Importing and handling invertebrates and micro-organisms

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Under the authority of the Plant Protection Act, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) establishes import and domestic requirements to prevent the import or spread of pestsFootnote 1 in Canada.

Some of these requirements concern the intentional import and handling of invertebrates and micro-organisms that have the potential to cause harm to plant health in Canada, including:

  • Insects
  • Mites
  • Millipedes
  • Earthworms
  • Snails and slugs
  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Viruses
  • Phytoplasmas
  • Nematodes

The import and domestic requirements specific to invertebrates and micro-organisms are provided in the CFIA directives D-12-02 and D-12-03, respectively:

These requirements apply no matter the purpose for wanting to import or handle these organisms, such as for:

  • Personal or commercial uses (e.g. for use as pets, food, feed or bait)
  • Release into the environment (e.g. for biological control or farming)
  • Scientific research (e.g., in government, university or private laboratories)
  • Exhibition or display (e.g. in zoos, museums or insectariums)
  • Education (e.g. in schools, colleges or universities)

Whatever your purpose, authorization from the CFIA may be required before you import or undertake any other activitiesFootnote 2 in respect of invertebrates or micro-organisms.

When CFIA authorization is required

The CFIA issues plant protection import permits and domestic written authorizations to allow the conduct of activities which are otherwise prohibited or restricted. These authorizations specify conditions to prevent harm to plant health in Canada. The CFIA determines the need for and, as applicable, the degree of requirements based on an assessment of risks to plant healthFootnote 3.

With respect of invertebrates and micro-organisms, authorization from the CFIA is required when:

  • the organisms are present on the list of Pests Regulated by Canada;
  • in the case of proposed imports, the organisms are present on Appendix 1 to D-12-02 with reference to a requirement for a permit to import; or
  • the CFIA has determined that one is required in response to an import or domestic application.

To allow a determination to be made and the issuance of an authorization, an application must be presented to the CFIA unless the circumstances fall into one of the categories described below.

When authorization is not required

You are not required to apply for an authorization in any of the following situations:

  • the specimens are dead or otherwise non-viable
  • the specimens are listed in Appendix 1 to D-12-02 as "No Permit to Import Required" for the end use and country of origin concernedFootnote 4
  • the specimens will be obtained or collected in Canada and do not fall into one of these three categories:
    • the organism is on the list of Pests Regulated by Canada
    • the specimens, or progeny thereof, were originally collected outside of Canada (unless listed in Appendix 1 as described above)
    • the organism is reported for the first time in Canada
  • In response to a previous application, you have a letter issued to you by the CFIA advising that an authorization is not required in the same circumstances. However, if the letter does not specify an expiry date and is more than three years old, an application should be submitted.

Applying for an authorization

The application process varies depending on whether it is an import or domestic request:

Import: Requests should be made using the Application for Permit to Import Plants and Other Things under the Plant Protection Act (Form 5256). Information on where to send completed applications is included in the form.

Domestic: Requests should be made using the Application for a Written Authorization to Conduct Activities on Plant Pests (Form 5851). Information on where to send completed applications is included in the form.

Note: In either case, the organisms concerned must be specified in the application by their full scientific name (genus and species).

Outcome of the application process

Based on the review and assessment of an application for an authorization in respect of an invertebrate or micro-organism, the CFIA may determine that:

  • an authorization is not required. For import clearance purposes, a letter is issued to the applicant specifying that no permit is required under the Plant Protection Act; or
  • an authorization is required. An import permit or domestic written authorization is issued provided, as applicable, that the Purpose for undertaking the activities and the Containment facility are appropriate in the circumstances.


Authorizations regarding invertebrates or micro-organisms that require plant pest Containment are only issued if activities are conducted for one of the following purposes: scientific research, educational, processing, industrial or exhibitionFootnote 5. In these cases, the CFIA will not authorize the proposed activities for any other purpose, including for commercial purposes or for personal use.


Certain invertebrates and micro-organisms require the authorization holder to maintain the organisms in a plant pest containment (PPC) facility. The containment level that may be required by the CFIA ranges from the lowest PPC-Basic level to the highest PPC-3 level.

The PPC levels, along with their physical and operational requirements, are described in the CFIA's Containment Standards for Facilities Handling Plant Pests. A level specific to display facilities – PPC-Display - is described in the Addendum for Containment Zones where Low-Risk Exotic Invertebrates are Displayed.

With the exception of the PPC-Basic level, authorizations will be issued only if the facility has a valid status with the CFIA at the appropriate PPC levelFootnote 6. If not, the CFIA communicates with the applicant to commence a facility PPC verification or certification process.


Import permits and domestic written authorization define the parameters of what is and what is not allowed with respect to the import or handling of invertebrates and micro-organisms.

In addition to specifying the regulated organisms, authorizations may specify the origin of the organisms, the exporter or supplier, as well as the destination or containment facility.

Conditions and the validity period are also specified in authorizations, both which are more fully treated below.


Import permits and domestic written authorizations may specify conditions necessary to prevent the introduction or spread of plant pests in Canada. Conditions may set out requirements related to containment, shipping or moving organisms or infested materials, identity and purity of organisms, notification obligations and decontamination.

It is important to be familiar with conditions. Failure to meet a condition may result in the issuance of an administrative monetary penalty or prosecution. The CFIA has various means to generate, monitor and assess compliance and to respond to non-compliance. Consult the CFIA's Compliance and Enforcement Operational Policy to learn more about the CFIA's approach to compliance management.

Validity period

Authorizations specify a validity period, normally ranging from one to three years depending on the circumstances. In the case of import permits and domestic written authorizations for obtaining organisms from within Canada, multiple shipments of organisms may be obtained within this timeframe (unless restrictions are specified in the authorization).

Note: Conditions do not expire at the end of the validity period. As long as you continue to possess or handle viable specimens of the organisms concerned you must comply with the conditions.



For additional information on plant protection requirements that apply to the intentional import and handling of invertebrates and micro-organisms, please contact your local CFIA inspection office.

For assistance in finding or interpreting import requirements listed in AIRS, for information regarding fees associated with imported product, or for guidance on the import document submission and release process, you may contact the CFIA's National Import Service Centre.

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