US Import Documents

Importing Drosophila into the U.S. and moving Drosophila between states

It is illegal to import any item into the U.S. without describing it accurately on customs documents. Live animals must be listed by species name on customs declaration forms. Customs inspectors expect to see appropriate documentation with shipments of live animals. If documentation is not provided, shipments will likely be returned to the shipper, delayed in delivery or destroyed.

It is also illegal to move some animals across state lines without documentation.

The kinds of documentation needed for importation or interstate movement of Drosophila strains depend on the genetic details of the strains. Here we outline U.S. Department of Agriculture practices with respect to Drosophila melanogaster. If you are working with another Drosophila species, see importation and interstate movement of non-melanogaster Drosophila strains.

Importing Drosophila melanogaster strains

Any Drosophila melanogaster strain will fall into one of three categories with respect to USDA regulations and import documents.

Some strains that carry transgenic microorganisms and some transgenic strains that carry sequences associated with select agents or biased inheritance require special permits. It is important that you review our webpage on permits for these "nonroutine” strains carefully to determine if they are relevant to you.

If you are absolutely sure that a transgenic strain does not fall into one of the categories of “nonroutine” strains, then it can be imported using documentation for “routine” transgenic strains.

All other strains—nontransgenic strains not carrying transgenic microorganisms—require a permit for "routine" nontransgenic strains.

Using import documents

Depending on the strains being imported, a shipment may need to transit through a USDA inspection station at a port of entry on its way to you. If you wish to import more than one kind of strain in a single shipment, you will need to include all the appropriate documents. For details, see What should I do with import documents once I receive them?

Interstate movement of Drosophila melanogaster strains

No permits are required for transporting Drosophila melanogaster strains among the continental U.S. states unless the strains fall into one of the nonroutine classes, where an Interstate Movement Permit may be required.

If you have a permit for importing strains from another country, you do not need an Interstate Movement Permit for transporting the shipment from the U.S. border to you.

Special rules for Hawaii and U.S. territories

In contrast to movement among the continental states, transporting any strain of any Drosophila species into Hawaii or U.S. territories requires additional documentation.

Carrying Drosophila cultures on airline flights

...and why it's a really bad idea.

What about old-style permits?

We revised these webpages in April 2021 to reflect new USDA regulations and practices. Can I still use the old paperwork?

The regulations

If you have read the webpages above and still want more information, take a look at Background on USDA regulations and practices.