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Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
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Seeds with Additional Requirements

What do I need to know before buying or selling seeds online?

APHIS requires an import permit for the following types of seeds for planting:

  • Seeds of herbaceous plants that are obscured (coated, pelleted, or embedded in a substrate that obscures visibility)
  • Seeds of woody plants (trees or shrubs) from all countries, except Canada
  • Small quantities of seeds
  • True seed of Solanum tuberosum from New Zealand and the Tenth (X) Region of Chile (between 39° and 44° South latitude)
  • Seeds that require treatment (see the Lists of Plants for Planting and Specific Restrictions to determine if treatment is required based on country of origin):
    • Abelmoschus spp. (okra) seeds
    • Castanea spp. (chestnut) seeds
    • Guizotia abyssinica (niger) seeds
    • Hibiscus spp. (hibiscus, rose mallow) seeds
    • Lathyrus spp. (peavine, sweet pea) seeds
    • Lens spp. (lentils) seeds
    • Quercus spp. (oak) seeds
    • Rutaceae family seeds
    • Vicia spp. (fava bean, vetch) seeds
  • Seeds of the following genera:
    • Cenchrus spp.
    • Chionachne spp.
    • Coix spp.
    • Echinochloa spp.
    • Eleusine spp.
    • Euchlaena spp.
    • Gossypium spp.
    • Miscanthus spp.
    • Panicum spp.
    • Pennisetum spp. (syn. of Cenchrus spp.)
    • Polytoca spp.
    • Sclerachne spp.
    • Setaria spp.
    • Sorghum spp.
    • Trilobachne spp.
    • Tripsacum spp.
    • Zea spp.

Small quantities of seed may be imported under a PPQ 587 permit for Small Lots of Seed without a phytosanitary certificate if all of the following conditions are met:

  • Maximum of 50 seeds of 1 taxon (taxonomic category such as genus, species, cultivar, etc.) per packet OR a maximum weight of 10 grams of seed of 1 taxon per packet.
  • Maximum of 50 seed packets per shipment.
  • Seed is not a Federal Noxious Weed, parasitic plant, and it is not listed under Not Authorized Pending Pest Risk Analysis (NAPPRA) (See Prohibited Seeds).
  • Seed does not require an additional declaration on the phytosanitary certificate (see Seeds that Require Testing for Certain Diseases or the Plants for Planting Manual to determine whether an additional declaration is required).
  • Seed is not pelleted, coated, or embedded in growing media, seed tape, cloth, or similar materials (See Obscured Seeds).
  • Seed does not need treatment (See Seeds that Require Treatment).
  • Field/agricultural crop and vegetable seed meets the requirements of the Federal Seed Act import provisions in 7 CFR 361.
  • Seed regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meets additional CITES requirements.
  • Seed regulated under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) meets additional ESA requirements (see U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Endangered Species and Endangered Species Act). Seeds of threatened plants are not regulated if they come from cultivated plants.
  • Seed is accompanied by an invoice that includes the name of the seller, scientific name of plant, country of origin, seed lot code.
  • Each seed packet is labeled with name of the seller, scientific name of plant, country of origin.
  • Seeds are free from pesticides.
  • Seeds are securely packaged in packets or envelopes and sealed to prevent spillage.
  • The shipment is sent to the APHIS Plant Inspection Station listed in the permit using a green and yellow shipping label.
Important: Small lots of tomato and pepper seeds are not eligible for import under a PPQ 587 permit for Small Lots of Seed (See Seeds that Require Testing for Certain Disease).

Coated seed: Any seed unit covered with any substance that changes the size, shape, or weight of the original seed. Seeds coated with ingredients such as, but not limited to, dyes, pesticides, and rhizobia are excluded.

Pelleted seed: Any seed covered with a substance that changes the shape, size, or weight of the original seed to improve its plantability.

Obscured seeds are seeds that are coated, pelleted, or embedded in tape, mats, or any other substrate that obscures visibility. This includes seeds in closed containers, such as cans, opaque packages, or educational kits that cannot be inspected because of obscured visibility. Because obscured seed cannot be properly inspected, it must meet the conditions below to enter the United States. Specifically, the shipment must include:

  • Seeds that are generally admissible under a PPQ 587–Obscured Seed Permit to Import Plants and Plant Products, do not require treatment (See Seeds that Require Treatment), have no specific restrictions  (See Seeds with Additional Requirements), and are from a herbaceous plant. Woody plant seeds (from trees) are not eligible.
  • A bare seed sample (unobscured seed) alongside the obscured seed that is presented to the Customs and Border Protection Agriculture Specialist for inspection at the port of entry.  An officially drawn and sealed sample of bare seed taken from the lot before it was coated, embedded, or pelleted and that is identified as “Official Seed Sample.”
  • A phytosanitary certificate issued by the country of origin.
  • A PPQ 587–Obscured Seed Permit to Import Plants and Plant Products.

Seeds of the following plants must be treated prior to importation (only for niger seed) or at a U.S. port of entry before they will be released to the permit holder:

  • Abelmoschus spp. (okra) seeds
  • Allium sativum (garlic) bulbs
  • Castanea spp. (chestnut) seeds
  • Dioscorea (yam) tubers
  • Guizotia abyssinica (niger) seeds
  • Hibiscus spp. (hibiscus, rose mallow) seeds
  • Lathyrus spp. (peavine, sweet pea) seeds
  • Lens spp. (lentils) seeds
  • Quercus spp. (oak) seeds
  • Rutaceae (Citrus) family seeds
  • Vicia spp. (fava bean, vetch) seeds

For additional information and treatment requirements, see Plants for Planting Manual (Chapter 3, Specific Restrictions, see Plant Material Requiring Treatment for Entry).

Shipments of agricultural and vegetable seeds regulated under the Federal Seed Act (FSA) may need a PPQ 587–Permit to Import Plants or Plant Products (See Seeds that Require an Import Permit); a phytosanitary certificate from the seed’s country of origin; and a declaration from the importer that states the kind, variety, and origin of each lot of seed and its intended use. Additionally:

  • Each container of seed must be labeled with the identification code or designation for the seed lot.
  • Each container of treated seed must have a label that indicates what substance or process was used to treat the seed. Substance names used on the label shall be the commonly accepted, generic, or abbreviated chemical name.
  • The seed must be free of Federal Noxious Weeds (no tolerance) and Federal Seed Act noxious weeds (with applicable tolerances).

You can find more information and view lists of agricultural and vegetable seeds regulated under the Federal Seed Act in 7 CFR 361.

Seeds of certain endangered species are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA). To import protected seed species, the buyer must obtain a:

In addition, the seller must obtain a CITES Certificate/Permit from the country of origin. This document must accompany the shipment.

To view lists of plants protected under CITES and ESA, please visit the following links:

Tomato and pepper seed from all countries requires testing for virus and viroid diseases. These seeds must be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate from the country of origin with the additional declaration that says “the seeds have been tested for (name of virus/viroid) of quarantine significance prior to entry into the United States or that the seeds are produced in a country in which these (name of virus/viroid) are not known to occur.”

Important: Small quantities of tomato and pepper seeds are not eligible for import under a PPQ 587 permit for Small Lots of Seed.

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