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Do I Need A Permit?

Are you planning to import, export, re-export, buy, sell, acquire, or engage in interstate or international activities with wildlife or plants?

Before you get started, first determine whether your species of interest is listed under domestic and international law, and whether you need a permit.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service understands that there are occasions when prohibited activities may be unharmful or even beneficial to protected species. Our objective is to use permits to authorize and monitor activities consistent with the conservation, protection, and enhancement of wildlife, plants, and their habitats. Permits also facilitate the collection of species-specific trade data. We are able to determine trends in trade from the data derived from permits to ensure that trade in wildlife is sustainable. Most of the permits we issue are for the import and export of species that are protected by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Several additional laws that protect wildlife can also be relevant.

Follow the three step process below to find out if you need a permit. Allow yourself some time to complete this process. You may need to conduct research on your species of interest and contact other agencies throughout this assessment. At the end of this process you should be able to state an activity narrative, such as "I wish to export a specimen of black bear (Ursus americanus), which is protected under CITES Appendix II." This activity narrative will help you select the correct application form, if applicable.

Step One: Determine the Scientific Name of Your Species +

What is the species of wildlife or plant? To determine whether these regulations apply to your species of interest, you will first need to determine the scientific name (genus and species), as wildlife protections are designated at the species, or sometimes the subspecies level.

For example, the scientific name of the monk parakeet is genus Myiopsitta, species monachus, or “Myiopsitta monachus,” the scientific name of Brazilian rosewood is genus Dalbergia, species nigra, or “Dalbergia nigra” and the scientific name of the hawksbill sea turtle is genus Eretmochelys, species imbricata or “Eretmochelys imbricata.” The scientific name of the Sumatran tiger is genus Panthera, species tigris, subspecies sumatrae, or "Panthera tigris sumatrae."

Ask a veterinarian, scientist or qualified appraiser to help you determine what type of wildlife or plant you have. You may also be able to find the scientific name online.

Step Two: Determine How Your Species / Specimen is Protected +

Once you know the scientific name of your species of interest determine whether the species is protected under each U.S. or international law. Keep in mind that a species may be listed under multiple laws, so multiple authorizations may be required. If more than one type of permit for an activity is required by multiple regulations, we may be able to issue one consolidated permit authorizing the activity, provided certain criteria are met. Please start by checking the following species lists:

1. CITES - Search by scientific name or common name in the list of CITES Species.

2. Endangered Species Act (ESA) - Visit the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Endangered Species program website.

3. Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has jurisdiction over the walrus, polar bear, sea otter, marine otter, West African manatee, Amazonian manatee, West Indian manatee, and dugong. All other marine mammals are regulated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries. Learn more about marine mammal permits at our webpage on the topic.

4. Wild Bird Conservation Act (WBCA) See the species listed under the Wild Bird Conservation Act.

5. Lacey Act - Check the current list of injurious wildlife. Injurious wildlife are species, including offspring and eggs, designated through regulation to be injurious to the health and welfare of humans, the interests of agriculture, horticulture or forestry, and the welfare and survival of wildlife resources of the United States.species, including offspring and eggs, designated through regulation to be injurious to the health and welfare of humans, the interests of agriculture, horticulture or forestry, and the welfare and survival of wildlife resources of the United States. Please see our guidance if you are a constrictor snake owner. Also see the Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program's Injurious Wildlife webpage.

Step Three: Discover Which Application You Need +

What activity do you seek to conduct? Generally, if you seek to conduct import, export, take, or conduct interstate or international commercial activities and your species of interest is protected under domestic or international law but can also be legally traded, the next step is to apply for a permit. First find the permit application you need.

Please note: if your specimen is only protected under CITES Appendix II or III and you are traveling with or moving your personal belongings, you may meet the requirements of the CITES personal and household effects exemption.

If you already know that your species of interest or your activity do not meet the criteria of the CITES personal and household effects exemption, such as all commercial endeavors, all CITES Appendix-I, ESA, WBCA, MMPA, and MBTA protected species, and species listed as Injurious Wildlife under the Lacey Act, a permit is required.

Are you now ready to apply for a permit? If you have identified which application you need, you can then review our guidance on how to apply.

Banner Credits: Scarlet Macaw: Manfred Meiners; Orchids: USFWS; Gecko: Frupus CC BY-NC 3.0

Foreign commerce does not include import or export activities. Foreign commerce is defined in section 3 of the Endangered Species Act and applies to individuals or entities subject to U.S. jurisdiction. The term “foreign commerce” includes, among other things, any transaction—


  1. between persons within one foreign country;
  2. between persons in two or more foreign countries;
  3. between a person within the United States and a person in a foreign country; or
  4. between persons within the United States, where the wildlife in question is moving in any country or countries outside the United States.