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Phytosanitary Certificate Issuance & Tracking System (PCIT) United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
PCIT Support

Frequently Asked Questions

This document contains questions that were compiled during the Industry Training Webinar. Follow the topic link below to see related questions and answers. Use the "Back to Topics" link at the end of each section to return to this Topic page. Send any questions or comments to the PCIT Help Desk at pcithelpdesk@usda.gov


Production Website: https://pcit.aphis.usda.gov/pcit/
Training Website: https://pcit-training.aphis.usda.gov/pcit/

Topics

Acronyms

ACO
Authorized Certifying Official (Federal, State, or County)
AD
Additional Declarations
AE
Authorized Entity
APHIS
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
LPAS
Local Phytosanitary Authorities
PC
Phytosanitary Certificate (PPQ Form 577)
PCIT
Phytosanitary Certificate Issuance and Tracking
PExD
Phytosanitary Export Database
PPC
Processed Product Certificate (PPQ Form 578)
RPC
Reexport Phytosanitary Certificate (PPQ Form 579)
WIP
Work in Progress

Availability/Why

Where is the system available currently?

The system is available nationwide.

When will PCIT become mandatory?

There is no set time as of now. However, your fees may be reduced if you use PCIT to apply for phytosanitary certificates.

How much faster is PCIT than the traditional fax method?

Much faster, especially once the info is in the system and you use templates. With faxes, the info is sent and then set t the 4-part form and then if same is needed; process needs to be done again, and again. Power of system comes into play with the templates and instant communications with your ACO.

Miscellaneous Computer Requirements/Questions

Do I need a special program to use PCIT?

The system only requires access to the Internet and the Adobe Reader.

The following web browsers are supported: The following PDF readers are supported:

What if I am unable to print due to pop-up blocker?

If you are unable to generate a certificate (pdf document) in PCIT, try updating your pop-up blocker settings as follows:

  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 8/9: Add the following exception to your pop-up settings: *.aphis.usda.gov

  • Mozilla Firefox: Add the following exception to your pop-up settings: pcit.aphis.usda.gov

  • Google Chrome: Add the following exception to your pop-up settings: [*.]aphis.usda.gov

If you are using an different browser or have questions on how to update your settings it’s recommended that you contact your IT department.

Do I have to log in everyday to see if certificate applications have been returned? Is there an email notice?

There is no email notification. You will have to login or contact the ACO involved. Communication with the ACOs is not going to disappear.

Is there any type of notification sent when PC is actually issued?

No, there is no notification, but in PCIT, you would be able to see the certificate.

What if an ACO is not available?

This is the main reason behind submitting applications to duty stations instead of ACOs directly. All the ACOs at the duty station will see any application submitted.

What commodities can PCIT be used for?

Any commodity that needs a PC can get a PC issued by the PCIT system. There are some special cases that we are working on that will make the process even easier later, however, any PCs can be generated with the PCIT system.

What is the backup if the website goes down?

The USDA has a disaster recovery site (backup website) for PCIT, which would be utilized for long outages. Reverting to paper phyto's is also acceptable at this time.

If we allow the ACO to use our facilities, what do they need?

They would need access to the Internet and a printer.

The following web browsers are supported: The following PDF readers are supported:

Does PCIT require a specific type of printer?

Any laser, deskjet, or inkjet printer should work. Color printers are not required.

Is information submitted secure to only my duty station? Or can other locations view the details?

Information is secure and can only be seen by the organization that generates it and the duty station that the information was submitted to. In the event that a PCIT generated certificate needs to be superseded by another duty station, the second duty station would use the certificate number to access it. However, another duty station cannot access applications being reviewed by another duty station.

I work with various organizations to request PCs, both federal and state locations. Will I be completing requests on-line via the PCIT system?

Yes, you can. All ACOs (federal, state, county) across the country will have access to the system. The important thing is selecting the appropriate duty station.

Are there cases where the applicant and the exporter are the same?

Yes, it would have to be defined in the exporter field. The applicant field will always be present based on logging in as that organization.

When reporting is available, can reports be run by commodity for all exporters? Or just for your organization?

Organizations can only access, generate reports based on their information. The duty station will be able to run reports for everything that was processed at their location(s).

Registration Information

Does everyone in the organization need to register or just one person in the company?

