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Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
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Required Documents

An import permit issued by APHIS specifies which plant species can enter the country and under what conditions. These conditions can include treatment, packaging, and shipping requirements, among other things. Only U.S. residents may apply for an import permit.

Most plants for planting require a PPQ 587–Permit to Import Plants or Plant Products. Some plants are prohibited or restricted and may enter the United States only under a special permit and after meeting additional requirements. Please see  Plants with Additional Requirements and Prohibited Plants for more information.

Plants for planting which do not require an import permit:

To determine which permit you need, visit APHIS’ Plants and Plant Products Permits website or contact APHIS’ Permits Help Desk by phone (301) 851-2046, toll free (877) 770-5990, or email

Applying for a Permit

U.S. residents can apply for an import permit at no cost using the APHIS eFile system. To begin, you must first create an account. Once you are registered, you may apply for a permit. Issuance of a Permit may take up to two months depending on the amount of permit being handled throughout the year and the complexity of the permit.

A phytosanitary certificate is issued by the national plant protection organization (NPPO) of the country of origin. It attests that the NPPO has inspected the plants and found it free of pests and pathogens. All plants imported into the United States must be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate, unless specifically exempted by a permit that allows importation without one, such as the Controlled Import Permit (See Prohibited Plants for more information).

Important: It is the responsibility of the seller to obtain the phytosanitary certificate and include it in the shipment along with other required documents, such as an invoice, packing list, etc., (See Other Required Documents).

Exceptions to the Phytosanitary Certificate Requirement:

The following are excepted from the phytosanitary certificate requirement:

  1. Plants imported from Canada through the U.S.-Canada Greenhouse Certification Program
  2. Plants imported from Canada under the Canadian Nursery Certification Program (CNCP) which have a CNCP Phytosanitary Certificate
  3. Small packages of bulbs offered to travelers returning to the United States from the Netherlands and accompanied by a special certificate

The instructions on the import permit will indicate whether a shipping label is required. Not all permits require shipping labels. The shipping label includes the address of the APHIS Plant Inspection Station where the package must be sent. Each label is individually numbered with a distinctive barcode.

Requesting a Shipping Label

If the import permit conditions require a shipping label, the buyer must:

  1. Request a green and yellow shipping label (PPQ 508) for each parcel through APHIS’ ePermits system using the “My Shipments/Labels” feature. You may also email your request to APHIS will email you an electronic label and instructions.
  2. Send the electronic green and yellow shipping label to the seller. The seller must print the label using a color printer and attach it to the outside of the package per the instructions provided with the label.
  3. Instruct the seller to include the buyer’s name, address, telephone number, and permit number in each shipment.
  4. Let the seller know which approved U.S. ports of entry are listed on the permit.

All plants shipped into the United States must be accompanied by an invoice or packing list that includes the scientific names of the plants and their quantities.

Important: It is the responsibility of the buyer to ensure the seller includes the scientific name and quantity of plants on the invoice.

Marking and Identity of Imported Plants

Plants for planting offered for import by mail (U.S. Postal Service or courier, suchas DHL, FedEx, UPS, etc.) must be:

  • Accompanied by invoice or packing list with identity (scientific names) and quantity of plants
  • Correctly and plainly addressed and mailed to a Plant Protection and Quarantine Plant Inspection Station at one of the approved ports of entry listed on your import permit;
  • Accompanied by a separate sheet of paper within the package, plainly and correctly bearing the name, address, and telephone number of the intended recipient
  • Plainly and correctly on the outer container, have the following information:
    • General nature and quantity of the contents;
    • Country and locality where grown;
    • Name and address of shipper, owner, or person shipping or forwarding the plants for planting; and
    • Number of the written permit authorizing the importation, if one (written permit) is required.

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