Permits provide a means to balance use and conservation of protected species. 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.
Are you ready to apply for a permit? Follow the instructions below.
If you are unsure whether you need a permit, review our “Do I Need A Permit?” webpage.
1) First, please consider our reminders and tips for completing application forms.
2) Before attempting to fill out an application form, please review the applicable regulations (see the box below). When you apply for a permit, 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.)
We issue permits under the following domestic and international laws and treaties:
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)
Endangered Species Act (ESA)
Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA)
Wild Bird Conservation Act (WBCA)
Lacey Act (for injurious wildlife)
3) Identify the appropriate application form for your species of interest and proposed activity.
- Specialized guidance is available for certain activities and species:
- African Antelope
- Alligator and Crocodilians
- American Ginseng
- Captive-Bred Wildlife Registration Under the Endangered Species Act
- CITES Permits and Certificates
- Freshwater Turtles
- Elephant Ivory
- Lacey Act (Injurious Wildlife):
- Marine Mammals
- Musical Instruments
- Personal Pets
- Pet Birds
- Sharks and Rays
- Sport-hunted Trophies
- Sturgeon and Paddlefish
- Wood and Other Tree Products
If you need assistance with identifying the correct form or completing the application, please contact us.
4) Before attempting to fill out the application, please review the form carefully, especially the instructions found on the last two pages.
5) 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. If you print and fill out the form by hand, please write legibly.
6) Print or save a PDF of the application form after you have completed the fillable portions online.
7) Next, read over pages two to the end of the application and provide the remaining information on a separate document as an attachment. To help us to process your application more efficiently, type the question number and title in bold text, and then provide your response underneath.
8) Be sure to include copies of any requested documentation.
9) Include a cover letter or attachments to explain your situation or alert us to special circumstances if appropriate.
10) 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.
11) 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. 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.
Reminders and Tips for Completing Application Forms
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.
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 instructions 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.
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.
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.
Before You Act, Check With Other Offices, Agencies and Countries
Other Federal, State, territorial, or tribal governments may have additional requirements. Your proposed activity may require one or more permits from another regulatory agency. Getting a permit may be contingent upon obtaining other required Federal, state, territorial, and tribal permits/ authorizations.
- 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 ESA-listed species that are native to the United States.
- 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.