The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has advised that it is implementing a new format for phytosanitary certificates and phytosanitary certificates for re-export.
APHIS states that the use of plain paper and the continued implementation of electronic phytosanitary certificates (ePhyto) worldwide “illustrate that commodities can be safely and successfully traded without traditional security paper.”
New Security Measures
A number of security measures have been incorporated by APHIS in its Phytosanitary Certificate Issuance and Tracking (PCIT) system to allow for any Phytosanitary Certificate (PC) issued from the United States to be verified and reduce the possibility for fraud.
All PCs issued by USDA APHIS include these security characteristics:
- Generated through a secure, role-based system;
- Contain a unique certificate number located in the top center of the PC;
- The USDA Logo on the top right of the PC;
- A North American Plant Protection Organization (NAPPO) watermark in the lower center of the PC; and
- A unique Quick Response (QR) Code located on the bottom left of the PC, which allows validation of PCs online.
APHIS has also included a validation tool to verify the authenticity of PCs online using the PCIT Certificate Viewer.
Additionally, ePhytos are automatically sent for all consignments exported from the United States to any trading partner currently utilizing the IPPC HUB.
Changing to Plain Paper
APHIS is also further updating PCIT to encourage the change to plain paper.
For companies which utilize the Authorized Entity role, all PCs still need to be physically signed by the Authorized Certification Officials (ACOs), however, all other companies will be able to print their approved phytosanitary certificates upon approval, as long as the ACO has their signature uploaded in PCIT. These companies will receive notifications through PCIT when their phytosanitary certificates are ready to print.
If the ACO does not have a signature uploaded, the phytosanitary certificate will still be printed by the ACO on plain paper, hand signed, and distributed like current practices.
Please note that in order to help facilitate the clearance of imported plants and plant products during the COVID-19 emergency, APHIS and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will continue accepting electronically produced versions of phytosanitary certificates, through December 31, 2021.
Acceptable phytosanitary certificates include scanned copies of original certificates, electronic certificates created through a participating country’s ePhyto system, or signed paper forms.