2.5 Importing and Exporting of Hazardous Substances

United States Customs, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, and other regulations must be followed when importing or exporting goods and services. This includes purchasing and transporting products or services in a foreign country for use in a foreign country, purchasing from a foreign country for shipment to the United States, or purchasing in the United States for use in a foreign country.

Because of the large number of regulatory requirements and serious penalties for non-compliance, importing and exporting of hazardous materials is discouraged. 

Faculty, staff, and students who serve in various capacities on research and scholarship projects that involve export controls must acquire a level of understanding of the requirements that are appropriate for the role they serve by utilizing available educational, informational, and supporting resources.

Importing Assistance

UMN Purchasing provides assistance with importing and exporting and can help familiarize you with the procedures used at the University of Minnesota. If you have any questions, please call Purchasing Services at (612) 624-2828 and ask for the buyer responsible for international purchasing, or check out the International Import/Export website. 

Exporting Assistance

Export controls can be complicated, arcane, and counterintuitive. Contact the Export Controls Officer (Patrick Briscoe, (612) 625-3860, [email protected]) with any questions as early as possible and certainly prior to engaging in any activities subject to export controls. You can also find written guidance both on the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) Export Controls website. Please review the UMN Administrative Export Control Policy for additional guidance. 

Additional Information


Environmental Protection Agency (Export)

When certain chemical substances are exported or hand carried out of the United States, the EPA must be notified in writing. In some instances, the notification is a "one time" notification and in other cases the EPA must be notified annually. If you are exporting or hand carrying a chemical to a foreign country, check the EPA Chemical Export Notification List (approximately 1,500 items) for which notification is required. This list can be found in a variety of formats and contains many common laboratory chemicals. If the chemical substance you are exporting is on the list, a notification is necessary. Contact HSRM at (612) 626-6002 for assistance in making the notification.

Drug Enforcement Administration (Import/Export)

DEA restricts the import and export of drug precursor chemicals. This regulation implements the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act (CMEA) of 2005 which requires reporting of import, export, and international transactions involving all List I and List II chemicals. 

Biological Agents

United States Department of Agriculture USDA/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service APHIS (Import/Export)

Genetically Modified Organisms
Be aware that Genetically Modified (Engineered) Organisms that are not controlled, or subject to regulations, may be held by customs because of the similarity of the organism to other organisms that are regulated. To prevent an international shipment from being stopped at the port of entry:

  • Include a courtesy permit form letter in the shipment, see courtesy permit form letter
  • Second option, an application may be made for a Courtesy Permit (APHIS Form 2000). Indicate on the form that the data is being submitted as a request for a courtesy permit. Include a statement explaining why you believe the organism or product does not come within the definition of a regulated article. The application must be submitted at least 60 days prior to the time the courtesy permit is sought.

Department of Commerce (Export)

Exports of designated biological agents and toxins that have the potential to pose a threat to human, animal, or plant life may require a license from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). The scope of items subject to this licensing requirement is broader than “select agents,” and researchers must consult with the University's Export Controls Officer to conduct a separate review to determine if a BIS export license is required. The Export Controls Officer is Patrick Briscoe ((612) 625-3860, [email protected]).

BIS may require a license for the export of:

  • Designated human, animal, and plant pathogens, zoonoses, and toxins.
  • Genetically modified microorganisms or genetic elements that contain nucleic acid sequences associated with the pathogenicity of a controlled organism or that code for a controlled toxin.
  • Genetic material and products which might be used for culture of large amounts of agents.

These regulations are chemical and biological weapon controls and generally require licenses for all locations other than Canada (Canada requires the recipient to have an import permit). Obtaining a license is a long process, and a license may be denied at the discretion of BIS. Researchers should contact the Export Controls Officer as early as possible, should build in three months lead time to initiate foreign shipments of material requiring a license, and should not commit to delivery prior to issuance of a license.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife (Import and Export)

A permit may be required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife to export/import non-agricultural biological samples, including artificially propagated plants and endangered species. Call 1-800-770-0150 or go to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife permit site to determine if your shipment needs a permit.

Food and Drug Administration (Import)

The FDA controls most food and other products that enter the U.S. Foods (except for certain meats and poultry products), drugs (human, animal and biological), cosmetics, medical devices, radiation emitting devices, etc., offered for entry into the United States may require a permit or registration. Go to the FDA Import website to determine if your request for shipment of one of these products from another country is regulated.

Canadian Import Regulations (Export)

Shipments of human, animal, or plant pathogens to Canada will require a Canadian import permit. You will need to allow sufficient lead-time for the Canadian recipient to obtain the proper permits.

Packaging of shipments will need to comply with the Canadian Transport of Dangerous Goods Regulations. See the Transport Canada website for details.