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Frequently Asked Questions for International Shipping
  • How do I apply for a phytosanitary certificate? ODA now requires all phytosanitary certificate applications to be applied for on-line through the federal PCIT system. You can find PCIT at the following website: https://pcit.aphis.usda.gov/pcit/faces/faces/index.jsp  A user name and password must be obtained to access PCIT. Follow the directions on the sign-up menu for level one access. For assistance setting up your account, contact the PCIT help desk at pcithelpdesk@aphis.usda.gov or 1-888-457-7248. You can also contact the nursery inspector in your area or Sue Nash, Export Program Specialist, to discuss application procedures. 503-986-4644. 
  • Why do I have to use PCIT? The USDA has determined that this electronic certification system provides the best security for their export documents and ensures payment is received for issued certificates.  In the past there were problems in both areas.
  • What if I do not have access to a computer or the internet? Contact your ODA inspector or Sue Nash at 503-986-4644.  ODA staff may be able to enter your shipping information into PCIT for you.
  • I don't ship out of the country very often.  Am I still required to use PCIT? Yes.  However, we recognize that it difficult to remember how to use PCIT if you do not use the system regularly.  Your ODA inspector or Sue Nash are available to assist you and can walk you through the PCIT process quickly and easily.  Call 503-986-4644 for assistance.
  • How long does it take to get a phytosanitary certificate? Our turnaround time is 2-3 BUSINESS days from the time the PCIT application is received by ODA staff.  Turnaround time may be extended if the importing country requires special inspections or if laboratory analysis results are required.  Be advised that applications entered into PCIT after 4:30 pm are considered received the NEXT business day.
  • Why do I have to prepay for the certificate? Because it is required by PCIT. Be advised, payment must include all inspection charges associated with the certificate and a $6 federal document charge. Currently, international certificates are $21 and state certificates are $15.
  • What if I have insufficient funds to pay for the certificate? We cannot process a request if there are insufficient funds in the account.
  • Why do I need a phytosanitary certificate? You NEED a phytosanitary certificate when the destination country's plant protection organization says you do.  We find this out by checking various databases.
  • Why do you say I don't need a phytosanitary certificate but my customer says they need one? There is official need which means a phytosanitary certificate is required by foreign officials and there is contractual agreement which does NOT mean official need.  Rather, you are agreeing to your customer's extra condition that a phytosanitary certificate be issued for your shipment.  This is termed a "courtesy certificate" but all official certification requirements and inspection fees apply.  We suggest you contact us before finalizing any contract to determine the current, documented entry requirements for your commodity.
  • What is an import permit? An import permit is a document issued by a national government authorizing the importation of plants into its territory. An import permit is issued by the regulatory officials in the destination country, to your foreign customer, establishing specific certification requirements for your product; perhaps even your unique shipment.  It is NOT issued to you nor can you apply for one.  If we need to review an import permit, you must provide a copy of the original AND an official English translation.  Partial translations will be returned and your application considered incomplete. To avoid delays, be sure the translation is complete.
  • Can I get a phytosanitary certificate without an import permit? We will review the import conditions and let you know if an import permit is essential to the certification process.  There are times we can issue a certificate without reviewing an import permit even though one is required by the destination country.  We will inform you of this situation, explain the possible problems you may encounter shipping when your customer has not provided a copy of their import permit, and the options you have. There are also countries with complex import requirements.  In these situations the USDA instructs us NOT to write the phytosanitary certificate until we review an import permit.  We cannot issue a certificate until you present a valid import permit and any necessary English translations.
  • Can I find a quick way to determine if plants shipping to Canada require an import permit? Yes, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency posts a list of genera requiring an import permit on their website: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/plaveg/internat/d-94-14lste.shtml
  • Can I get a phytosanitary certificate for a shipment already en route? We cannot issue a phytosanitary certificate.  It is imperative that you know your destination country and contact us to determine phytosanitary requirements BEFORE the shipment leaves Oregon.  All shipments are required to be inspected by us prior to issuance of a phytosanitary certificate.
