Small Lots of Seed


Since January 2002, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Plant Protection and Quarantine (APHIS-PPQ), of the USDA, has required a phytosanitary certificate for all imported seed, including the small packets of seed from foreign seed exchanges, private seed houses, and botanic gardens.  Four years of effort produced a new type of Permit for Small Lots of Seed, which allows the importation of these small packets of seeds without a phyto.
U.S. importers who plan to purchase or receive seed from any groups or individuals based anywhere outside the United States should obtain this new permit. It is free, good for three years and multiple uses, and the application is available online. Best of all, it does not require that the exporter provide an expensive, time-consuming phyto.
You can apply online once you have received a Level 2 eAuthentication, a two-step process that involves a trip to a local USDA Service Center to show a photo ID.  However, once you have an eAuthentication, you can conduct all business with APHIS online.  
You can initiate the eAuthentication process by clicking on:  Learn more about ePermits (in the body of the first paragraph).  Click on: Register to Use ePermits then follow the prompts toward creating a Level 2 Account.
You can also apply for an SLS permit by downloading a permit application form (pdf) to complete and mail/fax to APHIS. Click on PPQ 587. 
How to complete the application form:  Fill out Form 587 using the following responses:
Section 2: 
- Country of Origin - Write "Various Approved Countries"
- Scientific Names - Write "Eligible Taxa"    To see what is not eligible to be imported, go to:
- Plant Parts - Write "Seeds"
- U.S. Port of Arrival - choose from the list of Inspection Stations: .
The port you choose does not need to be the one closest to your home. It is suggested that you not use the Los Angeles, JFK, or Miami inspection stations, as they are very busy. If you do choose the Miami station, be sure to request the mailing labels for importing through the US Postal Service, not the label for importing via express courier (DHL, FedEx, etc.).
Section 3:
- Intended use: Check "Small Lots of Seed"
Section 4:
- Means of importation: Check "Mail or Express carrier"
When you receive your permit, you must also request the green & yellow shipping labels, with the printed address of the plant inspection station at the Port of Arrival that you chose.
You may receive your labels by mail, or electronically and print them yourself.  You can print as many as you need. 
NOTE: Each label is numbered, and you may use each label only once. The inspection stations keep track of which labels have already been used, so you should, too.
Just a reminder: your permit will need to be renewed every three years.  Fortunately, the system now prompts you to renew three months before the date of expiration.
If you use ePermits, you will also have to do at least a simple log-in online every three to six months to keep your authentication valid.
U.S. Importers:
When placing an order, send to the overseas exporter:
> Copy of permit (all pages), one permit for each 50, or fewer,  packets requested
> Green & yellow shipping label, one label for each 50, or fewer, packets requested
    The permit number on the label must match your permit number (in upper right corner, beginning with P37 -)
> Typed (or very clearly printed) Alphabetical List of requested taxa, including your name, postal address, and phone number.
> Typed (or very clearly printed) label with your name/address (attached to List)
Tips for Importers bringing seeds into the U.S.:
  • Do not request seed of plants where the species is not clearly identified if the genus contains any species that are restricted (e.g.: Agave sp. or Rubus sp.).
  • Do not request seed from a vaguely defined region. "Caucasus"  or "Pamir Mountains" are not sufficiently precise to qualify as country-of-origin.
  • When inquiring at the inspection station about the status of your seed shipments, always give your Permit Number, printed on your permit and on the green & yellow label.  It is the only way that they can locate your particular shipment since your name/address will be inside the package.
  • Seeds entering the U.S. through the postal system will be forwarded from the inspection station to the importer without any additional charges or stamps.  Additional charges apply ONLY when a commercial carrier - such as FedEx, USPS, DHL - is used. In those cases, the importer must either retrieve the shipment from the station or provide the inspection station with an account number from the express carrier, to cover the costs for the carrier to pick up and deliver the seeds.
  • If you find that you are having trouble receiving your shipments through the inspection station that you currently use, you can request new green & yellow labels printed with another station. It does not have to be the station nearest your home.  It is suggested that you not use the Los Angeles, JFK, or Miami inspection stations, as they are very busy.
  • Attach your home address label to the alphabetical list of seeds ordered (which will likely become the exporter's Invoice/List), so that inspectors can readily find it.
Canadian/Overseas exporters sending seeds to the U.S.:
Each envelope/shipment entering the U.S. must have:
> Seeds: allowed maximum of 10 grams OR 50 seeds per packet (whichever is more) AND a maximum of 50 packets per shipment
> Each packet labeled with: genus, plus species where possible; the country where seed collected (if different from exporter's country)
> Copy of permit (all pages)
> Typed (or very clearly printed) alphabetical Invoice/List of exported taxa (genus, species), with Name and Address of exporter
> Typed (or very clearly printed) label with importer's name/address (attached to Invoice/List)
> Packaging strong enough to survive shipping, postal machine handling, and opening/resealing
> Green & yellow shipping label pasted on outside of the envelope. Return address should be in upper left corner.
Tips for Exporters:
  • The Permit Number on the permit (upper right) and the number on the green & yellow shipping label (lower right) must match. 
  • Please read and adhere to all of the Conditions listed on the Permit.
  • Instead of having to label each packet of locally-collected seed with the country-of-origin, you may write on the Invoice: Except where noted, all seeds originate in [your home country]. Then label the country-of-origin only on seeds that originate from outside your country (whether garden- or wild-collected).
  • Attach importer's home address label to Invoice List, so inspectors can readily find it. After inspection, they will paste this label on the package for delivery to the importer.
  • Postal services, rather than commercial carriers (such as FedEx, DHL, UPS, etc.), should always be used to avoid additional charges to forward shipment from the Plant Inspection Station to the importer. Packages sent through the postal services are put back into the postal system after inspection without additional charges or postage needed.