Guidance

Moving prohibited plants, plant pests, pathogens and soil

How to apply for a scientific licence to import, move or keep material that's usually prohibited, fees you must pay and how to move it.

Applies to England and Wales

You must get a licence from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) to import, move or keep prohibited:

  • plants, including parts of plants and seeds
  • invertebrate plant pests (arthropods, molluscs and nematodes)
  • plant pathogens (fungi, bacteria, viruses, virus-like agents and phytoplasmas)
  • soil and other organic material
  • potatoes

Your licence will include the specific conditions under which you must import, move or keep the material.

You must follow these along with the conditions set out in this guidance.

If you’re in Scotland, contact Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture.

If you’re in Northern Ireland, contact the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Who can get a licence

You can only get a licence if you’re using the prohibited items for:

  • official testing
  • scientific research
  • educational purposes
  • trials
  • testing new varieties of plants (varietal selection)
  • breeding

Licences for invertebrate plant pests and plant pathogens

You must have a licence to import, move or keep invertebrate plant pests or plant pathogens which meet any one of the following conditions:

  • they’re Great Britain quarantine pests listed in Schedule 1 of the Plant Health (EU Exit) Regulations 2020
  • they’re Great Britain provisional quarantine pests (PQPs) listed in Schedule 2 of the Plant Health (EU Exit) Regulations 2020
  • they’re Pest Free Area quarantine pests for Great Britain listed in Schedule 4 of the Plant Health (EU Exit) Regulations 2020
  • they’re assessed to be a Great Britain potential quarantine pest by Defra - contact APHA to check if the pest or pathogen you wish to work with meets the potential quarantine pest criteria

You do not need a licence to import, move or keep invertebrate plant pests or plant pathogens which meet any one of the following conditions:

  • they’re a Regulated Non-Quarantine Pest (RNQP) listed in Schedule 4 of the Plant Health (EU Exit) Regulations 2020
  • they’re assessed not to be a Great Britain potential quarantine pest by Defra - contact APHA to check if the invertebrate or pathogen you wish to work with meets the potential quarantine pest criteria.

Contact APHA to check if an invertebrate plant pest or pathogen is prohibited.

Licences for prohibited plants, parts of plants and seeds

You must have a licence to import, move or keep any plants, parts of plants or seeds listed in Schedule 6 of the Plant Health (EU Exit) Regulations 2020.

Using a licence instead of a phytosanitary certificate

You may be able to use a licence to bring in plants, parts of plants and seeds which would normally need a phytosanitary certificate.

You can only do this if you can’t get the phytosanitary certificate for scientifically justified reasons contact APHA if you want to do this.

Licences for prohibited soil and other organic material

You must have a licence to import, move, or keep soil from all third countries excluding EU member states, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. This also applies to any organic material which is capable of sustaining plant life and which contains solid organic matter, for example humus, peat other than pure and unused peat, moss, bark and artificial growing media which contains organic matter.

You don’t need a licence for:

  • marine sediments
  • pure and unused peat
  • pure and unused fibre of Cocos nucifera L.
  • pure sand, clay, talc, rocks, volcanic pumice and chalk
  • water that isn’t contaminated by soil or organic matter

Apply for a licence

You should apply for a licence at least two months before you need it, using Defra’s eDomero online application system.

If you haven’t used eDomero before, you need to register as a new user

Application fees

New licences for prohibited plants, plant pests and pathogens cost £995.36. This fee covers a licence for 5 types of material - you must pay a further £52.45 for each extra type of material.

New licences for prohibited soil or other organic material cost £745.41 if requested for chemical or physical analysis, and cost £995.36 if required for other purposes.

APHA will send you an invoice after you apply for a licence using the eDomero system.

What to include in your application

Your application must include the following details:

  • place of origin of the material
  • quantity of the material
  • number of consignments of the material and quantity per consignment
  • duration of the work on the specified material
  • summary of the nature and objectives of the work
  • packaging conditions under which the material will be moved or imported
  • final use of the specified material on completion of the work, for example, destruction, collection, storage or * release (release is only applicable to plants)
  • method of destruction or treatment of the material on completion of the work
  • standard operating procedure (SOP) including contact details for your consignor (supplier).
  • List of personnel who will be working with the licensed material

What to include in your standard operating procedure (SOP)

You should upload your SOP as an attached file to your application on eDomero. Within your SOP you should provide details of your:

  • site security
  • record-keeping and labelling
  • the layout of your facilities
  • the procedures you’ll follow during experiments

Site security

You must confirm:

  • all areas containing quarantine material are kept locked
  • the names of anyone who has access to quarantine areas or a set of keys
  • how you label quarantine areas
  • that all authorised personnel will read and sign a standard operating procedure before starting work with licensed material

Record-keeping and labelling

You must describe how you’ll:

  • keep dated records when new material arrives and how you’ll move or dispose of existing licensed material
  • label or distinguish licensed material at all stages of your experiments
  • move or dispose of existing specified material

Your facilities

You must:

  • describe the type of containment facility you’ll use, for example glasshouses, polytunnels, laboratories
  • describe the location of containment facilities on your premises - give room numbers or a geographic location relative to a named or numbered area and make a plan of your facility if possible
  • give details of how often authorised staff enter the containment facilities
  • describe how much material you’ll keep in containment facilities at a given time
  • describe how you’ll keep licensed material within 3 layers of secure containment to stop plant pests escaping
  • state the other material that will arrive with the licensed material (for example soil) and how you’ll handle it or dispose of it
  • state whether you’ll keep licensed and non-licensed material in the same containment facilities
  • describe the type of work you’ll carry out in each area of your site
  • describe the containers you’ll grow plants in, if the licensed material includes plants for planting
  • describe the traps you’ll use to detect the escape of licensed organisms
  • provide a detailed contingency plan you’ll use if organisms escape or if you suspect they’ve escaped

Your experimental procedures

You must also state:

  • how you’ll carry out your experiments - give a step by step description of every experiment you intend to do
  • whether workers will wear dedicated protective clothing that’s only used when working on licensed material and how you’ll clean it after use
  • the precautions you’ll take when transporting material between containment facilities during experiments
  • the disinfectants you’ll use to clean containment facilities, their concentration and how you’ll use them
  • how you’ll destroy the licensed material after you’ve finished working with it, and before you dispose of it
  • a list of the scientific and technical qualifications of all personnel who’ll do work under the licence you’re applying for

Moving consignments within England and Wales

You must follow certain rules to send and receive material from other sites within England and Wales.

Sending material to other sites

You can send licensed prohibited material to other people or organisations in England and Wales, provided the destination site or person has a licence to receive them.

Complete the PHI 10 form and send it to APHA - if they approve your plan, they’ll send you a written agreement.

This written agreement is valid for 12 months, provided the recipient’s licence isn’t amended or cancelled in this time.

If the recipient changes the terms of their licence you’ll have to contact APHA for a new approval.

Receiving material from other sites

You must have a licence to receive prohibited material from other people or organisations in England and Wales.

You must also make sure your supplier has a licence and a written agreement from APHA.

Receiving material from outbreak sites

You can only receive material from an outbreak site that’s under an APHA notice if the notice allows this.

Contact APHA if you’re unsure which are under notice.

You must have a licence to hold and work with any material you receive.

Bringing material in from other countries

If you get a licence to bring prohibited material in from overseas, it will have a ‘letter of authority’ attached - you must keep this letter

Letters of authority are valid for 1 calendar year (1 January to 31 December). APHA issue a new letter of authority each year and charge you £42.50.

Importing prohibited material

Follow these steps to import prohibited material into England and Wales under a licence:

  1. Send a copy of your letter of authority to the supplier.
  2. Ask your supplier to get your letter of authority endorsed by the National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO) in their country.
  3. Ask your supplier to attach the letter to the outside of the package and include a copy inside each package.

If you’re importing material in luggage, you must present it at the red customs channel, along with the appropriate letter of authority, when you arrive in England or Wales.

Exporting material to other countries

There are different rules you must follow to export material to countries in the EU and to other non-EU third countries.

Exporting material to EU countries

Follow these steps to send prohibited material to EU countries:

  1. Ask the recipient for a copy of their letter of authority.
  2. Send the letter of authority to APHA to be endorsed.
  3. Attach your endorsed letter of authority to the outside of all packages before you export them. You should also include a copy inside the packaging.

If the recipient tells you that you don’t need a letter of authority, ask them to show you official confirmation of this from their NPPO or SASA for Scotland and DAERA for Northern Ireland.

You shouldn’t send your material until you’ve got this confirmation.

Exporting material to non-EU third countries

To export material to non-EU third countries, you must comply with the import regulations in the destination country.

APHA may be able to give you advice about import regulations in the destination country.

How to pack materials

You must make sure any prohibited material you’re moving under a licence is stored in 3 layers of packaging.

At least 1 of the layers must be escape and shatter-proof.

Transport, handling and storage

You must make sure you have licensed material transported to your authorised containment facility directly from the place of landing or the licensed establishment in England and Wales.

You must only open, handle and keep licensed material in the approved quarantine containment facility listed on your licence.

Inspections

You must make all licensed material available for inspection by your local APHA inspector.

You must allow the inspector to check how you’re keeping the material - they may take samples of material or any associated organisms, for example invertebrates.

You must contact APHA on the first working day after a consignment of plants arrives to inform them of any plants you’ve received under licence.

Keep the plants in isolation until APHA has inspected them.

Inspection fees

Your application fee covers the cost of your first inspection.

