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Importing Seeds into the United States from Canada

In its effort to assist our customers in the sale of seeds between U.S. and Canada, SeedWise has compiled information from several sources to help navigate our customers through the shipping process. This summary is for reference only and is not intended as legal advice. Customers should not rely solely on the information provided as regulations change periodically, Customers are encouraged to do their own research to ensure the importation of seeds complies with all applicable laws. SeedWise shall not be held responsible for any liability arising from the importation of seeds purchased on

In both the United States and Canada, the importer (buyer) is responsible for ensuring all goods imported into their country of residence comply with government import regulations.

Importing Seeds into the United States from Canada

U.S. Customs and Border Protection suggests that shipping through International Postal Service is the quickest and easiest way to clear smaller purchases (valued at less than $2000) through Customs. More information about importing your Internet purchase can reviewed at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection site.

In addition to the requirements of U.S. Customs, U.S. Buyers must also comply with the various regulations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) pertaining to the importation of plants and seeds into the United States. However, the USDA, through the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (“APHIS”) has a streamlined process for the importation of smaller purchases of seed, referred to as “Small Lots.” Buyers can apply online for a Small Lots of Seed Permit. The permit is free, is good for multiple shipments, and is valid for 3 years.

Smaller purchases (under 10g per seed packet, not to exceed 50 packets per shipment) may be imported with a Small Seed Lot Permit as long as the seed is not a prohibited article, under quarantine, on the Federal Noxious Weed List or otherwise excluded from importation under applicable state and federal laws. Additional information can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations regarding Foreign Quarantine Notices.

To facilitate the shipment of seeds from Canada to a U.S. Buyer, the Buyer must:

  • Obtain a Small Lots of Seed Permit.; and
  • Send to the Canadian Seller:
    • A copy of the Small Lots Seed Permit;
    • A USDA-issued shipping label addressed to a U.S. Inspection Station (to obtain information about obtaining approved shipping labels, click on “Shipping Label” on the USDA/APHIS website); and
    • A self-addressed label containing the Buyer’s name, address, telephone and Small Lots Seed Permit Number.

To ship seeds to a U.S. Buyer, the Canadian Seller must label, package and ship as follows:

Each seed packet must:

  • Be clearly labeled on the outside of the packet, with the name of the sender, botanical (Latin) name, identification code or designation for the lot of seed, and country of origin (the label should not be placed inside the packet with the seeds).
  • Be in the form of a packet or envelope that is sealed to prevent spillage (USDA recommend that seeds are packed in resealable, clear plastic envelopes to facilitate inspection).
  • Contain nor more than 50 seeds (or 10g) of 1 taxon (the unit of genus, species, etc.) Example: each seed packet can contains only 1 type of seed, such as 50 lettuce seeds.
  • Be free from pesticides and the shipment must be free from soil, plant material other than seed, other foreign matter or debris, seeds in the fruit or seed pod, and living organisms such as parasitic plants, pathogens, insects, snails, mites. If the seeds have been treated, additional USDA labeling requirements may apply.
  • Cannot contain “obscured seed.” Seed that is coated or pelleted, or embedded in a manner that obscures visibility (e.g. seed tape, seed mats) is prohibited because it cannot be inspected.

Each shipping package must contain:

  • A typed or legibly printed seed list/invoice that contains:
    • Name of Seller
    • Botanical (Latin) names of plant, listed alphabetically
    • Country of origin
    • Country shipped from, for each taxon.
  • Buyer’s self-addressed shipping label, containing the Buyers’ name, address, telephone and Small Lots Seed Permit Number (Seller should NOT place the self-addressed shipping label on the outside of the parcel).
  • A copy of the Buyer’s Small Lots Seed Permit.
  • No more than 50 seed packets per shipment. The seeds must be the type of seeds specified in the permit (if the permit allows “eligible taxa”, that means any seeds which are not prohibited).

Package Shipping Instructions: Seller should adhere the Green and Yellow USDA-issued Shipping Label addressed to the U.S. Inspection Station to the outside of the package. The shipment must be mailed to the approved port of entry listed on the permit. The Buyer’s address should not be placed on the outside of the parcel.

Additional information regarding Customs Requirements for shipments from Canada to a destination outside of Canada may also be found at the ”Postal Imports” section of the Canada Post website.

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We’ve lost an incredible amount of seed diversity over the last 100 years. Our goal is to regain some of that diversity. We encourage people to save and exchange their seeds with one another. The more we exchange seeds, the more varieties we will all grow. The more varieties we grow, the more diverse and resilient our crops will become.

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Importing Seeds into the United States from Canada In its effort to assist our customers in the sale of seeds between U.S. and Canada, SeedWise has compiled information from several sources to