The first person should register the organization. They automatically become the admin and will create accounts for other members. In creating accounts, they will provide an initial access id and password and assign admin rights, if appropriate. After the new user has created an eAuthentication account, he/she will be prompted for their initial access id and password to synchronize their account with your organization within PCIT (one time process only).

If my company has multiple offices, is it better to register per company or per location?

That is entirely dependent upon the company. A large company can register for multiple accounts, however if they want to share templates between all they would only create one account. If a company decides to create multiple accounts, naming of the accounts is dependent upon them. (Suggestion: Company Name-Physical Location)

If our company just fills out PCs for a shipper, we should register the shipper's organization?

No, both you and the actual shipper should register separate organizations.

Cost

What does it cost to access or use PCIT?

There is no cost associated with accessing or using PCIT.

We prepay for a block of PCs. How will that work with PCIT?

You will still be able to purchase a block of PCs by adding to your organization's pre-purchase account through Pay.gov or through a manual payment at a duty station. However, you will not receive blank PCs. Your pre-purchase account will deduct the federal fees incurred after each certificate is issued and printed. You will be able to view your transactions in PCIT by clicking on View Reports from the left navigation and selecting Debit Transaction Report.

What is the cost of Phytosanitary inspection?

Charges are the same as now and vary across the country. Contact LPAS for more information.

Do we still pay for certificates before they are issued?

No, the organization will only be charged (the fee deducted from their pre-purchase account) after the original certificate has been issued.

Certificates (Originals and Copies)

Will we still get original certificates and will they be signed?

Yes, there will be one original and they will be signed by the inspector.

How can an exporter request that PC be sent to an address?

In the comments section on the general page of the application process, additional information can be input (such as Fed-Ex number, addresses, etc.). PCs can be returned to you in a similar way to the way they are returned now. Please contact LPAS to work through these details.

Is there still a four-part form?

No, with the PCIT system the original PC is on security paper. Copies are obtained from the system and can be printed by the organization or the ACO. The copies are replicas of the actual PC including seals and a ‘Copy’ watermark but do not have a signature.

Inspectors come to my location and conduct inspections. When can I get my original PC?

If everything passes inspection, and you will allow the officer to use your facilities (computer, Internet, printer) then ACOs could provide originals then.

Can industry users print their own original certificates on security paper?

If you have historically entered all information on the PC, then you may be granted AE status in the system. The AE status will allow you to obtain security paper and print originals. In these cases, the AEs will be allowed to enter all information except for inspection results. Certificates printed by AEs will be in Issued-Pending status. Please refer to User Guide and contact LPAS for more information.

Applicants are not responsible for typing ADs? They will be added by ACOs?

If you have historically input all information on the certificate, then you will probably be granted AE status, and will input the ADs yourself. Please discuss with your LPAS.

We have to send copies to our consignee (customer)?

You will still have an original certificate to send them as you currently do.

Even though this is a computerized system, we still receive a signed original?

Yes.

Will the system ever incorporate digital signatures, so that we can print the completed PCs at our offices?

International exchange of PC information between governments will not require the use of these "digital" signatures. There may come a time that the printed copies will have a replica signature. If you are in a field that inspectors come to your location then based on their rights in the system, they could print your originals on site.

I send the original certificates to my freight forwarders. Will ACOs do this?

If an address and account are in the comment section then the original can be forwarded according to that information. PCs will be returned to you in a similar way to the way they are returned now. Please contact LPAS to work through these details.

Is the issue date on the certificate, the day that I submit the application?

No, the issue date is the actual day that the ACO issues the certificate. The ACO has the ability to manipulate that date at the end of application processing.

What if we have 200 commodities in one shipment?

There is no limit to the number of commodities. The system will automatically create additional pages. The entire PC (all pages) will be printed on security paper.

How do we get an annex attached when required (i.e. Cuban PCs)?

PCIT allows for electronic attachments.

Applications

What if we do not know some of the required fields?

All required fields must be filled in for successful submission of applications. You may also fill in as much as you know beforehand and save as a work in progress.

If we send an application via PCIT, where does it go?

Applications go to the duty station you select, contact your LPAS and ensure that you know what their duty station is named in the PCIT system.

Can we edit applications before PC issuance by ACOs?

Before submission, you may edit any information. After submission, you may ask the ACO to return the application to you or update the application for you. If inspections have already occurred and subsequent inspections cannot be conducted then of course you cannot increase the Quantities.

