Electronic Certification (eCert) for imports

As of 31 August 2020, our eCert exchange with New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries is paperless.  

Read more about paperless eCert exchange for New Zealand.

The eCert Import application is an electronic system that enables the department to receive overseas government certificates in a digital format. This includes phytosanitary and sanitary certificates for food and agricultural imports.

These electronic certificates:

  • are an original certificate and contain the same information as paper certificates.
  • are received in a secure government-to-government exchange.
  • are able to be integrated into the department’s Agriculture Import Management System (AIMS) for import clearance purposes.

If the electronic certificate has been lodged correctly, importers and brokers should not submit a paper certificate, as the eCert received by the department and will be used for import clearance.

Electronic certification and paperless trading is internationally recognised as the future of government certification. It aligns with trade modernisation and e-commerce progression. Refer to Benefits of electronic certificates for more information.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, changes to working arrangements and travel restrictions have required adjustments to the way certificates are transmitted. Overseas government agencies are being encouraged to utilise eCert where possible, to alleviate the pressures associated with paper certificates and reduce reliance on paper.

eCert availability

eCert exchanges are categorised as parallel or paperless:

  • Parallel eCert exchange: where both the original paper certificate and the electronic certificate continue to be issued together. For import clearance, the eCert is used for assessment. However, paper certificates may continue to be lodged with other import documentation or attached to consignments for inspection.
  • Paperless eCert exchange: when original paper certificates are no longer issued. The eCert is the primary method for clearing consignments.

Please note:

  • Other supporting documentation must be submitted via the Cargo Online Lodgement System.
  • There are no changes to the procedures for foreign certificates under the Imported Food Act 1992.

eCert countries and certificate formats

This table highlights the countries the department currently has an eCert exchange with and their status:

Country Government certificate type AQIS Document Type AQIS Document Number format Status of exchange
Indonesia Phytosanitary IDPHYTO 2019123456K10E123456/1234567 Parallel
Sanitary IDSANITARY 2019987654K10E987654/9876543 Parallel
New Zealand Phytosanitary NZPHYTO NZL2019/ABCD/123456 Paperless
Sanitary NZSANITARY NZL2019/ABCD/987654 Paperless

A Help Card is available for eCert countries and certificate formats. This highlights any country-specific formatting requirements.

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Paperless eCert exchange for New Zealand

The first exchange we have implemented eCert paperless trade with is New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries (NZ MPI).

From 31 August 2020, NZ MPI will no longer issue original paper phytosanitary or sanitary certificates. Instead, importers and brokers will be provided with a certificate number where a phytosanitary or sanitary certificate is required for import clearance. The NZ exporter will provide this to importers and brokers with other import documentation.

Note: original paper certificates will continue to be provided for zoosanitary certificates (for live animals and reproductive material) and goods arriving as accompanied passenger baggage or via mail.

For import declarations being lodged to the department for assessment

Importers and brokers must provide the certificate number to the department where phytosanitary or sanitary certification is required from NZ MPI. Refer to Importing goods using eCert for instructions on providing the certificate number for different import pathways. The department will then assess the eCert for import clearance.

Importers and brokers submitting entries to the department may request the copy or extract (see Help card  for examples) to confirm all import requirements have been met prior to clearance. However, this is not mandatory as the eCert will be received by the department and will be used for import clearance.

For import declarations processed under class 19.2 Automatic entry processing for commodities (AEPCOMM) approved arrangement

NZ exporters are able to provide a copy of the phytosanitary certificate or extract of the sanitary certificate (see Help card  for examples) that will be used for the clearance of goods lodged under Automatic entry processing for commodities (AEPCOMM). Accredited persons utilising AEPCOMM must ensure they obtain this documentation prior to conducting assessments and lodgement under AEPCOMM.

This documentary evidence must be retained, and presented to the department for entries selected for AEP random verification. If not, a non-compliance advice notice may be issued in accordance with the Compliance classifications for broker class approved arrangements.

Refer to Importing goods using eCert for more information on lodging import declarations processed under class 19.2 Automatic Entry Processing for Commodities (AEPCOMM) approved arrangement.

Information about eCert for AEPCOMM accredited persons was also provided in the AEPCOMM expansion 2020 Webinar (specifically, 48 minutes into the webinar).

Importing goods with eCert

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Full Import Declaration (FID) and Long Form Self-Assessed Clearance (SCL) lodgements

This applies to FID and SCL entries lodged through the Integrated Cargo System (ICS) or third party software. FID and SCL lodgements are assessed by the department in AIMS.

When lodging FID/SCL import declarations with eCert, importers and brokers need to accurately enter government certificate details in third party software or the ICS in accordance with the Minimum documentary and import declaration requirements policy.

Information must be entered in both:

  • AQIS Document Type —drop down field used to select the relevant country and certificate type.
  • AQIS Document Number — free-text field used to record the government certificate number. This must entered in the correct format for each country and/or certificate type.

