Last Revised: October 07, 2021

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Guidance for shipping SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 patient samples

- COVID-19 patient samples from suspected or confirmed cases should be sent as UN3373, Biological Substances, Category B.

- Viral cultures or isolates of SARS-CoV-2  must be sent as UN2814, Infectious Substance, Category A.

        * Additional training is required for authorized Penn shippers to send Category A packages. Reach out to Marie-Luise Faber for details.

- Please see the FAQ from the American Biological Safety Association [ABSA] below for details.

Requesting CDC permits to import Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)

Requesting permits to import Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) requires a CDC Import Permit application to be submitted electronically using the eIPP system (  Subsequent transfers of previously imported material containing SARS-CoV-2 within the United States also require a CDC import permit.  

Permit Required*

  • Import isolates or cultures of SARS-CoV-2.
  • Import infectious substances (e.g., blood, bodily fluids, tissues) that are reasonably expected to contain SARS-CoV-2.
  • Import nucleic acids capable of producing SARS-CoV-2 (i.e., full-length genomic RNA extracted from SARS-CoV-2).
  • Samples from experimentally infected animals that were infected with SARS-CoV-2 have not been inactivated or tested negative for the virus.

   *A permit is required to transfer SARS-CoV-2 materials described above within the United States.

Permit Not Required

  • Specimens or isolates/cultures of SARS-CoV-2 within the United States or its territories that were not generated from imported material.
  • Nucleic acids encoding partial sections or fragments of SARS-CoV-2 incapable of producing infectious virus (i.e., partial or degraded SARS-CoV-2 genomic RNA).
  • Diagnostic samples not known or suspected of containing SARS-CoV-2. See FAQ “Do I need an import permit”

copied from the CDC website:

Requesting USDA permits to import Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)
  • USDA REGULATES the importation into the United States of COVID-19 isolates exposed to livestock or poultry products (such as eggs, fetal bovine serum,  etc). The application is VS form 16-3, available on this web page.
  • Please also obtain permitting information from CDC Import Permit Program.
  • Additionally, US Fish and Wildlife Service regulates the importation of Vero cells under The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
  • Permits for COVID-19 exposed to fetal bovine serum from countries considered as affected with Foot and Mouth Disease will require BSL3 handling (see "Country Animal Disease Status")