How far in advance must applications be submitted?

That is dependent upon the amount of work entailed. If laboratory testing, additional requirements must be met, then the application should be received far enough in advance to allow for any additional steps that have to be taken.

How quickly will certificates be ready once application is submitted?

Applications that are submitted will show up in the requesting duty stations system immediately. It is possible to turn an application into a PC in minutes. You should contact the duty station directly when situations arise that need immediate attention to coordinate with ACOs.

If you forget a tracking number, can you search applications by other fields?

You can look at all your applications based on a date range or status.

How long are applications valid?

Applications are valid indefinitely and will remain in the system until turned into a PC or cancelled by the ACO.

We submit applications after vessel is loaded; will the PC be issued on the same day?

That is dependent upon the LPAS at the duty station where the application was submitted and if the necessary requirements were met.

Will I be able to submit any application online?

Yes, if there are special considerations (such as inspections done by FGIS, other authorized persons) then make sure to include that information in the comments field and input the current date as the request so that the application can be submitted.

How does my application go to the proper ACO?

All ACOs at the requested issuing duty station identified on the application will have access to it. Applications can be assigned on the government users' end to particular ACOs, or they will stay in the Queue for the entire duty station.

Once we submit applications, we should send checks and return Fed-ex information as we currently do?

Nothing changes in terms of payments now. You should still send in payments; however, you can input the Fed-ex account numbers in the comment section.

What is the typical response time for an application?

The response time is completely dependent upon the LPAS. The information is immediately available once submitted. If all information required is available, turn around time could potentially be very fast.

How do we sign applications?

Applications are not signed in the PCIT system. Submission of the application replaces the signature.

I ship many commodities on one certificate, would I use the mixed commodity field when filling out application?

No, you would use the commodity field and select each commodity individually. The mixed commodity field is for items that are actually mixed together, for instance salad mixes, flower bouquets, etc.

Is there a block on the application to add clauses (i.e. sudden oak)?

You can place anything in the comments section. If there is a required AD for sudden oak death, that will be added by ACO/AE when they are processing the applications.

If my shipment is diverted and I need to split my original PC into two PCs, do I submit a new application even though inspections have already been done?

PCIT allows for both splitting and combining certificates.

Policy/Phytosanitary Requirements of Foreign Countries

Where can we learn about the Phytosanitary requirements for different countries?

The Phytosanitary Export Database (PExD) application provides information on the Phytosanitary requirements for foreign countries. PExD is available from the PCIT left navigation. Also, you may contact the LPAS with questions.

If my organization is an AE, will you provide the information that goes in the AD portion of the PC?

That would depend on the LPAS.

Will I be advised if commodities we are exporting require ADs when applying for the PC?

No, obtaining the actual requirements is still done through the existing mechanisms.

In the past, we have never included container numbers on PCs, is that now a requirement?

No, including container numbers is not a requirement unless the foreign government or an import permit indicate that it is required.

Some shipments ask that a Letter of Credit number be put on all documents. How do we do that with PCIT?

APHIS policy does not allow for letter of credit information be put on Phytosanitary certificates.

Consignee Information

Do you have to fill in the consignee before the inspection?

Yes.

What if we do not know the consignee information when we are submitting the application?

The mandatory fields must contain information. However, once the consignee information is known, the application can be updated (by you if you ask for it to be returned, or by ACO). If a PC has been completed in the system, then the PC may be superseded for changes or voided if shipment is cancelled.

We do not like consignee information being provided to our supplier. Is there any way to fill in consignee information after the inspection?

No, information must be provided. However, the information can be changed after the original PC is issued by superseding. In these instances, the original applicant will not be able to see the new PC in the system. ACOs have to select the applicant involved when they supersede a certificate. So, both the original applicant and the actual exporter would need accounts in the PCIT system.

If information needs to be changed on a PC after the original has been issued is that possible?

Yes, certificates can be superseded or voided in the PCIT system. All policies concerning the return of originals still exist.

Once a PC is issued, can modifications be made to it?

No, once a PC obtains the printed status the only way changes can be made are by superseding.

If we are the exporter and not the original applicant, can we get PCs reissued through the PCIT system? Does it have to be done through the original duty station or can it be done through our local duty station?

