International Affairs issues permits under several domestic and international laws and treaties. These laws protect wildlife and plants that are threatened by overexploitation and other factors such as habitat loss.

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. The Service recognizes that there are occasions when prohibited activities may be harmless 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. Valuable data are gathered and shared through the permitting process to monitor and manage trade of animals and plants. 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. 

Scarlet Macaw with text: "Do I Need a Permit?" Orchid with text: "Which Application do I Need? Alligator with text: "How to Apply"

Do you need a permit from our office? Find out

Ready to apply for a permit from our office? You can search by category here. Please also review our guidance on how to apply.

If you are trying to access application forms issued by other U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service programs or other agencies, please visit the websites of our partner offices and agencies:

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

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

  • The 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.

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.