  • What are my options if a shipment has left the country with no prior inspection? We cannot issue a phytosanitary certificate.  Your options are: A) divert the shipment to a country that does not require a phytosanitary certificate; B) have the shipment returned to the United States for official inspection and if eligible, reshipment; or C) allow the shipment to proceed to destination without certification which may result in destruction of your commodity depending on decisions made by regulatory officials at destination.
  • Are there other items I should be aware concerning language contained in a phytosanitary certificate? Be advised regardless of what you enter on a PCIT application: We will not knowingly misspell words; The exporter MUST be registered as a US company; We will not enter approximate commodity weights; We cannot enter a port of entry that is not located in the destination country; We will not enter any additional declaration or pest-freedom language beyond that stipulated by import permit or federal database; We will not include letter of credit or other business-related numbers; and We may change exporter address if it contains unacceptable abbreviations or is interpreted to be inconsistent with standard US format. If any of these examples are found on PCIT applications, we will typically return to applicant for corrections. 
  • What is the USDA's and ODA's authority to issue phytosanitary certificates? Foreign countries have established plant quarantine regulations which exporters of U.S. agricultural products are required to meet. To enable PPQ to help exporters meet the plant quarantine import requirements of foreign countries, the Plant Protection Act in 2000 (previously covered by the Organic Act of 1944) was passed. The Plant Protection Act provides the authority for issuing Federal Phytosanitary Certification for the export of plants and plant products. The regulation for enforcing the Plant Protection Act is 7 CFR Part 353.
  • What are the exporter's requirements and responsibilities? Applying for the inspection and certification of each shipment that you want certified; The application must be submitted through and received far enough in advance of the shipping or loading dates to provide for sampling and inspecting; Making the shipment available for inspection. Shipments cannot be inspected on board aircraft or ships, or in tightly packed shipping containers; You, the exporters, are further responsible for providing the labor to open and close packages for inspection and for providing adequate facilities to perform the inspection. Such facilities include supplies, equipment, and proper lighting required for an efficient inspection before certification; Providing official documents stating import requirements, if they differ from those in the receiving country's export summary. Official documents may be import permits, special authorizations, or recent correspondence from the plant protection service of the foreign country, which takes precedence over the information contained in the export summary; You, the exporters, are responsible for any needed translations of an official document. The translation must be certified in writing as an accurate translation before the ACO can accept it; Providing for any required treatments, reconditioning, or other actions to meet the import requirements of the foreign country; Export only those plants or plant products that have been properly inspected and certified; Safeguard the certified shipment from infestation between the date the shipment was certified and the actual shipping date; Comply with U.S. export control regulations. Although no special license is required to engage in export trade, the Federal Government controls the exportation of U.S. goods to all foreign countries. The Department of Commerce is the authority for licensing most items for export. For further information, exporters should contact the Office of Export Control, Bureau of International Commerce, Department of Commerce, Washington, DC 20230.
  • What are examples of forms, certificates, and information required at time of inspections? A PCIT application for phytosanitary certification electronically submitted to the ODA; Invoices; Packing Lists; Translated copies of any Import Permits and/or other letters from the foreign government. Original non-translated copies of each document must be available; Copies of original Phytosanitary Certificates used for the import into the United States, if the shipment is a re-export; Field inspection reports, if needed; Laboratory testing results, if needed; Inspection certificates, if needed; General Permits from the USDA, if needed; CITES and Endangered Species documents issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, if needed.
***** This is not a complete list of all documents that may be required at the time of inspection. For additional information, please contact your local Certifying Official. *****
Export Certification is a service that is provided for eligible shipments only. If your shipment is either prohibited into the foreign country or is unable to meet all the import requirements put in place by the importing country, export certification will not be available for your shipment. Please speak with your ODA inspector to see what, if any, options are available.