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Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
USDA FAQ's and resources about coronavirus (COVID-19).  LEARN MORE

Plants for Planting FAQ's

Q. What type of permit do I need?
A. The type of permit depends on the kinds of plant material you wish to import. Use these forms for these purposes:

  • PPQ 526: Application for permit to move parasitic plants or noxious weeds
  • PPQ 587: Application for permit to import generally admissible plants or plant products, including for the small lots of seeds program
  • PPQ 588: Application for permit to import prohibited plants or plant products for experimental, therapeutic, or developmental purposes
  • PPQ 621: Application for protected plant permit to engage in the business of importing, exporting or re-exporting terrestrial plants or plant products (CITES)
  • PPQ 546: Application for postentry quarantine
  • PPQ 586: Application for Permit To Transit Plants and/or Plant Products, Plant Pests, and/or Associated Soil Through The United States to another country

Q. What is the turnaround time for a permit application?
A. Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) requires up to 30 business days for processing a PPQ 587 or 621 permit application. Please do not have material shipped until you receive a permit or response from us.

Q. Do I need a permit to bring back plants from my travels abroad?
A. If you bring back 12 or fewer articles of admissible plants that have no special restrictions, you do not need a permit. However, you do need a phytosanitary certificate from the country of origin.

Q. How do I know if a plant or plant part is generally admissible without special restrictions?
A. For help in determining admissibility, refer to the Plant Protection and Quarantine Plants for Planting Manual, and then find the List of Regulated Propagative Material. Plants that are not listed in this section are generally admissible. Check for entries at the family, genus and species levels. When in doubt, you can submit a new permit application for the kinds of plants in question.

Q. Do I need to apply for a permit for every shipment?
A. No. One permit is valid for future shipments of the requested commodities until the permit expires. If you wish to add new species or countries of origin, then an amendment to your permit may be required. Be sure to request an amendment at least 30 business days before you need the amended permit. For renewals, please apply at least 30 business days before the current permit expires.

Q. How much does a permit cost?
A. PPQ currently charges no fees for permits, except for the General Permit to Engage in the Business of Importing, Exporting, or Re-Exporting Terrestrial Plants listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES; PPQ form 621). The fee for processing the permit is $70.00. User fees for other types of permits may be implemented sometime in the future.

Q. Can companies outside the United States apply for a permit?
No. We issue permits only to persons who have and maintain a valid address or business in the United States. 

Q. What should I do if I am not sure whether or not the plant material requires a permit? 
When in doubt, you can list the scientific names on the PPQ form 587 or in the APHIS eFile application and submit the application to the Permit Unit. You will receive a permit for enterable plants, and notification if some of the plant taxa are prohibited or otherwise restricted.

Q. I applied for a permit to import plants for planting, listing the species and countries of origin on the application. I received a permit and now I want to import additional species and/or add additional countries of origin. Should I apply for a new permit?
A. A Q-37 permit (PPQ 587 permit application) is issued for admissible nursery stock, plants, and plant parts capable of propagation that are not subject to postentry quarantine or other prohibitions. You may import additional plants under your permit as long as the plants are generally admissible. You may apply for an amendment to your current permit to add additional species.

Q. Does my existing permit to import generally admissible nursery stock (PPQ form 587) cover shipments under the Small Lots of Seed Program? 
A. No. To import small lots of seed without a phytosanitary certificate, you must obtain a separate permit for small lots of seed (also a PPQ form 587). You must apply for this permit in addition to your permit for generally admissible nursery stock.

Q. Does APHIS regulate aquatic plants? 
A. Yes, the Plant Protection Act does not distinguish aquatic plants from terrestrial plants. When imported for growing or propagation, aquatic plants require a phytosanitary certificate issued by the exporting country and a written import permit for shipments of 13 or more articles. Like all plants intended for planting, aquatic plants are subject to inspection at the port of entry and must be free of quarantine pests.

The following aquatic plants are prohibited federal noxious weeds, which may be imported or moved interstate only with a PPQ 526 permit to move live plant pests and noxious weeds:

  • Azolla pinnata (mosquito fern, water velvet)
  • C. parasiticus
  • Caulerpa taxifolia; Mediterranean strain (killer algae)
  • Cephaleuros virescens
  • Eichornia azurea (anchored waterhyacinth, rooted waterhyacinth)
  • Hydrilla verticillata (hydrilla)
  • Hygrophila polysperma (Miramar weed)
  • Ipomoea aquatica (water-spinach, swamp morning-glory)
  • Lagarosiphon major
  • Limnophila sessiliflora (ambulia)
  • Melaleuca quinquenervia (broadleaf paper bark tree).
  • Monochoria hastata
  • Monochoria vaginalis
  • Ottelia alismoides
  • Sagittaria sagittifolia (arrowhead)
  • Salvinia auriculata
  • Salvinia biloba
  • Salvinia herzogii
  • Salvinia molesta
  • Solanum tampicense (wetland nightshade)
  • Sparganium erectum (exotic bur-reed)

Q. Does APHIS regulate algae?
A. Yes, APHIS recently expanded the scope of the plants for planting regulations to include under Kingdom Plantae, nonvascular plants, which is defined to include mosses, liverworts, hornworts and green algae. Importation of all nonvascular plants, including green algae, will require a phytosanitary certificate and an import permit (PPQ Form 587 application). At the present time, APHIS prohibits only one alga, the Mediterranean strain of Caulerpa taxifolia. A PPQ form 526 permit application must be submitted for importation or interstate movement of this alga.

