The Importer’s Guide to APHIS
Editor’s note: This guide was contributed by Matthew Fotouhi, Chief Technology Officer for ACELYNK. Matthew founded ACELYNK in 2011, where he was deeply involved in the technical aspects of building the industry-leading platform for customs compliance. Acquired by Magaya in 2020, ACELYNK adds powerful ACE/ABI capabilities to the Magaya Ecosystem.
What is APHIS?
(APHIS) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service was established by USDA in 1972. APHIS brought several USDA functions under one roof and became the lead agency responsible for animal and plant health, protecting U.S. agriculture and natural resources from invasive pests and diseases as well as ensuring the humane care of animals used in research, exhibition, and other activities.
In February 2014, the president of the United States signed the 21st Century Trade Facilitation executive order which mandated that all partner government agencies (PGAs) implement the “single window” by December 2016. The objectives of single window concept are as follows:
- Rapid availability of data that allows the government to efficiently identify commodity risk and make near real-time regulatory decisions.
- Reduction in paper and increased electronic communications between trade and regulatory agencies which facilitates the import process.
- Assists industry to comply with government regulations
- Increases business process efficiency and reduces costs to government and industry.
By far the most complex PGA implementation thus far, after FDA, has been Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The industry refers to this implementation as APHIS Core.
Information needed for importation and to correctly regulate and safeguard agriculture products and related products are provided by Licenses, Permits, Certificates, and Other (LPCOs) documents.
The APHIS Core Message Set includes four programs, Plant Protection & Quarantine (APQ), Veterinary Services (AVS), Biological Regulatory Services (ABS), and Animal Care (AAC) programs.
Transforming the agency’s regulatory specifications into programming logic and keeping the application user interface comprehendible has been the biggest challenge for software providers.
Who needs to know about APHIS?
APHIS oversees the imports of animals, plants, and related products into the United States. Regulated items include but are not limited to, fruits and vegetables, plants and plant products, live animals, meats, hides, trophies, and other agricultural items. In short, if it is, was, or could become a plant or animal, APHIS regulates it. It is the importer’s responsibility to ensure they have all the necessary documentation required for importation.
What are your responsibilities as an importer of animal or plant goods?
Importers are responsible for determining the admissibility requirements of the commodity and applying for any APHIS permits, if applicable. The APHIS website is a good place to start. Importers should contact APHIS far in advance if needing help to determine admissibility as well as any applicable LPCO requirements (licenses, permits, certificates and other documents).
Brokers should advise customers that documentation should always be provided prior to arrival to allow time for them to file the APHIS Core message set. USDA inspectors use this information to determine admissibility.
Importers can check the USDA FAVIR database (Fruits and Vegetables Imports Requirements) for a list of approved fruits and vegetables by country or commodity’s common or specific name. Go to Approved Commodities – USDA APHIS website to check admissibility for all APHIS regulated products.
Here’s a sample APQ filing for Cut Flowers:
OI – The commercial cargo description is SNAPDRAGONS
PG02 – Item Type reported was at the product [P] level. Product Code Qualifier utilized was United Nations Standard Products and Services Code [UNS]. Product Code Number for Snapdragons is 
PG05 – Scientific Genus Name for Snapdragons [ANTIRRHINUM]. Scientific Species Name (aka Specific epithet) is [SP].
PG06 – Source Type Code of  was used to identify place of growth for the Snapdragons. Country of place of growth was Canada [CA]. Geographic Location Element showing “State / Province” of growth was not reported. Processing Start Date was not utilized. Processing End Date was not utilized. Processing Type Code (or treatment code) was not utilized. Processing Description was not needed
PG10 – Category Type Code of [AP0800] identifies this shipment as being within the Cut Flower category type and helps CBP officers route them appropriately. Category Code of  further categorizes and identifies the shipment as Cut Flowers only. The Commodity Qualifier Code (or parameter) is Cut Flowers and Greenery Type [A80] being reported in the next data element. The actual Physical state, form, arrangement, or mode is reported in the Commodity Characteristic Qualifier and is Bouquet (Single Genus of Flower) [SGFL].
PG17 – Common Name (Specific)is [SNAPDRAGON].