You may get original PCs superseded with the PCIT system. The ACO will have to indicate who the applicant is now. The information will go to the new applicants PCIT account. The original applicant will only see that the old PC was superseded.

There are 3 options when superseding:
  1. Keep the original applicant name.
  2. Change to duty station name.
  3. Change to a new applicant organization.

Why is consignee address optional? Isn't that required?

The only required fields are consignee name, city, and country. In rare instances, a physical address is not available.

Cotton

Can PCIT be used for cotton currently?

Yes, however the inspection results still have to be provided by fax. Suggestion: once all the different applications are obtained from the warehouse, submit a master application via the PCIT system and fax in the supporting inspection documents.

Grain

When can grain shipments be certified using the PCIT system?

Grain shipments can be certified using the system now. Applications for PCs should be submitted via the PCIT system, and the associated inspection results from GIPSA, FGIS should be faxed/forwarded to the office for PC issuance.

Today, we ask the USDA to maintain a "phyto log" and that constitutes as our application. Is that now changed and the exporter submits the application directly?

Logistical issues regarding applications should be worked out with your local LPAS, as is what happened with the "phyto log".

Can we submit an application to LPAS, and then remote print the original PC at our location?

No, you could print copies of the certificate. However, the original will still need to be signed.

If we have a federal grade certificate, can we include that in the Import Permit field?

No, the grade/inspection certificates have to be provided as today until version 3.0. You could add that information in the comments field.

Templates

How many templates can I save?

There is no limit to the number of templates that can be stored. Naming of the templates so that everyone in your organization can understand and use them is most important. (Suggested naming: Exporter-Product-Consignee-Country)

If we need to make changes in application (ex. Quantity), do we just go back to template and resubmit it?

No, you should contact the duty station that you submitted it to and ask them to update the application or return it to you for corrections.

Are company templates stored in my computer or the USDA system?

All templates are stored in the PCIT system and are saved in the creating company’s account. Only members of that company will have access to its templates. Nothing is stored on your individual computer.

Does PCIT have data import capabilities? We have existing systems with our information already.

There are no data import capabilities. Many organizations already have existing systems; however all of them are in different formats. This would require us to work with every organization individually and they would have to develop a standard XML format that PCIT could incorporate. The time involved in creating the import capability and getting everyone’s existing system on a standard format would remove the benefit of data importation. We are working on the capability to allow data downloads from the PCIT system into existing systems according to internationally agreed XML PC messages. This feature will not be available until version 3.0.

Is it possible to edit templates for exporter and consignee information?

If the application has been submitted then the ACO can return to you for updating. If it is an entirely new shipment, then once you start an application with the template you may select any of the exporters and consignees that are saved in your organizations template data.

Can we have multiple applicants on a template?

No, the applicant is based on the organization submitting the application.

Re-Export Phytosanitary Certificates

What is the difference between PCs and RPCs?

PCs are for commodities that originated in the US. RPCs are issued for commodities that entered the US from a foreign country and are then being sent back out of the US.

Will the format for submitting applications be the same for RPCs?

The format will be very similar. Of course, there will be additional fields that are required for the RPC and not the PC.

Are there still two separate documents (PC and RPC)? If so, when will PCIT accommodate RPCs?

Both documents will still be used.

We ship a mix of fresh produce. Some have origins outside the US. How does PCIT handle this?

Origins originating in the US could receive a PCIT generated PC, and the other commodities could receive a traditional paper RPC.

Import Permits

Will a PC be issued if our importer does not provide us with an IP?

If an IP is required, no. The IP would still have to be faxed into the office or follow existing practices. The ACO can return the application to you with comments. If an IP is not required, yes.

Do you still need to provide copies of IPs and field inspection results via fax?

Yes, you may want to include in the comments area that you will be faxing those documents in. PCIT version 3.0 will allow for that information to be included in the application process (scanner required). Otherwise, you could still fax it in.

If no IP is required, can you submit applications without it?

Yes, the IP field is not mandatory.

Can I put, "No IP was presented" in the IP number field?

You can, however the ACO will add that AD through another mechanism if necessary. If no IP is required or available, you can leave the IP number field completely blank on the General page.

Inspections

Are inspections still necessary?

Yes. PCIT does not negate the need for inspections.

Why do you have to put in a time?

Time lets the ACO know when the commodity is available for inspection.

Can you create a PC if someone else set up the inspection?

