The Declaration Form
Who needs to file a declaration?
Any individual or company importing wood products (formal entries) into the United States needs to submit a declaration. Plant product trade across US state and county lines does NOT require a declaration.
- What is the difference between formal and informal entry?
A formal entry requires a Lacey Act Declaration. Formal entries are goods valued at $2,000 or more, as defined by Customs and Border Protection. Personal effects valued under $2,000 not intended for trade do not require a declaration, ever. In addition, APHIS is not enforcing the declaration on hand carried baggage/luggage. This includes, for example, personal musical instruments.
- Which products need to be declared?
The US government phased in the declaration over time. As of April 1, 2010, all plant and plant products must be declared upon entry. HTS codes, or the Harmonized Tariff Schedule Codes, can be found here.
- Does the declaration requirement apply to all types of entries?
At this time, the government is not enforcing the declaration requirement for informal entries (i.e., most personal shipments), personal importations, or mail, export, in transit movements, carnet importations (i.e., merchandise or equipment that will be re-exported within a year), and foreign trade zone and warehouse entries. As with the different product types, a Federal Register notice will be issued before initiating any enforcement regarding such imports. To receive up-to-date information on the Lacey Act, contact us.
What agency/office collects the information on the declaration forms?
The electronic declaration information is collected by Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security. The paper declaration is collected by Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, United States Department of Agriculture (APHIS). All information ends up at APHIS.
- What is meant by country of harvest of the declaration form? How is it different from “country of origin”?
The country of harvest is the country where the original source material was grown, and subsequently cut down, picked, or otherwise removed (i.e., harvested). This may not be the same country that subsequently processed or is exporting the material. Thus, the country of harvest of the declared plant material may differ from the country of origin of the finished product.
- Will my declaration information be publicly available?
Under U.S. law certain information in the control of the government is by law publicly available through various channels. The U.S. Government has not made a formal decision on whether declaration information will be made publicly available outside of formal legal processes such as FOIA requests. Under existing legal frameworks, it is anticipated that any information provided to third parties will not contain identifying information for the importer, exporter, or consignee.
- Who is responsible for signing the paper Declaration form?
The Importer of Record is responsible for completing the declaration form, signing it, and submitting it to APHIS. A Customs Broker can sign the paper Declaration form only if they have Power of Attorney for the Importer of Record, however, in doing so they take upon themselves the legal responsibility for the accuracy of the information. The electronic submission via the Automated Broker Interface must go through a customs broker.
- What is the process for submitting a paper declaration form?
Complete the form online through the Lacey Act Web Governance System (LAWGS). For more information, visit the "About LAWGS" page. Alternatively you can fill out a copy of paper declaration form (PPQ Form 505), which can be downloaded from the main page of the APHIS Lacey Act website. Importers should have the form available for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to review at the port of entry. After CBP clears the shipment, the importer must mail the form to USDA at the following address: The Lacey Act, c/o the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Box 10, 4700 River Road, Riverdale, MD 20737.
- Should I keep a copy of the Lacey Act Declaration with my shipment?
Yes. Although the form is not required at the border (it should have been mailed before the shipment arrives at the border) it is a good idea to have all paperwork on file. APHIS recommends you make two copies of the Declaration: mail one copy to APHIS. Send other copy with shipment/documentation for CBP.
- Does the declaration require information on the “chain of custody” for products or the raw materials used to manufacture the products being imported?
No. The declaration will require information on the species of plant (the scientific name), the name of the country where the plant was taken (harvested), and the value and quantity of the plant.
International Requirements & Certifications
Imports from which countries are subject to the provisions of the Lacey Act?
Imports from all countries are subject to the provisions of the Lacey Act. This includes imports of materials whose origin is the USA.
- I am importing CITES-regulated material that already has proper CITES documentation, do I also need to declare for the Lacey Act?
Yes. All shipments of material (including CITES-regulated material) that fall under the sections of the HTS Chapters listed in the implementation schedule AND makes formal customs entry into the United States must be declared.
- Will third party certification like FSC or SFI guarantee that products cannot be held based on suspicion of illegality?
No. Although most certification systems for forest products include legality of harvest among their criteria, these are voluntary, private sector systems, the accuracy of which cannot be readily determined by the US government. Nevertheless, such certification systems may provide valuable information to manufacturers and importers in their efforts to exercise due diligence regarding sources and species of timber.
- Does third party certification exempt me from a Lacey Act declaration?
No. There is no relationship between voluntary certification documents and the legally-required Lacey Act declaration.
