Import permits

Gastil Gastil-Buhl
Fri, 22 Feb 2013 11:25:18 PST
Hi Karl,

It took me awhile to figure out how to import so Im happy to pass along what I learned, most of which I got from this pbs list.

Yes any seed coming from outside the US needs a permit. But you do not need a big-deal/real permit if your order qualifies as a "Small Lots of Seed". 
There are limits and restrictions.…

I have ordered twice from Silverhill Seeds and once from Gordon Summerfield. Both of them are familiar with the process. Only I was the newbie. All three orders arrived without any problem. It does take awhile, but then, if you grow bulbs from seed you are necessarily a patient person.

1. Go to the APHIS website and get an online account
2. Download, print, and fill in the form*
3. Mail it in. ( I dont recall if I did that electronically or on paper.)
4. They corresponded with me via email, not a form letter but an actual person there, re some details.
5. Receive your yellow/green stickers and Small Lots of Seed permit in the mail
I think it might have taken one month, possibly 3 weeks.
6. Photocopy the permit. Make a copy to send to each place you will be ordering from. 
Some places, like Silverhill, will keep your permit and a supply of stickers in their file cabinet ready for when you order more. 
So send them as many as you expect to use in the 3 years your permit lasts.
7. Get an account with UPS or FedEx. I use UPS. 
8. Paper mail some stickers, a copy of your permit, and your UPS account number to the place you wish to order from.
9. They will follow very specific steps in preparing your order, such as a list of all the species and each seed packet labeled with the species.
If it is someone doing this for the first time, send them the instructions.
10. They mail the package directly to the USDA Inspection Station printed on your yellow/green stickers.
11. The inspection station then forwards the package on to you using your UPS account.

Later if you need more permits just email or phone them and they'll mail them to you in about a week. 

*I had some trouble filling out the form. 
You do not have to guess all the countries you will order from. Just list a few you expect. Your permit will cover any country.
I dont know why, but it was hard for me to choose my Inspection Station city. I chose San Diego and they've worked great so far. 

Others have mentioned that if you will be ordering recalcitrant Amaryllid seeds, the kind that like to sprout precociously, ask the exporter to put a note in the package explaining that those really are seeds and that this is normal. Otherwise a plant inspection station might mistake them for plants, not sees.

- Gastil

More information about the pbs mailing list