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Shipping Requirements for Importing Regulated Soil Requiring Black, White, Green, Yellow Labels

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is phasing in the use of electronic barcoded shipping labels for Plant Protection and Quarantine imports that require shipping labels. APHIS has created a cost and time saving process for emailing non-gummed labels. The new label will now be emailed as an attached PDF.

A shipping label is a tag that identifies an individual shipment. These labels direct the shipment to a designated port of entry or Plant Inspection Station (PIS) where shipments are inspected and cleared by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and/or a United States Department of Agriculture (APHIS) inspector. The permittees permit will state in the conditions if a shipping label is required.

Labels may be issued to the permittee for the importation of regulated articles. Such labels may contain information about the shipment's nature, origin, movement conditions, or other matters relevant to the permit and will indicate that the importation is authorized under the conditions specified in the permit.

Regulated soil must be shipped in securely closed, watertight container(s) (primary container-test tube, vial etc.) which must be enclosed in a second, durable watertight container (Secondary container). Each container must be able to contain the soil independently. Imported shipments of 3lbs or less that will be treated at the  (PIS) must have an original, Green and Yellow label (PPQ Form 508) attached to the exterior of each shipping package. Shipments being routed directly to USDA approved facilities require Black & White label (PPQ Form 550) Packages without labels on the exterior may be refused entry even if the labels are enclosed. Each label is individually numbered with a distinctive barcode. The permittee must request the appropriate shipping labels at the issuance of permit. Shipping labels and detailed instructions for using the labels will be emailed to the permittee as an attached PDF to the email address on record. The PPQ 508 and 550 shipping labels are required for importation, but not for domestic movement within the mainland U.S. In addition, PPQ 550 shipping labels are not needed for soil that originates in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands.

However, shipments from the U.S. Virgin Islands must be sent to APHIS-PPQ in Puerto Rico for inspection and clearance. In order to ship the package to PPQ in Puerto Rico, please follow the instructions in the following paragraph and use two waybills. One waybill to direct the shipment to the PIS and the other to direct the shipment to the permittee from the PIS.

Additional labels can be obtained by using the My Shipments/Labels feature in ePermits or sending an email to

A PPQ Form 508 shipping label requires two waybills; one international waybill to direct the shipment to the PIS, and a domestic waybill that will direct the shipment to the permittee from the PIS. A domestic waybill should be placed inside the package. Shipments routed directly to a USDA approved facility require PPQ Form 550 shipping label and one waybill to direct the shipment to the permittee. If the addresses don’t match, the package may be refused entry by CBP. The information on the waybill will include the following: carrier account number or postage in order to forward the package to the final destination. Your name, permit number, label number, delivery address, and telephone number of the permit holder for delivery following inspection.

Hand Carry
Permitted articles may be hand carried into the United States only if certain requirements are met. First, hand carrying must be requested in the application and authorized in the permit conditions. The permit conditions will list the specific steps that must be taken in order to hand-carry the articles into the U.S. The applicant may request that someone else be allowed to hand carry the organisms but the person must be identified on the permit. The authorized hand-carrier must follow the permit conditions pertaining to the hand-carried shipment.

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