- Is there a database of foreign laws that will be enforced as a result of the Lacey Act Amendment?
No. The Lacey Act now makes it unlawful to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce any plant, with some limited exceptions, taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of the laws of the United States, a State, an Indian tribe, or any foreign law that protects plants or that regulates certain plant related offenses. It is the responsibility of the importer in the United States to be aware of any foreign laws that may pertain to their merchandise prior to its importation into the United States. The U.S. Government has no plans to create such a database as foreign laws are constantly changing.
- Do I now need a certificate of legality to import wood into the U.S.?
No. “Lacey compliance” is not defined by any one document, checkbox, due diligence system or due care check-list, and do not expect the U.S. government to provide that. In order to be fully “Lacey compliant” as per the statute, you need to eliminate illegal wood from your supply chain. In order to guard against liability, you need to practice due diligence – termed “due care” under the Lacey Act. How you can best do this will depend on your product, your current sourcing practices, and your business model. The private sector is better equipped than the government to define which best practices will ensure that companies are only sourcing legal timber, especially because these practices continue to evolve over time.
Domestic Requirements & Interstate Movement
What do I need to do to export wood products from the United States?
For the Lacey Act, nothing. The Lacey Act Plant Provisions do not require any specific export documents. If you are trading in a CITES listed species, you will need proper CITES permits depending on the species and its listing. And if your foreign buyer intends to re-export a finished product made from American wood back to the United States, their importer will ask for the information required for a Lacey Act declaration (scientific species and country of harvest).
- How does the Lacey Act apply to wood products within the United States and US territories?
The Lacey Act prohibitions against illegal harvest, transport and trade can also be prosecuted domestically in cases where covered timber and plants are illegally taken from Federal land, or illegally taken from State or private lands and then entered into interstate or foreign commerce. The Lacey Act also makes it unlawful to make or submit any false record or label with respect to any covered plant or plant product, including timber.
- What constitutes a Lacey Act violation based on violation of domestic law?
Cases may include, but are not limited to, those involving the transportation, sale, receipt, acquisition or purchase of illegally taken plants, including timber. Illegally taken plants are those plants taken in violation of Federal, State or Tribal law, including State forest practice acts. Generally, Lacey Act violations are triggered when the illegally taken plants enter into interstate or foreign commerce, or when such products are transported within or from Federal or Tribal lands. Therefore, if a tree is illegally harvested in a national park, Lacey Act charges may be brought against any person who exports, transports (even if the transport remains within the same Federal jurisdiction), sells, receives, or purchases that tree, timber from the tree, or any product thereof.
- What additional tools or options does the Lacey Act potentially provide for dealing with domestic timber theft that did not exist before?
Illegally taken timber and plant products can now be seized/forfeited and those who do not exercise due care in the procurement, purchase and transport of such products can be prosecuted under the Lacey Act. Therefore, the amended Lacey Act now provides the basis for greater cooperation among States, and between the States and the Federal government to combat timber theft. States can now work with the appropriate Federal law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute Lacey Act violations.
- Will Federal agents be "checking" compliance with State forest practices regulations?
US State forest practices regulations are enforced by their respective State jurisdictions. However, in cases where illegally taken plant products are transported across State lines, involved States can now cooperate with the federal prosecutors to bring Federal Lacey Act charges against violators. It is possible that information obtained by or provided to Federal agents may lead to Federal Lacey Act charges against violators of State forest and plant conservation laws and regulations.
- What Federal agencies will be responsible for enforcing the Lacey Act domestically?
In cases where timber and other plant products are illegally taken from Federal land, the designated Federal law enforcement agency (i.e. U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, etc.) has enforcement authority. For cases involving State and private land, there is currently no single Federal enforcement agency or clearly established processes or agency relationships.
Errors & Misdeclarations
Are there penalties for errors or misdeclarations?
Yes. If an importer makes a false declaration, there is the possibility of a civil penalty fine and forfeiture of goods. The penalties differ for those who knowingly make false import declarations versus those who unknowingly make false import declarations.
Knowing Violations: Those who knowingly make a false declaration (e.g. declaring wood is from country “X” when in fact it was harvested in country “Y”) can be charged with criminal felony fines up to $500,000 for corporations and $250,000 for individuals. Jail time of up to 5 years is possible. Forfeiture of goods.
Unknowing Violations: Those who unknowingly make a false declaration risk civil penalty fines of $250 with possible forfeiture of goods.
- Is there an exception for companies that unknowingly imported plants and plant products in violation of the declaration requirement?
