ACSS Certification eligibility is based on a points system. Candidates who wish to take the CSS Examination must have a minimum of 40 qualifying credits based on education, other professional certification, and professional experience in the sanctions field, in addition to providing 3 references.

I passed the CSS exam and my company paid for it. When I leave the company, will I keep my credential?
The accreditation and the membership are personal, regardless of if the institution paid for it. So, if a person leaves an institution; the membership and the credentials travel with the person. If the person was part of an enterprise package at the institution level, the institution can replace the person with a new member, without cost, for the remainder of the membership. To keep your CSS membership, the person must renew his/her ACSS membership once it expires to keep the credential.
About the exam

The CSS exam will be the product of collaboration between ACSS, its job Analysis Taskforce, and an independent company with expertise on research, testing, measurement, management and technology. The result will be a psychometrically sound exam that assures the quality and soundness of the ACSS certification program.

How is the exam administered?
Since ACSS members reside worldwide, we use a computerized exam. Exam can be taken in a brick and mortar testing center or using online proctoring. We offer the exam throughout the year. ACSS offers an online exam preparation publication with sample exam questions. Requirements to sit for the exam include the completion of an ACSS exam application and payment of an application fee plus the costs for the testing service at the time of them exam. Please check the CSS candidate handbook for more details.
Which is the CSS credit award system for examination eligibility?

I. Education:
a. Associate Degree: 10 credits
b. Bachelor’s Degree: 20 credits
c. Master’s Degree/PhD/JD or equivalent: 30 credits
II. Professional experience:
a. Each year of full-time experience in sanctions or related duties.
b. Professional experience is limited to 3 years: 10 credits per year.
III. Training:
a. Professional Certification – CPA, CPP, CRCM, CAFP, CFE, CAMS, CGSS, ETCI ECoP, Finra Series, etc: 10 credits per certification.
b. Attendance at a course/seminar/webinar/conference/training/certificate courses or educational session on the topic of sanctions, trade compliance or export controls or related subjects (includes internal training, external training, government agency training) – 1 credit per hour.

For more information, please download the Candidate Handbook.

What are the recertification requirements?

In order to recertify the CSS credential, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Maintain an active CSS membership.
  • Meet the Continuing Education credit requirements.
  • Submit an online application with the appropriate renewal fees.

A total of 60 continuing education credits must be accumulated within a three-year cycle. These can be sanctions or export controls related courses from ACSS, internal training, or other providers.

Applicants will not be granted continuing education credits for activities completed prior to obtaining their CSS credential or their most recent recertification.

Additional credits earned past the required 60 cannot be rolled over to the following cycle.

The deadline for earning continuing education credits is December 15 of the year of your recertification.

Recertification applicants are required to submit both a completed CSS Recertification Application and the associated fees no later than
December 15 of the third year after receiving their initial certification or their most recent recertification.

A late fee of US$50 will be applied to all applicants who miss the December 15 deadline and will be accepted for only 90 days after the deadline.

Applicants do not need to include supporting documentation along with the recertification application; however, they are advised to retain original copies of their supporting documents in their files in the event that ACSS should find it necessary to audit their records.

Early Application Fee $200
Application and fee received by ACSS no later than October 1

Regular Application $250
Application and fee received by ACSS no later than December 15

Late Application $300
Application and fee received by ACSS no later than March 31


Additional questions? Contact ACSS for more information, Please email and we will get back to you soon!


Martijn Feldbrugge

Director at BSCN BV

Martijn Feldbrugge, Director of BSCN BV (Business & Sanctions Consulting Netherlands) studied business administration and has worked for various financial institutions for more than 20 years. With a background in ICT, broad knowledge of the financial industry, strong analytical capabilities and the business administration education, he implemented solutions for complex situations. Since 2005, he setup and executed sanctions and export control compliance functions for two major Dutch financial institutions after they were subject to an enforcement action by US authorities. In 2011 he founded BSCN, which supports financial and non-financial institutions and companies in developing and implementing policies, processes and procedures related to compliance, sanctions and export controls. He is valued by the Clients for his enthusiasm, his analytical skills, his broad network and his out of the box views.

Scott Nance

Principal at Langley Compliance Consulting, LLC

Scott Nance from Langley Compliance Consulting. Based in DC. He is an attorney specializing in economic sanctions and anti-money laundering. He helps companies comply with economic sanctions, answering their questions about what they can and should do. Uniquely, he has worked inside several large European banks, and was the Global Head of Sanctions Compliance for ING in Amsterdam, he has also done extensive work in the fields of international trade and economic policy, and have had the opportunity to advise a number of governments in Africa and Asia on trade policy. He teaches International Trade Law and Investment at William & Mary Law School and has lectured on economic development and international trade at the University of Virginia. Scott is a member of the ACSS editorial Task force and the ACSS Certification Task Force.

Saskia Rietbroek

Executive Director and Co-Founder of ACSS

Saskia is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Association of Certified Sanctions Specialists (ACSS), a professional membership body for sanctions professionals worldwide. She is a Certified Sanctions Specialist (CSS) and Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist (CAMS) and an industry leader in financial crime topics. Saskia has over 15 years of Sanctions/AML experience in the U.S., Latin America and Europe. Her global footprint enables Saskia to apply valuable expertise and insight into international training and financial crime compliance projects.

She is a frequent speaker in English, Spanish and Dutch on a variety of financial crime topics.

She earned law degrees from Leiden University (Netherlands) and Universidad La Católica (Lima, Peru), and was admitted to the Lima Bar Association. She also holds an international MBA from Florida International University. She speaks fluent Dutch, English and Spanish, as well as basic German.

Nicolas Burnichon

Associate in Hughes Hubbard & Reed

Nicolas Burnichon is an associate at Hughes Hubbard & Reed’s Paris office. His practice focuses on cross-border white collar crime, regulatory enforcement and compliance matters more broadly with a focus on economic sanctions and export controls matters. As part of the International Trade group of the firm, he has experience in advising domestic and international clients on economic trade sanctions compliance and enforcement, advising companies in cross-border acquisitions on trade-related contractual provisions and due diligence. Prior to joining Hughes Hubbard, he worked for three years at a major French bank in Paris and New York with a particular focus on U.S. and EU economic sanctions. He also worked in several French and international law firms in Paris, where he assisted financial institutions and large multi-national industrial groups in various sectors (health, energy, automobile, etc.).

Amir Fadavi

Global Sanctions Lead, Airwallex

Amir is the Global Sanctions Lead at Airwallex, a global fast-growing FinTech company. He leads the efforts to enhance Airwallex’s sanctions compliance program in line with various regulatory obligations around the globe. In addition to his role at Airwallex, he is the founder of, a website dedicated to sanctions.

Licensed to practice law in the United States (New York) and Iran (Tehran), he was previously part of BNP Paribas sanctions compliance team. He worked for BNP Paribas in New York and in Paris on both U.S and EU sanctions.

Amir has been a member of ACSS Editorial Task Force since Sept. 2020.