PG19 – Entity Role Code of the second PG19 record line is Crop grower [DFI]. Entity Identification Code is not utilized in this example. Entity Number was not utilized in this example. Entity Name [Grower name].
PG20 – Entity Address 2 [Address 2 If needed]. Entity Apartment Number/Suite Number [If Needed]. Entity City for Grower is [CITY]. Entity State/Province is [ST]. Entity Country is United States [XX]. Entity Zip/Postal Code is [XXXXX].
PG19 (repeated) – Entity Role Code of the first PG19 record line is Ultimate Consignee [UC]. Entity Identification Code is assigned by IRS . Entity Number [Entity Number Here]. Entity Name [Ultimate Consignee name]. Entity Address 1 [Ultimate Consignee Address].
PG20 (repeated) – Entity Address 2 [Address 2 If needed]. Entity Apartment Number/Suite Number [If Needed]. Entity City for Ultimate Consignee is [CITY]. Entity State/Province is [ST]. Entity Country is United States [US]. Entity Zip/Postal Code is [XXXXX].
PG19 (repeated) – Entity Role Code of the third PG19 record line is Importer [IM]. Entity Identification Code is assigned by IRS . Entity Number [Entity Number Here]. Entity Name [Importer name]. Entity Address 1 [Importer Address].
PG20 (repeated) – Entity Address 2 [Address 2 If needed]. Entity Apartment Number/Suite Number [If Needed]. Entity City for Importer is [CITY]. Entity State/Province is [ST]. Entity Country is united States [US]. Entity Zip/Postal Code is [XXXXX].
PG21 – Individual Qualifier (or point of contact) for shipment is Importer [IM]. Individual Name is [contact person’s name]. Telephone Number of the Individual is [contact persons phone number]. Email Address or Fax Number for the Individual [contact persons email or fax number]
PG26 – Two levels of packaging are being reported; therefore Packaging Qualifier for the Innermost package is  (aka stem count). Quantity is 2400 , two decimal places are implied. Unit of Measure (Packaging Level) is stems [STM].
PG26 (repeated) – Two levels of packaging are being reported; therefore Packaging Qualifier for the Outermost package is . Quantity is 100 , two decimal places are implied. Unit of Measure (Packaging Level) is number of boxes [BX].
PG30 – Inspection Status for Snapdragon is [A] Anticipated arrival. Date of arrival is [MMDDCCYY]. Inspection or Arrival Location Code is Schedule D  and Inspection or Arrival Location is port of AUSTIN, TX .
PG32 – Commodity Routing Type Code for the start of route to the U.S. . Commodity Routing Country Code of country where route started is Canada [CA] Commodity Political Subunit of Routing Name (State/Province/or equivalent) was not utilized
How can Magaya help importers stay compliant?
ACELYNK by Magaya is ACE-ready! To help filers remain in compliance with APHIS requirements, the technology is kept up-to-date with the most recent ACE APHIS CORE PGA filing requirements. Plus, ACELYNK ABI offers a host of features to help filers save time, avoid errors, and reach new heights in productivity:
- Automation to capture line items, parts, templates, and pre-stored data and pull those data elements into the required PGA forms.
- Intelligent validation of PGA forms to avoid and prevent unnecessary CBP rejects.
- Parts database, PGA templates, and PGA automation to save time on redundant data and avoid clerical errors.
- DIS (Document Image System) capability is digital and fully integrated into our application, allowing for seamless submission of documents to APHIS when required, which helps expedite release of shipments.
Where can importers turn to learn more about APHIS?
ACELYNK customers can consult the support Knowledge Base, which provides many helpful articles regarding APHIS Core filing requirements such as PGA screenshots based on commodity, links to CBP APHIS resources, guidance to common APHIS CORE PGA error messages, as well as how to automate your PGA forms.
APHIS also provides a multitude of resources that users may refer to including the APHIS ACE website, the APHIS Core Implementation Guide, the APHIS Supplemental Trade Guide, APHIS Core Message Set Webinars, the Harmonized Tariff Schedule Flags Code, and much more. Brokers, filers, and importers may also contact the APHIS Core Message Set Help Desk at 1-833-481-2102, Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. to get assistance with their entry, or they can submit APHIS Core Message Set questions by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.