- If I genuinely do not know the species or the country from which the plant was taken, should I guess?
No. By law, you must submit a declaration that lists possible species and possible countries. In order to import plant products that fall under the scope of the declaration requirement, you are required to declare the scientific name, country of harvest, value and volume of wood products entering the US. However, the declaration requirement of the statute does provide that in the case in which the species of plant used to produce a plant product that is the subject of an importation varies, and the exact species used to produce the plant product is unknown, the declaration shall contain the name of each species of plant that may have been used to produce the plant product. Furthermore, in the case in which the species of plant used to produce a plant product that is the subject of an importation is commonly taken from more than one country, and the exact country from which the plant was taken and used to produce the product is unknown, the declaration shall contain the name of each country from which the plant may have been taken.
- The Lacey Act states that if the species contained in the product varies and the actual species is unknown, then the declaration should “contain the name of the species that may have been used…” Can the product be seized and/or forfeited if I am wrong?
Yes. In theory, a product covered by the declaration requirements in the Lacey Act is subject to seizure and forfeiture if the declaration is inaccurate in any way. However, as with any other customs declaration requirement violations, enforcement agencies always exercise discretion in the cases they pursue, and may also exercise discretion regarding any potential penalties depending upon the severity of the incident.
- Will shipments be refused entry if the information required in the declarations is not known and not provided?
Shipments not in compliance with the law may be refused entry. Such enforcement decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, as with any other customs entry requirement violation.
- Is there a de minimis exception?
No. The statute does not currently provide for any de minimis exceptions, either to the substantive prohibitions or to the declaration requirement. However, the relative amount of an item at issue may be a factor in enforcement when related to the issue of knowledge and/or due care. Declaration violations made unknowingly or in error, including due to small amounts of product in a shipment, cannot be considered a criminal act; there is no due care misdemeanor for violation of the declaration requirement. And, as with violations of any other customs declaration requirements (e.g., product description, weight, value, etc.), enforcement agencies may exercise discretion on whether they pursue cases and any potential penalties depending upon the severity of the incident.
Mixed Sources & Repeated Shipments
Does the declaration require information on the “chain of custody” for products or the raw materials used to manufacture the products being imported?
No. The declaration requires information on the species of plant (the scientific name), the name of the country where the plant was taken (harvested), and the value and quantity of the plant.
- Can I declare repeated shipments in one “blanket declaration,” and if so, how?
To find out if you are eligible, visit the APHIS website under Blanket Declaration Pilot Program.
Exemptions & Special Use Codes
What is exempt from the declaration requirement?
- Packaging material- For the purposes of the Lacey Act declaration requirement, packaging material is defined as any material used to support, protect, or carry another item. This includes, but is not limited to, items such as: wood crating, wood pallets, cardboard boxes, packing paper used as cushioning, labels, wine corks, etc. Packaging material is exempt from the Lacey Act’s declaration requirement unless the packaging material itself is the item being imported or it is used for some other purpose than supporting, protecting or carrying another item. An exact list has yet to be announced.
- Common food crops- Although technically a plant, common food crops, such as wheat, do not require a declaration. The exact definition from APHIS has yet to be announced. Check the APHIS website for updates.
- Common cultivars-Although technically a plant, common cultivars, such as cotton, do not require a declaration. The exactly definition from APHIS has yet to be announced. Check the APHIS website for updates.
- Scientific Specimens- Scientific specimens of plant genetic material (including roots, seeds, germplasm, parts, or products thereof) that are to be used only for laboratory or field research are excluded from the definition of “plant” unless they are listed in an appendix to CITES, as an endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, or pursuant to any State law that provides for the conservation of species that are indigenous to the State and are threatened with extinction.
- Additional Current Special Cases on the DECLARATION REQUIREMENT (not the Act itself): Composite products*, Reclaimed lumber*, Recycled content*, Antiquesⱡ, Pre-Lacey harvested woodⱡ
To be very clear: these products are treated differently only with respect to filing an import declaration. They are still subject to the substantive provisions of the Lacey Act that prohibit commerce in illegal wood products.
*APHIS says: Beginning October 1, 2009, APHIS began enforcement of the declaration requirements for goods in certain Harmonized Tariff Schedule chapters that include some products that are composed in whole or in part of composite materials, such as medium density fiberboard, particle board, or paperboard; or recycled, reused, or reclaimed (including driftwood) materials.