Refer to eCert countries and certificate formats.

For example, for a NZ phytosanitary certificate:

AQIS Document type: NZPHYTO and AQIS Document number: NZL2019/ABCD/12345.

Software providers should be contacted if there are any issues using or locating these fields.

When both fields have been entered correctly, the details are cross-checked and matched in AIMS.

Departmental officers processing these entries will be able to view these electronic certificates through the eCert Import application.

Using Customs Interactive for FID/SCL lodgements

Importers and brokers can use Customs Interactive to lodge import declarations with government certificates.

Customs Interactive does not allow wildcard characters (including “/#”) in free-text fields. Use a space in place of a wildcard character.

Importers and brokers will still select the applicable AQIS Document Type. However, must add a space where a wildcard is used for AQIS Document Number (such as a certificate number).

This does not apply to importers and brokers lodging via third party software.

This table shows how to enter certificate details in Customs Interactive:

Lodgement Type AQIS Document Type field AQIS Document Number field
Third party software NZPHYTO NZL2019/ABCD/12345
Customs Interactive NZPHYTO NZL2019 ABCD 12345

Import declarations processed under class 19.2 Automatic Entry Processing for Commodities (AEPCOMM) approved arrangement

AEPCOMM accredited persons may also process entries which require government certificates. Refer to the Approved commodities and related information for class 19.2 AEPCOMM approved arrangement for more information.

As per condition 19 and condition 26 of the Requirements and conditions for approved arrangement class 19.2: AEPCOMM document, the accredited person must:

  • enter the government certificate type (in the AQIS document type field) and certificate number (in the AQIS document number field) in the ICS or third party software (see FID and SCL lodgements), and
  • retain documentary evidence where required for import clearance.

A non-compliance advice notice may be issued in accordance with the Compliance classifications for broker class approved arrangements if the eCert is not entered, or documentary evidence is not retained/provided.

Short Form Self Assessed Clearance (SAC) and Cargo Report SAC

This applies to SAC and CRS entries lodged through the ICS or third party software. SAC and CRS entries are received by the department in the SAC database or the Import Management System (IMS). Where a government certificate is required, these entries are assessed in AIMS.

The AQIS Document Type and AQIS Document number fields are not available for SAC and CRS entries. The process for providing eCert details will be as follows:

  • The certificate number must be provided with other import documentation.
  • The department will then manually add the eCert details when assessing the import declaration in AIMS.

Imports to Norfolk Island

Goods imported to Norfolk Island may also require government certification.

As imports to Norfolk Island are not lodged through the ICS, the process for providing eCert details will be as follows:

  • The certificate number must be provided with other import documentation.
  • The department will then manually search for the eCert in the eCert Import application.

Imports directed to Post Entry Quarantine (PEQ) for isolation

Plant products requiring phytosanitary certification may also be directed to PEQ for isolation (e.g. nursery stock, tissue cultures).

The following process applies for goods directed to PEQ:

  • Follow the relevant lodgment processes as listed above for FID and SCL lodgements, and SAC and CRS entries.
  • An original paper certificate is not required to be attached to the goods, as the department will assess the eCert for import clearance.

Goods directed for inspection

Goods directed for inspection may also require phytosanitary or sanitary certification (e.g. fresh produce, seafood).

The following process applies for goods directed for inspection:

  • Follow the relevant lodgment processes as listed above for FID and SCL lodgements, and SAC and CRS entries.
  • An original paper certificate is not required to be attached to the goods, as the department will assess the eCert for import clearance.

eCert expansion

The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) has established a global IPPC ePhyto Hub. Any countries connected to the Hub can exchange certificates through this centralised system. Work is in progress to establish a connection with the global IPPC ePhyto Hub.

We continue to work with overseas government agencies to establish additional eCert connections.

Benefits of electronic certificates

Transitioning to eCert exchanges is helping us to prepare for future global challenges. This includes increased volume and complexity of trade.

It will modernise the way we trade with other countries, and uses technology to strengthen our biosecurity system.

eCert benefits include:

  • Certificates are transferred securely between governments, reducing the opportunity for fraudulent certificates to be presented
  • Provides an instant connection with other government agencies, reducing time delays for certificates to be issued and/or replaced
  • Helps eliminate lost and illegible documents
  • Certificates are transmitted in a consistent digital format
  • Certificates provide assurance that goods being imported comply with food safety, animal and plant health requirements
  • Reduces reliance on paper, in line with international standards – ultimate goal of eCert is paperless trading
  • Provides prior notice of imports, which could be used for pre-clearance of goods
  • Seamless interface for industry clients
  • Improved efficiency and integrity for staff assessing certificates.

Contact

For more information email eCert imports.

Last reviewed: 31 August 2020
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