Q. Can I bring my house plants with me when I move from Canada to the United States?
A. Yes, in most cases. For further information contact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for certification of the plants.

Q. If plant material is imported into Canada, under what conditions would the plants be considered of Canadian Origin?
A. An article imported into Canada from another country or locality shall be considered as being solely from Canada if it meets all of the following conditions:

a) It is imported into the United States directly from Canada after having been grown for at least one year in Canada;
b) It has never been grown in a country from which it would be a prohibited article or grown in a country other than Canada from which it would be subject to special restrictions outlined in 7 CFR 319 Subpart-Plants for Planting;
c) it was not grown in a country or from which it will be subject to postentry quarantine requirements (7 CFR 319.37-23), unless it was grown in Canada under post entry growing conditions equivalent to those specified in 7 CFR 319.37-23; and
d) It was not imported into Canada in growing medium.

Q. If bulbs are precleared do I need a phytosanitary certificate?
Yes, precleared bulbs do require a phytosanitary certificate.  For additional information please go to the Plant for Planting Manual section “Preclearance Program”.

Q. Do I need a USDA PPQ permit to import plant DNA?
A. Not unless the DNA encodes  an infectious agent. In that case, it requires a pest permit (PPQ Form 526).

Q. Does USDA, PPQ regulate the movement of plants from one state to another?
A. Generally not, with the exceptions of parasitic plants and federal noxious weeds, which require a PPQ 526 permit for interstate movement, and host plants regulated under specific domestic quarantines. Contact your USDA, APHIS State Plant Health Director to find out if a domestic quarantine applies to your plants. For contact information, see the APHIS "Domestic Travel" Web page.

We recommend that you also check with your State's Plant Regulatory Official for possible state-level restrictions.

Q. Do I need a permit for herbarium specimens?
A. It depends on the type of material being imported. A PPQ Form 588 permit is required for prohibited taxa including those that are unknown to science. Herbarium specimens that are already mounted and accessioned do not require a permit and conditions of importation are specified in the Miscellaneous Products Manual. A PPQ 526 permit is needed if your herbarium specimens include parasitic plants or Federal noxious weeds; a PPQ 621 permit is needed if your plant material is subject of protected species (aka CITES). To access these forms please visit the plant and plant products web page.

If you are importing admissible plant taxa that are not mounted and accessioned, see the Plants for Planting Manual. A PPQ Form 587 is required for admissible plant taxa. 

Q. Does my plant shipment have to come through one of the ports listed on my permit?
A. Yes. Restricted plant articles that require permits must be imported through specific ports of entry with USDA plant inspection stations (PIS). If you want to import through a specific port that is not listed on your permit, then you must send an amendment request to the Permit Unit.

Q. Can I hand-carry my plant material into the US? 
A. If you are bringing back 12 or fewer articles of admissible plants, and the articles have no special restrictions, then, yes, as long as you have a phytosanitary certificate from the country of origin. If you are bringing back plant material that requires a permit, then you should arrive through a port of entry that has a PIS. The importer must surrender the material to be forwarded to the PIS; this movement will be at the cost of the importer.

Q. How do I know if a plant to be imported is CITES protected?
A. You can find a listing of CITES protected plants at this website: When in doubt, you can call the permits Customer Service line at (301) 851-2046.

Q. How do I obtain green and yellow mailing labels?
A. After you receive your permit there will be specific information in the permit as to how to request your Green and Yellow labels (PPQ Form 508) for shipping items into the United States by mail or bonded carrier.  One way to apply for labels is on-line, through the internet program APHIS eFile.  Simply log into APHIS eFile and navigate to My Activity and search for your permit.  On the permit details page, view and download your labels in the Plant Inspection Station Labels section. If you need additional assistance, email:  

In the email please include your permit number, specify the approved port(s) which is listed on your permit where you wish the plant materials sent, and the total number of labels needed. We issue labels in multiples of four. The requested permit labels will be sent to you by email.

Q. How do I revise my general permit to import plants and plant products?
A. If you applied through e-Permits please submit an “Amendment” application with your requested change. If you applied by physical form please submit a new application. A specialist will review your request and make the change or guide you further. You can also contact us at (301) 851-2046 for guidance.

Q. How do I revise my postentry permit?
A. Apply for an amendment in the same way as a regular permit. 

Q. How long does a permit last? 
A. The general permit (PPQ 587) to import plants and plant products and the postentry quarantine permit (PPQ 546) are both valid for three years. The permit for small lots of seed is also valid for three years.  The Protected Plants permit (PPQ 621) is valid for 2 years.

Q. I don't see my question here. Whom do I call for assistance?
A. The PPQ Permits Customer Service number is (301) 851-2046.

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