How to Obtain a Permit

“To work for the common good is the greatest creed.”  Albert SchweitzerMacaw

Step 1.  Does my activity involve animals or plants?

    For activities involving animals continue to Step 2.
For any activities involving plants, continue to Step 3.

Step 2.  Does my activity with animals occur only within the United States or does it involve movement across international borders?

 If your activity with animals occurs completely within the United States, continue to Step 3.
•    If your activity with animals involves import, export, international travel, international mail, purchase from or sale to a foreign country, or other movement across international borders, click on International Wildlife and then return to Step 3 on this page.

Step 3.  Is the species protected?

    Check all the appropriate lists to determine if the animal or plant is protected. The different lists do not include all common names for every listed species. In addition, in some lists, the scientific names of some species are not individually shown on the list or in the database. A number of the listings are not at the species level, some are by larger groups of related animals or plants.
•     If you do not find the species name on one of the lists, confirm that the species is not listed by contacting a permit office (see Step 6).
•     If a species is protected by more than one law or treaty, the permitting requirements of all laws apply.
•     In most instances, you may submit a single application and obtain one permit when a species is protected by more than one law or treaty.

Step 4.  Is the activity regulated or allowed under a permit?

The following table lists the basic activities that may be authorized by a permit under different laws and treaties, and their implementing regulations. The regulations define the types of activities that require permits, and provide specific information that may help you decide if your proposed activity needs a permit. Visit the Laws/Treaties/Regulations page to access text of the laws, treaties, and regulations. If you cannot find your activity in the table below, review keywords under the Application Forms page.

Activities that may be Authorized by a Permit

Law or Treaty


Endangered Species Act
Marine Mammal Protection Act
Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Foreign Commerce

Endangered Species Act


Endangered Species Act
Injurious wildlife (Lacey Act)
Marine Mammal Protection Act
Migratory Bird Treaty Act
Wild Bird Conservation Act

Incidental Take

Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act
Endangered Species Act
Marine Mammal Protection Act

Interstate Commerce

Endangered Species Act


Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act
Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Sale/Purchase or Offer for Sale/Purchase

Endangered Species Act
Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Take (including salvage)

Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act
Endangered Species Act
Marine Mammal Protection Act
Migratory Bird Treaty Act


Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act
Injurious Wildlife (Lacey Act)
Marine Mammal Protection Act
Migratory Bird Treaty Act


Step 5How do I obtain and complete a permit application?

•     Select the application form for the law or treaty and activity you want to conduct.
•     Review the regulations that apply to the type of permit you need.
•     Complete the form following the instructions.
•     Attach the application fee, if applicable.
•     Check that your application is completely filled out and signed. This will help avoid delays.
•     Some applications may require that you have a State or foreign permit before you can obtain a Federal permit.  You may need to contact your State wildlife or plant conservation agency and/or the CITES Management Authority of the foreign importing or exporting country to determine any additional requirements.
•     If you are applying for a protected species permit(s) and also for a port exception permit, submit only page 2 of the port exception permit along with your protected species application to the appropriate protected species permit office. You will only need to submit the application fee for the protected species permit.
•     Contact the issuing permit office (see the top of the application form) if you have questions that are not answered in the FAQs/Facts section of this website.

Step 6.  Where do I send my application? 

•     The address at the top of the application form indicates where you should submit the form.
•     The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has four programs that issue permits. Each program handles a different category of permits, but some types of permits may be issued by more than one program.

Permit Programs

Permit Activity or Purpose

Law or Treaty

International Affairs (Division of Management

•     Cooperative breeding programs for exotic live birds
•     Import or export of listed species
•     Take and interstate and foreign commerce of non-native endangered and threatened species, includingCaptive-bred Wildlife Registration
•     Take and transport of marine mammals

•     CITES
•     Endangered Species Act
•     Injurious wildlife (Lacey Act)
•     Marine Mammal Protection Act
•     Wild Bird Conservation Act

Endangered Species

Native endangered and threatened animals and plants (except for import or export which are issued by the Division of Management Authority)
•     Candidate conservation agreements
•     Incidental take
•     Interstate commerce
•     Recovery
•     Safe harbor agreements

Endangered Species Act

Law Enforcement

•     Engage in business as a wildlife importer or exporter
•     Import or export wildlife at other than a designated port or authorized border or special port
•     Export and re-export of certain CITES wildlife

•    CITES
•    Endangered Species Act

Migratory Birds

•     Conservation Education
•     Depredation
•     Eagle Indian religious purposes
•     Falconry
•     Game bird propagation
•     Import or export of listed species
•     Raptor propagation
•     Rehabilitation
•     Salvage
•     Scientific collecting
•     Take of depredating birds
•     Taxidermy
•     Waterfowl sale and disposal

•    Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act
•    Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Step 7.  When will I receive my permit?

•          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 or endangered species applications.
•          We process applications as quickly as possible, in the order received.
•          If you need to check on the status of your application, please allow at least 10 days after you have submitted it before calling. Also, if applicable, have your permit file number available.


Last updated: May 23, 2012