Importing plants to the United States of America is overseen by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and APHIS (Animal/Plant Health Inspection Service). In some cases, the plant protection and Quarantine also plays roles during the process. Orchids are also protected plants and covered by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).
Importing a protected species of plants can be difficult, but in the case of orchid, it is actually quite easy. The first thing to do is obtain a permit from the USDA. Unless you are importing for commercial purpose, the permit is issued for free. If you are commercial firm, however, importing CITES-regulated plants require a General Permit which costs about $70 and is valid for two years.
Airport of Entry
In the application to acquire a permit, you will want to specify a port of entry. You will want to specify several ports of entry, in case you want to import again in the future from another country. Choose the closest and most convenient one depending on where you import the orchids from. List of ports of entry is as follows:
Expect thorough inspection at the port of entry, so it is important that you communicate with the sellers regarding the requirements and conditions for the orchids to be accepted. You will need to tell the seller that the paperwork and plants must match exactly. Any extra plant as a bonus or attachment (especially when it is undocumented) will cause refusal, not only for the additional item, but for the orchid as well. Documentation is vendor’s responsibility, and this will include export permits. The process can be difficult, and it is normal to expect additional fee for documentation. Emphasize to the seller that the orchids must appear clean, or as clean as they can be, because infested plants or ones that have the appearance of wild-collected may result in refusal. Although it is not illegal to import wild-collected orchids, you need proper documentation for that as well.
Shipping from Port of Entry
Before the plant arrives, make an arrangement for the plants to be shipped or forwarded to you. Plant Inspection Station does the inspection, but it does not have to deal with the forwarding. You should not expect the station to do it for you, so it is necessary to make a forwarding arrangement in advance.
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