Some licences must then be inspected every year, especially new licences. In other cases inspectors will reinspect every 2 or 3 years.

The first inspector who visits your site will tell you how often you need to be reinspected.

If you fail an inspection you must pay for any further inspections, at a cost of £370.68 an hour, with a minimum of £185.34.

Change an existing licence

You can apply to change your licence using eDomero - for example to add new facilities or material.

APHA may re-inspect your facilities as part of this application process.

Licence amendment fees

Licence amendments that require a Defra scientific or technical assessment cost £380.25.

Amendments that don’t need an assessment cost £42.50.

APHA will send you an invoice after you apply to change a licence through the eDomero system.

Destroying plants, parts of plants and seeds

You must usually destroy plant material after you’ve completed the research your facility was licensed to do.

In some circumstances, you may be allowed to test the plant material and get it released from the terms of its licence.

Contact APHA if you want to get plant material released from its licence instead of destroying it.

You’ll have to get the plant material tested and pay any costs associated with this.

Published 29 July 2015
Last updated 30 June 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated the link to the PHI 10 form. It is under the section 'Moving consignments within England and Wales'.

  2. Update to fees associated with licensing Change to the invertebrates and pathogens that require a licence Change to plant passports and phytosanitary certificates (PCs)

  3. Clarified the application fees because there are two types of soil licence which have different costs. A soil licence for work other than chemical and physical analysis is £995.36. Soil for chemical and physical analysis is £745.41.

  4. New information about letters of authority - they last for one calendar year and cost £42.50 each year.

  5. Updated fees information, changed 'licence' to 'authorisation', brought guidance into line with new SRSF regulations.

  6. Increase in fee's - content updated.

  7. Application fees updated

  8. Updated licence application fees

  9. Amendments to section on renewing and amending existing licences, and licence amendment fees. There is no longer a requirement to renew scientific licences.

  10. First published.

  1. Step 1 Check if you need to follow this process

    Follow these steps to get your goods for import through UK customs if you’re managing the process yourself.

    Getting customs clearance is complicated. You can hire a transporter or customs agent to make the import declaration and get your goods through UK customs.

    1. Hire someone to deal with customs for you

    Your business must be ready to import the goods before you can get customs clearance.

    1. Find out about importing goods from the UK
    1. Check if you need to make an import declaration
  2. Step 2 Set up your business for making import declarations

    You need an EORI number that starts with GB to import goods into England, Wales or Scotland. You'll need a new one if you have an EORI that does not start with GB.

    If you move goods to or from Northern Ireland you may need one that starts with XI.

    1. Get an EORI number

    Depending on where you're moving goods, you need to be registered on the right systems and have compatible software to make declarations.

    1. Check what systems and software you need to make declarations
  3. Step 3 Check if you can make the customs process quicker

    There are processes that can make clearing customs quicker and easier to manage if you have to make import declarations regularly.

    1. Find out about using simplified declaration procedures
    2. Check if Authorised Economic Operator status is right for you

    If you're importing goods from the EU to England, Scotland or Wales (Great Britain) you might be able to delay making a declaration for up to 6 months.

    1. Check if you can declare your goods later if you're importing goods from the EU

    If you regularly import goods using Common Transit, you can apply to start movements of goods at your own premises.

    1. Check if consignee status is right for your business
  4. Step 4 Register to import goods with restrictions

    You need to register as an importer if you import things like plant or animal products, high-risk food or feed, medicines, textiles, chemicals or firearms.

    Register to import:

  5. Step 5 Check if you need a licence or certificate for your goods

  6. and Check the labelling, marking and marketing rules

  7. Step 6 Arrange for the goods to be inspected

    If you import things like plant or animal products, you need to choose a place where the goods can be inspected. This needs to happen before they’re allowed through the UK border.

    1. Find an inspection point for animals and animal products
    2. Find an inspection point for plants, plant products, seeds and wood
    3. Find an inspection point for high risk food and feed that is not of animal origin
    4. Find an inspection point for endangered species, or products made from endangered plants or animals

    You need to let the inspection point know when the goods are arriving. You might have to pay a fee for the inspection.

  8. Step 7 Submit the import declaration

    1. Find out how to submit import declarations

    If you're importing goods from the EU to England, Scotland or Wales (Great Britain) you might be able to delay making a declaration for up to 6 months.

    1. Check if you can declare your goods later to make the importing process quicker
  9. Step 8 Pay VAT and duty

    HMRC will tell you how much to pay after you submit the declaration.

    1. Find out how and when to pay VAT and duty
  10. Step 9 Get the goods released if they're held up at the border

    The goods may be held at the border if, for example:

    • you have not paid the right amount of duty or VAT
    • you do not have the right import licences for the goods or business
    • they did not pass inspection
    • they've been combined with a shipment that has been held up

    If this happens you will be told why.

    1. Contact the National Clearance Hub to get help