Yes, if inspections are done by outside sources (i.e. FGIS) then PCs can still be generated with the system. The inspection results would need to be provided to the ACO via fax or other mechanism. The ACO can record information on their screen for inspections.

Can you check the date a commodity was inspected in the system?

Organizations will not see the inspection details. ACOs would be able to view that information.

Is this system used to schedule inspections?

If inspections are done by ACOs and not other designated persons, then the system allows you to indicate the when/where of commodity availability. If inspections are done by the other designated persons, then those results have to be forwarded.

My organization submits applications for cargo that has already sailed/been loaded? How do I workaround the requirement for date available for inspection, if it will not allow dates in the past?

As long as the appropriate inspections were done and you have the supporting documentation for the inspections, then forward the inspection documents according to existing procedures. On the comments section indicate that the inspection information is coming and place the current date in the field.

We generally have 30 days from inspection to actual PC issuance, so vessels leave all the time?

See previous answer. Also, this does not affect the time limits set by foreign governments. If the foreign government allows 30 days from inspection to issuance that will still be the case.

What if there are multiple locations for inspections?

The field will accommodate 50 characters. You may also put additional information in the comments field.

Many inspectors require a semi complete application before they will conduct inspections? Will we still provide this on old hard copies?

This will require working with the ACO to let them know the commodity is available for inspection. However, you can generate a hard copy of the application at any time by clicking the print button (even if you do not have all the information). I would also suggest you save that application as a WIP.

Miscellaneous Fields on the Application

What if we do not know the point of entry?

"Unknown" is a valid entry in the point of entry field.

What is the difference between Quantity and number of packages?

Quantity is the number of items within a package. For example: 10 bunches in one wooden crate.

Would treatment and or fumigation information be entered in the comments area?

You may type anything into the comments area. If you are an ACO or AE then there is a special screen for inputting treatment details, similar to commodity details screen.

How do we submit fumigation information?

If fumigation was done by "approved methods" then the fumigation information would have to be faxed into the office for inclusion on the PC, if appropriate.

How large is the distinguishing marks field? Will it accommodate 100+ railcars, containers?

The field is currently set at 80 characters. In version 2.3 (September 2006) the field will accommodate up to 2,000 characters.

Can you cut and paste a list of containers into the distinguishing marks field?

Yes, you can cut and paste from an existing document into the associated field in PCIT.

Can multiple units of measure be used for a single commodity?

No, only a single unit of measure can be used. We are looking into an update for this, but do not have one scheduled at this time.

What is the significance of the "weight" pounds on the commodity details screen; we usually use the term kilograms?

The "weight" field on the commodity details screen does not appear anywhere on the actual PC. That field is used for certain internal reporting. The "unit" field is what actually appears on the PC. Kilograms are an acceptable unit.

We fumigate logs and have to indicate the total number of logs and individual count per container. Can I do that now?

You can input the total number. We are working on expanding the distinguishing marks field and you would then be able to put the container number followed by a set of parentheses indicating how many logs are in each container.

Naming of Commodities

What if you do not have the commodity I am exporting in your database?

You may enter items that do not appear on the list once. Send the common and botanical name to the PCIT helpdesk and Christian Dellis. Upon verification of the species then the list will be updated. The commodity list currently has over 50,000 entries.

We ship crosses of plants, how will we do that in PCIT?

We are working to address plant crosses. Please contact Christian Dellis.

When you type in a common name and many botanical names come up, how do you choose?

You may consult with your ACO if you do not know. There are times when requirements are specific to species while others have requirements for an entire genus.

What if I do not know the botanical name?

You may search the commodity list by common name.

Authorized Certifying Official/AE Specific Questions

Can you preview a PC before it is printed to make sure it is accurate?

The ACO/AE can preview a certificate at any point in the processing. Applicants can preview the application.

Time Line Questions

If I submit an application, will the ACO come the same day to inspect?

That will depend on the workload of the duty station in question.

Typically, I need my PCs on the same day. Will I still be able to obtain PCs on the same day that I submit my application?

That will depend on the workload of the duty station in question, but it is possible to process applications immediately after submission. If the inspector is at your facility and you will allow them access to your facilities, then they should be able to provide PCs rapidly.

How far in advance do I have to submit an application?

That depends on your interaction with local ACOs. If the commodity and ACO are available, applications can be submitted on the same day.