CITES Permit system

The CITES permit system is the backbone of the regulation of trade in specimens of species, included in the three Appendices of the Convention. Such trade should normally be accompanied by a CITES permit or certificate. The document is the confirmation by the issuing authority that the conditions for authorizing the trade are fulfilled; this means that the trade is legal, sustainable and traceable in accordance with Art. III, IV and V of the Convention. The national CITES Management Authority or Authorities of each Party are the issuing authorities of CITES permits upon advice from the national CITES Scientific Authority. Parties have agreed on a standard format for CITES permits and certificates and on key recommendations regarding the CITES permit system, contained in Resolution Conf. 12.3 (Rev. CoP19). See more about how CITES works here.

Provisions of the Convention

Articles III, IV, V and VI



Permit queries

Any specific questions related to trade in specimens of CITES-listed species should be addressed to the national CITES Management Authorities of the exporting or the importing country; see the webpage on the national CITES Authorities for the contact information. The CITES Secretariat will generally refer any specific queries to the authorities as solely responsible for the implementation of the Convention. Any general questions related to the interpretation of the Convention can be addressed to the CITES Secretariat.

Types of permits and certificates used under normal procedures

A summary of all CITES permits and certificates (including those used under exemptions and special provisions) can be found here

CITES purpose and source codes

On the export/import permits, the purpose of transaction is stated using the following codes: 
T    Commercial
Z    Zoo
G   Botanical garden
Q   Circus or travelling exhibition
S    Scientific
H   Hunting trophy
P   Personal
M  Medical (including biomedical research)
E    Educational
N   Reintroduction or introduction into the wild
B   Breeding in captivity or artificial propagation
L    Law enforcement / judicial / forensic; 
The CITES document also indicates the source of the specimens in trade using the following source codes:
W Specimens taken from the wild;
X   Specimens taken in “the marine environment not under the jurisdiction of any State”;
R   Ranched specimens: specimens of animals reared in a controlled environment, taken as eggs or juveniles from the wild, where they would otherwise have had a very low probability of surviving to adulthood;
D   Appendix-I animals bred in captivity for commercial purposes in operations included in the Secretariat's Register, in accordance with Resolution Conf. 12.10 (Rev. CoP15), and Appendix-I plants artificially propagated for commercial purposes, as well as parts and derivatives thereof, exported under the provisions of Article VII, paragraph 4, of the Convention; 
A   Plants that are artificially propagated in accordance with Resolution Conf. 11.11 (Rev. CoP18), as well as parts and derivatives thereof, exported under the provisions of Article VII, paragraph 5 (specimens of species included in Appendix I that have been propagated artificially for non-commercial purposes and specimens of species included in Appendices II and III); 
C   Animals bred in captivity in accordance with Resolution Conf. 10.16 (Rev.), as well as parts and derivatives thereof, exported under the provisions of Article VII, paragraph 5; 
F    Animals born in captivity (F1 or subsequent generations) that do not fulfil the definition of ‘bred in captivity’ in Resolution Conf. 10.16 (Rev.), as well as parts and derivatives thereof; 
Y    Specimens of plants that fulfil the definition for ‘assisted production’ in Resolution Conf. 11.11 (Rev. CoP18) as well as parts and derivatives thereof; 
U   Source unknown (must be justified); 
I     Confiscated or seized specimens; 
O   Pre-Convention specimens;

Secretariat services regarding permits

The CITES Secretariat offers the following services to CITES Parties to assist them in securing the trade in specimens of CITES listed species. For any queries about these Services, please contact the Secretariat.
a. Printing of security stamps
The Secretariat sells the security stamps that are affixed to each CITES permit. About 80 parties use the security stamps of the Secretariat.
b. Printing of CITES permits for Parties
The Secretariat also offers to print the CITES permits for Parties requesting this. The countries who use this service are Gabon, Mali and Democratic Republic of Congo. 
c. Repository of permit samples
To assist Management Authorities and other controlling agencies (e.g. customs) in their control of the authenticity of CITES permits, the Secretariat maintains a repository of the sample permit used by Parties. The repository is accessible only by Management Authorities through the online forum. 
d. Register of authorized signatures
Similarly, the CITES Secretariat maintains a register of the signatories of those officials authorized to sign the CITES permits. This register is only accessible by the CITES Secretariat; queries about a signature should be made to the Secretariat.
e. Permit authentication
Upon request from a CITES Management Authority, the CITES Secretariat offers advice as to whether a permit seems authentic and valid. The Parties are responsible for the issuance and acceptance of CITES permits and the CITES Secretariat can only offer recommendations in this respect.

Simplified procedures

Parties may use simplified procedures to issue permits and certificates to facilitate and expedite trade that will have a negligible impact, or none, on the conservation of the species concerned, for instance:

  • where biological samples are urgently required;
  • for the issuance of pre-Convention certificates in accordance with Article VII, paragraph 2;
  • for the issuance of certificates of captive breeding or artificial propagation in accordance with Article VII, paragraph 5, or for the issuance of export permits or re-export certificates in accordance with Article IV for specimens referred to in Article VII, paragraph 4; and
  • in other cases where a Management Authority considers the use of simplified procedures merited;

The recommendations on the use of simplified procedures are contained in section XIII and Annex 4 of Resolution Conf. 12.3 (Rev. CoP18). At its 73rd meeting, the CITES Standing Committee endorsed the Guidance on the use of the scientific exchange exemption and the simplified procedures to issue permits and certificates. The guidance is available here.

At CoP19, the Conference of the Parties adopted Decision 19.160 requesting the Standing Committee to consider the need for further mechanisms to facilitate the efficient movement of wildlife samples for diagnostic and/or conservation purposes and the non-commercial movement of musical instruments.


Under CITES, Parties are working to develop and implement electronic permit (eCITES) aimed to improve the implementation of the convention by using modern information and communication technologies. The CITES Secretariat and UNCTAD are assisting Parties in these efforts. See more on the dedicated webpage.