New! Online Submission Now Available for Most Permits

We have launched a new platform to submit and pay for permit applications online.

Please note: The platform only allows for the submission of new applications, not renewals or amendments of permits. Annual reports can be submitted but you will have to make sure that the name, zip code, and permit number is the same as you have on your issued permit.

We strongly recommend you download these forms first from our permit application forms page, as you will need to do that first before submitting them online.

Read a short instruction guide on how to apply online, or if you are ready to submit applications for these types of permits, you can get to the online system directly.

How to Apply for a Permit

The Service recognizes that there are occasions when prohibited activities may be benign or even beneficial to protected species. 
Permits provide a means to balance use and conservation of 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 use this data in the creation of annual reports. We are able to determine trends in trade from the data derived from permits to ensure that trade in wildlife is sustainable. This trade monitoring has created a substantial body of information on the management and use of CITES species worldwide. You can help conserve protected species by complying with these laws to ensure that your lawful activities are separate and distinct from the activities that harm populations in the wild. 

If you are unsure whether you need a permit, review our “Do I Need A Permit?” webpage.

Are you ready to apply for a permit? Follow the instructions below.

General Instructions

Please consider our reminders and tips for completing application forms. As part of the application process, you will be asked to certify that you have read and are familiar with the General Permit Procedures regulations (50 CFR Part 13) and all other applicable regulations (i.e. regulations that implement the specific law or treaty under which the permit application is being considered.) 

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)

50 CFR Part 23

Endangered Species Act (ESA)

50 CFR Part 17

Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA)

50 CFR Part 18

Wild Bird Conservation Act (WBCA)

50 CFR Part 15

Lacey Act (for injurious wildlife)

50 CFR Part 16

Step 1: Identify the appropriateapplication form for your species of interest and proposed activity. Specialized guidance is available for certain activities and species under the form categories.
Step 2: Fill out the application form. You can complete page one and some fillable portions of the application form online. At this time, we are unable to accept email or online applications with few exceptions. If you print and fill out the form by hand, please write legibly. 

Step 3: Print or save a PDF of the application form after you have completed the fillable portions online. Portions of Part E are fillable. If you need additional space, you may attach a separate document identifying which questions you are addressing. You may choose to complete all of Part E as supplemental pages, provided you provide all the information outlined in Part E. 

Step 4: Be sure to include copies of any requested documentation. 

Step 5: Include a cover letter or attachments to explain your situation or alert us to special circumstances if appropriate. 

Step 6: If not submitting online, please mail the original hard copy completed application form and the processing fee to the address at the top right of the form. Retain a copy for your records. 
An acknowledgement email will be sent to the email address indicated on page one of the application form. This acknowledgement email will assign an ID number to your application. If you need to check on the status of your application, please allow at least ten days after you have submitted an application for the acknowledgement email to arrive. You may need to check your spam email box for the response. Please allow three weeks after submitting an application before checking on the status of your application. State your application ID number if you contact us with questions about your application. 

5 Reminders and Tips for Completing Application Forms

1. Records Management Matters +

The permit application process actually begins before you even acquire a wildlife or plant specimen, with careful records management. In order to issue a permit the Service must review documentation to confirm the origin of specimens, legal acquisition, and other factors to make necessary findings under CITES, ESA, WBCA, MMPA, MBTA, and the Lacey Act, and those materials are a critical part of complete applications. Planning ahead and implementing meticulous records management will help you prepare. For details about what kinds of records you may use to show the origin of a specimen when you apply for a CITES permit (and which are relevant to most permit applications), review our regulation at 50 CFR 23.34.

Keep good records. When you acquire any wildlife or plant specimen, be sure to keep all relevant paperwork. Document as much information as possible— species, parentage, heritage, description, date and location of import, chain of ownership—even for species that aren’t currently protected. If they receive protection in the future, you’ll already be prepared. If you obtain specimens that lack documentation, if may be difficult to obtain permits in the future.

2. Include a Processing Fee or Confirmation of Exempt Status with Your Application

An application processing fee is required to apply for a permit from the Service, and to amend an existing permit. Please see the link in each permit application form for information about application processing fees. We are unable to process an application that does not include either the correct processing fee or confirmation of fee exempt status. The criteria for fee exempt status are outlined in box D1 of application forms. If your facility is fee exempt, provide fee exempt status documentation with every application. Applications lacking either the processing fee or tax exempt confirmation will be considered incomplete and this may result in additional processing time.

3. Complete Every Application Question

Permit application questions ask for information that is specific to each permit type and are based on regulatory criteria. We need complete answers to each question in order to make permit issuance determinations. If a question does not apply to your situation, be sure to write “N/A.” Incomplete applications take longer to process, and a request may be denied due to insufficient information. Provide complete answers to each question on the application, even if you have applied for a similar authorization before. Avoid responding to questions with “contact us for details,” or “please see our website.” Gather and compile necessary information prior to submitting the application.

4. Understand Application Processing Times

The best way to ensure an efficient application turnaround is to plan ahead and prepare the information necessary to submit a complete application. You should allow at least 60 days for review of most permit applications. However, you should allow at least 90 days for review of Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) or Endangered Species Act (ESA) permit applications.

We process applications as quickly as possible, in the order received. The review process can be complex and require detailed analyses under multiple regulations. Your request will be reviewed by a series of legal instrument examiners, subject matter experts and decision makers that will each give undivided attention to your application to ensure an appropriate decision. Some applications take longer to process. We appreciate your patience.

5. Before You Act, Check With Other Offices, Agencies, and Countries +

  • Our Migratory Birds Program issues permits under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).

  • Check with our Office of Law Enforcement for their requirements for the import and export of wildlife and wildlife products. 

  • Our Endangered Species Program issues incidental take, enhancement of survival, recovery and interstate commerce permits for Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed species that are native to the United States. Read answers to frequently asked questions about ESA permits.

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has jurisdiction over whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, and sea lions, under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
  • Check with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) for their requirements for the import and export of plants and animals. 

  • Be sure to check with the state for their requirements, and if relevant, the foreign country for their requirements.