How to Import Seeds and Plants


Importing plants and seeds from other countries is one way to keep heirloom (older varieties of plants that have not been scientifically modified) in production. These could be plants from friends and family or from nurseries located outside of the United States. There could be a specific cultivar (species) of plant that is not available except from a foreign nursery. Before requesting or ordering plants from a foreign country contact the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), a division of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). APHIS oversees the importation of all plants and seeds into the United States.

Importing small seed orders

Step 1

Verify that each shipment meets APHIS requirements for a permit without a phytosanitary certificate. The seeds must be packaged securely (seeds only no soil, debris or other foreign matter), invoice must be typed or legibly printed with appropriate information, a maximum of 50 seeds packets with a max of 50 seeds in each packet, free of pesticides and sent to an approved port of entry for inspection.

Step 2

Apply for the permit. Fill out form PPQ 587. This can be done online at (fastest turn around time) or print out the Application for Permit to Import Plants or Plant Products. Carefully fill out the application. Enter "Small lots of seed program" on line 1 of section 3. On the second line list the seed species and countries origin.

Step 3

Accept seeds once they have been inspected. The U. S. Inspection Station (Plant Germplasm Quarantine Center in Beltsville, MD, or approved port of entry) will forward the seeds to the listed recipient.

Importing Large Seed Orders and Plants

Step 1

Refer to the plant list available through the U. S. Federal Regulations to find out what plants can be imported. Many plants are not allowable because they are on the noxious weed list, endangered species list or come from countries that have known plant diseases. The U. S. Federal Regulations list has regulations for each plant species.

Step 2

Acquire a phytosanitary certificate of inspection for the plant material from the country of origin. It must be certified by the national plant protection service for the country the plant is exported from. This certificate is mandatory for all large seed orders and plants.

Step 3

Notify the appropriate Inspection Station of the U. S. Custom Authority of the arrival of the plants and or seeds. You will need to submit a manifest, waybill (commercial invoice) or customs entry document..

Tips and Warnings

  • Imported plants and seeds that do not pass inspection are destroyed at the inspection station.

Things You'll Need

  • APHIS permit
  • Phytosanitary certificate


  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS): Plant Import Information
  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS): Entry Status of Seeds for Planting--Summary
  • Electronic Code of Federal Regulations: Title 7: Agriculture
Keywords: import plants and seeds, phytosanitary certificate, importing plants, animal and plant health inspection service

About this Author

Currently residing in Myrtle Beach, SC, Tammy Curry began writing agricultural and frugal living articles in 2004. Her articles have appeared in the Mid-Atlantic Farm Chronicle and Country Family Magazine. Ms. Curry has also written SEO articles for She holds an associate's degree in science from Jefferson College of Health Sciences.