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Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
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Internet Sales

Invasive species travel in packages.

Online purchases can be risky.

Online purchases can be risky and illegal without proper inspections and paperwork. To protect yourself from potential fines and safeguard our nation’s farms and forests from invasive plant pests, follow the tips listed under “What You Can Do”.

Invasive plant pests and diseases

Insects, snails, slugs, mites, microscopic worms, noxious weeds, and plant diseases.

These dangerous hitchhikers can travel on agricultural products (such as seeds, plants, food, and handicrafts made from wood or plants) that are bought online and mailed or shipped into the United States from foreign countries.

What's at risk?

America's agriculture, food supply, forests, ecosystems, community landscapes, and backyard gardens.

Millions of dollars spent by farmers, government, and U.S. taxpayers on necessary control and treatment activities.

Foreign markets that could close to U.S. products from infested or infected areas.

When ordering online, don’t assume items available from foreign retailers are legal to import into the United States. Those shippers may not be aware of U.S. regulations or care about your liability as the importer.

Before buying seeds, plants, or plant parts for planting from international vendors, visit the APHIS website or contact APHIS Permit Services (toll free at 877-770-5990 or by email at to find out what you need to do to bring them into the United States legally and without pests.

At a minimum, all imported seeds, plants, plant parts for planting must be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate issued by the government of the country of origin. This certificate attests that the plant material is free of invasive plant pests and diseases. U.S. buyers should ask the seller to make sure this certificate is included in the package with the plant material.

Most imported plant material also requires an import permit issued by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and may be subject to inspection by APHIS or U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the port of entry. To find out what paperwork you need, contact APHIS Permit Services at 877-770-5990 or by email at

Not sure whether the item you’re purchasing is coming from outside the United States? You’re not alone. Country of origin labeling is often not included or hard to find in online sales listings. Before you buy, contact the seller to find out where they are located. You can also search the internet for information about the seller.

If you ever receive seeds, plants, or plant parts for planting that you didn’t order, save the items and the packaging they came in and report the incident to your USDA State Plant Health Director. Never plant seeds or plants from unknown origins.

Internet sales travel by mail. Learn more about safe mail practices here.

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