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.

You must get an authorisation (previously called a scientific 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 authorisation will include the 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 an authorisation

You can only get an authorisation if you’re using the prohibited items for:

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

Authorisations for invertebrate plant pests and plant pathogens

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

  • they’re listed in the annexes of Regulation (EU) 2019/2072
  • they’re under statutory control in England, Scotland and Wales or subject to an eradication campaign
  • the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) considers that they’re not present in England, Scotland and Wales and are likely to be harmful to plants
  • Defra considers them to be non-indigenous races, strains, populations or clones of indigenous species which could be a risk to plant health (for example, increased pathogenicity or resistance to commonly used control strategies)

Plant pests and pathogens which are not listed or under statutory control will be assessed on a case by case basis. Contact APHA to:

  • get an assessment
  • check if Defra considers them harmful

Authorisations for prohibited plants, parts of plants and seeds

You must have an authorisation to import, move or keep any plants, parts of plants or seeds listed in either of the following:

You may be able to get an authorisation to bring in plants, parts of plants, seeds or algae which normally need a phytosanitary certificate or plant passport.

You can only do this if you can not get the phytosanitary certificate or plant passport for scientifically justified reasons. For example, the plants were collected from the wild. Contact APHA if you want to do this.

Authorisations for prohibited soil and other organic material

You must have an authorisation to import, move or keep soil from all third countries, except Switzerland. You do not need an authorisation or a letter of authority to import soil from the EU or Switzerland. This also applies to any organic material capable of sustaining plant life and containing solid organic matter. For example, humus, peat moss and bark.

You must have an authorisation for an artificial growing medium containing organic matter.

You do not need an authorisation for:

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

Apply for an authorisation

You should apply online for an authorisation at least one month before you need it, using eDomero. If you have not used eDomero before, you need to register as a new user.

Application fees

New authorisations for prohibited plants, plant pests and pathogens, and soil or other organic material for work other than chemical and physical analysis, cost £995.36.

New authorisations for prohibited soil or other organic material for chemical and physical analysis cost £745.41.

These fees cover an authorisation for 5 types of material.

You must pay a further £52.45 for each extra type of material.

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

What to include in your application

Your application must explain the:

  • 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 (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).

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
  • facilities’ lay-out
  • procedures you’ll follow during experiments
  • supplier details

Site security

You should confirm:

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

Record-keeping and labelling

You should describe how you’ll:

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

Your facilities

You should:

  • 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 should 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

Your supplier details

Add your supplier details in your SOP including:

  • the name, address, email and phone number of your supplier
  • documentary evidence of your supplier’s details if material is being introduced from a third country

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 authorised prohibited material to other people or organisations in England and Wales, provided the destination site or person is authorised to receive them.

Complete form PHI 10. If APHA approve your plan, they’ll send you a written agreement.

This written agreement is valid for 12 months, provided the recipient’s authorisation is not 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 the 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: letter of authority

If you get an authorisation to import prohibited material, it’ll have a letter of authority attached - you must keep this letter.

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

Follow these steps to bring specified material into England and Wales from other countries, including Scotland and Northern Ireland:

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

Export material to EU countries

Follow these steps to export prohibited material to EU countries, or send it to Scotland and Northern Ireland:

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

If the recipient tells you that you do not need a letter of authority, ask them to show you official confirmation of this from their NPPO.

You should not export or send material until you’ve got this confirmation.

Exporting to non-EU countries

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

Contact APHA to find out what you need to do, including what the rules are in the country you’re exporting to.

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.


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

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 the consignment arrives to inform them of any plants you’ve received under authorisation.

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 £325 an hour. For inspections taking less than an hour, there is a minimum fee of £162.50.

From 1 October 2020 the fees go up to £370.68 an hour, with a minimum of £185.34.

Change an existing licence or authorisation

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

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

Authorisation amendment fees

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

Amendments that do not need an assessment cost £42.50.

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

Destroying plants, parts of plants and seeds

You must destroy plant material after you’ve completed the research your facility was authorised 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 associated costs associated.

Published 29 July 2015
Last updated 5 May 2020 + show all updates
  1. 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.

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

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

  4. Increase in fee's - content updated.

  5. Application fees updated

  6. Updated licence application fees

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

  8. First published.

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

    There are several tasks you need to do before you can get goods through customs.

    1. Check the whole process for importing goods from countries outside the EU

    Most businesses that import goods hire a transporter or customs agent to make the import declaration and clear their goods through UK customs.

  2. Step 2 Set up your business for making customs declarations

    The business importing the goods and any transporter or customs agent acting on their behalf both need an EORI number.

    1. Get an EORI number

    You'll use the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system to make a declaration. You'll need to both:

    You can apply for simplified declaration procedures and for Authorised Economic Operator status. These are most suitable for businesses that import goods regularly.

    1. Find out about using simplified declaration procedures
    2. Check if Authorised Economic Operator status is right for you
  3. and Register to import goods with restrictions

  4. Step 3 Set up a duty deferment account if you import regularly

    Set up a duty deferment account if you want to be able to make one payment of customs duties a month instead of paying for individual shipments.

    You must set one up if you use simplified procedures.

    1. Set up a duty deferment account
  5. Step 4 Arrange for the goods to be inspected

    You need to choose a place where the goods can be inspected if you import things like plant or animal products. 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.

    1. Find out what rules you need to follow to get the goods inspected
  6. Step 5 Submit the import declaration

  7. Step 6 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
  8. Step 7 Get the goods released if they're held up at the border

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

    • 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