Importers of such materials may have difficulty identifying in their Lacey Act declarations the genus, species, and country of harvest of all plants in the products they are importing. If an importer of such materials is unable through the exercise of due care to determine the genus, species, and/or country of harvest of such materials, the importer should use the applicable Special Use Code set forth above. By using the Special Use Code, the importer is representing that it is not possible through the exercise of due care to determine the genus, species, and/or country of harvest of such materials. If a product is not composed entirely of composite, recycled, reused or reclaimed materials, the importer must indicate the genus, species and country of harvest for all other product components.
ⱡAPHIS says: In a limited number of situations, items presently on the declaration enforcement schedule may be manufactured in whole or in part prior to the effective date of the Lacey Act Amendments. The manufacturer, prior to the Lacey Act Amendments, may not have tracked the sources or species of its raw materials. It may be impossible to trace back those sources after the fact. If an importer of such items manufactured prior to May 22, 2008, is unable through the exercise of due care to determine the genus, species and/or country of harvest of the plant materials contained in that item, the importer should use the applicable code set forth above. By using the Special Use Code, the importer is representing that it is not possible through the exercise of due care to determine the genus, species and/or country of harvest of such materials. If a product is not manufactured entirely prior to May 22, 2008, the importer must indicate the genus, species and country of harvest for all product components manufactured after that date.
- What are “special use codes?”
APHIS has compiled the following chart of Special Use Codes to address recurring issues. View the PDF at the APHIS website .
- If I am a musician, do I need to file a declaration for crossing state or international boundaries with my wooden instrument*?
At present, APHIS is enforcing the declaration requirement for formal entries (i.e., most commercial shipments). At this time, they are not enforcing the declaration requirement for informal entries (i.e., most personal shipments), personal importations, or mail, transportation and exportation entries, in-transit movements, carnet importations (i.e., merchandise or equipment that will be re-exported within a year), and foreign trade zone and warehouse entries. As with the different product types, APHIS will issue a Federal Register notice before initiating any enforcement regarding such imports.
*Many instruments are made with “Pre-Lacey Harvested Materials.” If that is the case, APHIS says: In a limited number of situations, items presently on the declaration enforcement schedule may be manufactured in whole or in part prior to the effective date of the Lacey Act Amendments. The manufacturer, prior to the Lacey Act Amendments, may not have tracked the sources or species of its raw materials. It may be impossible to trace back those sources after the fact. If an importer of such items manufactured prior to May 22, 2008, is unable through the exercise of due care to determine the genus, species and/or country of harvest of the plant materials contained in that item, the importer should use the applicable code set forth above. By using the Special Use Code, the importer is representing that it is not possible through the exercise of due care to determine the genus, species and/or country of harvest of such materials. If a product is not manufactured entirely prior to May 22, 2008, the importer must indicate the genus, species and country of harvest for all product components manufactured after that date.
- How do “Special Use Codes” apply to species groupings?
The amended Lacey Act explicitly states that the import declaration must contain both the genus and the species of the imported plant material. 16 U.S.C. § 3372(f)(1)(A). It further requires that if the species of plant used to produce the product that is the subject of the importation varies, and the species used to produce the plant is unknown, the declaration shall contain a list of each species of plant that may have been used to produce the plant product. APHIS understands that some products are commonly traded under shorthand names that stand for a specific collection of species of plants. It has been recommended in comments provided to notices that APHIS has published in the Federal Register that APHIS develop a list of shorthand designations that would satisfy the requirement to provide detailed genus and species information for such common nomenclature groups on each PPQ505. The shorthand designations would stand for a specific list of species, thus satisfying the declaration requirement more efficiently. APHIS to date has identified just one such species grouping: SPF (Spruce, Pine, Fir). SPF is a common grade of lumber manufactured from varying proportions of spruce, pine or fir species. SPF imports are a combination of several distinct species, but identifying the particular species in any individual shipment would be difficult, costly, and/or time consuming. The SPF species grouping includes:
o Abies amabilis
o Abies balsamea
o Abies concolor
o Abies grandis
o Abies lasiocarpa
o Abies procera
o Larix laricina
o Larix occidentalis
o Picea engelmannii
o Picea glauca
o Picea mariana
o Picea rubens
o Pinus banksiana
o Pinus contorta
For such shipments of SPF, the importer may declare the genus as “Special” and the species as “SPF” to represent that the specific species are unknown but the SPF species grouping represents all possible species that may be present in the product. However, if a species of wood contained in the shipment does not fall under the species grouping list above, the SPF grouping may not be used in the declaration to identify the genus and species of plant or plant product being imported.