If you’ve had food, plants or souvenirs taken away by an inspector at an international airport, border crossing, or seaport, we want to be sure you understand why.
Certain items brought into the United States from foreign countries are restricted according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations. Prohibited agricultural items can harbor foreign animal and plant pests and diseases that could seriously damage America’s crops, livestock, pets, and the environment – and a large sector of our country’s economy.
All travelers entering the United States are required to DECLARE any meats, fruits, vegetables, plants, seeds, animals, and plant and animal products (including soup or soup products) they may be carrying. The declaration must cover all items carried in checked baggage, carry-on luggage, or in a vehicle.
Upon examination of plants, animal products, and associated items, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists at the ports of entry will determine if these items meet the entry requirements of the United States.
Even though an item may be listed as “permitted” from a particular country, it is always best to DECLARE the item by checking “Yes” on Question 11 of the CBP Declaration Form 6059B. Also declare if you have been on a farm or in close proximity of livestock, as an agriculture specialist may need to check your shoes or luggage for traces of soil that could harbor foreign animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth.
Avoid Fines and Delays
Prohibited items that are not declared by passengers are confiscated and disposed of by CBP agriculture specialists. But that’s not all. Civil penalties may be assessed for violations and may range up to $1,000 for a first-time offense. Depending on whether the confiscated, undeclared items are intentionally concealed, or determined to be for commercial use, civil penalties may be assessed as high as $50,000 for individuals. The same fines apply to prohibited agricultural products sent through the international mail.
Fruits, Vegetables, and Plants
Depending on the country of origin, some fruits, vegetables, and plants may be brought into the United States without advance permission, provided they are declared, inspected, and found free of pests. However, certain plants and ANY plant parts intended for growing (propagative) require a foreign phytosanitary certificate in advance. For information on certificates, contact the USDA/APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine Permit Unit at (301) 851-2046 or (877) 770-5990. Also, check the Information Resources section at the end of this notice for details.
Meat and Animal Products and Byproducts
Fresh, dried, or canned meats and meat byproducts are prohibited entry into the United States from most foreign countries because of the continuing threat of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or mad cow disease), and other animal diseases. If meat from restricted countries is used in preparing a product (e.g., beef broth), the product is usually prohibited.
Because regulations concerning meat and meat byproducts change frequently, travelers should contact the consulate or local agricultural office in the country of origin for up-to-date information on the disease status of that country.
Animal hunting trophies, game animal carcasses, and hides are severely restricted. To find out specifics and how to arrange to bring them into the United States, contact USDA/APHIS Veterinary Services, National Center for Import and Export (NCIE) at (301) 734-3277, via email at: AskNCIE.Products@aphis.usda.gov or VS-Live.Animals_Import.Permits@aphis.usda.gov or on the Web at Veterinary Services - Safeguarding Animal Health (Import/Export).
The import and export of wild (and endangered) animals is regulated by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).
Live Animals and Birds
Live animals and birds may enter the United States subject to certification, certain permits, inspection, and quarantine rules that vary greatly with the type of animal and its origin. Pet birds purchased abroad for personal use may enter, subject to restrictions by some state departments of agriculture.
For general information and permit application, contact APHIS/ NCIE at (301) 851-2046 or (877) 770-5990. Contact the CDC via e-mail at CDCAnimalImports@cdc.gov or visit CDC's Animal Importation website.
Other Biological Materials
A strict permitting process governs most organisms, cells and cultures, antibodies, vaccines and related substances, whether of plant or animal origin. Biological specimens of plant pests, in preservatives, or dried, may be imported without restriction, but are subject to inspection upon arrival in the United States. This is done to confirm the nature of the material and to make sure it is free of “hitchhiking” plant pests or diseases. These items must ALL be declared and presented for inspection upon entering the United States. For information and a permit application, contact NCIE.
Soil, Sand, Minerals, and Shells
Soil-borne organisms threaten both plants and animals. If you visited a farm or ranch in a foreign country, agricultural specialists may have to examine and disinfect your shoes or clothing. Vehicles must also be cleaned of any soil. No soil or earth of any kind is allowed into the United States without a permit issued in advance by USDA Plant Protection and Quarantine Permit Unit. Pure sand, such as a small container of decorative beach sand, is usually allowed. Always check with the permit unit in advance for details.
PLEASE – DO YOUR PART TO HELP PROTECT AMERICAN AGRICULTURE
When planning your trip, keep in mind that regulations change frequently around the world, depending on outbreaks of plant and animal diseases. So, whether or not the item in question seems to be one that is permitted, travelers are still responsible for declaring those items and presenting them for inspection upon returning to the United States.
DECLARE all agriculture-related products when entering the United States.
General List of Approved Products
Aloe Vera (above ground parts)
Bat nut or devil pod (Trapa bicornis)
Breads, cakes, cookies, and other bakery goods
Chinese water chestnut
Coffee (roasted beans only)
* Flower bulbs
Garlic cloves (peeled)
Lily bulbs (Lilium spp.) for planting
Nuts (roasted only)
Palm hearts (peeled)
Sauces, canned or processed
* Seeds for planting or consumption
Shamrocks leaves without roots or soil
St. John's Bread
Singhara nut (Trapa bispinosa)
Tamarind bean pod
Vegetables, canned or processed
Water chestnut (Trapa natans)
*Check with the consulate or agricultural office in the country of origin to confirm that your item is allowed. A phytosanitary certificate is required for propagative material. Pre-departure inspection is required for passengers traveling from Hawaii to the mainland, Puerto Rico to the mainland, and from the U.S. Virgin Islands to the mainland.
Many products grown in Canada or Mexico are allowed to enter the United States. This includes most vegetables and many fruits; however, seed potatoes from Canada currently require a permit. Additionally, stone fruit, apples, mangoes, oranges, guavas, sopote, cherimoya and sweet limes from Mexico require a permit.
Information Resources for Travelers
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) currently collects import duties, carries out immigration inspection and clearance of passengers and carries out inspection and clearance of agricultural items (in commercial and passenger areas) at U.S. ports of entry. This website contains a wealth of information on both import and export regulations and requirements for many items and commodities. From the site’s home page, click on “Questions” and search the database for answers on a specific topic, or click on the “Imports”, “Exports” or “Travel” section for detailed information.
APHIS-PPQ Permit Unit, U.S. Department of Agriculture, can provide information about import requirements and permits for plants, plant parts, fruits, vegetables, and other agricultural items. Call the unit at (301) 851-2046 or (877) 770-5990, or visit the web at Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
You can also write:
Plant Protection and Quarantine
4700 River Road, Unit 136
Riverdale, MD 20737-1236, Attention: Permit Unit
APHIS Veterinary Services, National Center for Import and Export (NCIE) can provide information on the importation of live animals and animal products. Call (301) 734-3277, email at: AskNCIE.Products@aphis.usda.gov or VS-Live.Animals_Import.Permits@aphis.usda.gov or go to the Web at Veterinary Services - Safeguarding Animal Health (Import/Export).
U.S. Department of State issues passports for U.S. citizens to travel abroad. Consular offices in other countries issue visas for foreign citizens to enter the United States. Passport agencies are located in various cities around the country. Check local listing or with the embassy of consulate in the foreign country. For recorded travel information, call (202) 647-5225 or toll free, (888) 407-4747. Also check the Web at U.S. Department of State.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulates the import and export of wild and endangered plants and animals and related products. For information, access the USFWS web site at U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Services.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regulates importation of certain animal species and provides specific regulations for nonhuman primates and pets. Contact the CDC in Atlanta at (404) 639-8107 or on the web at National Center for Infectious Diseases - Traveler's Health.