VQIP – What You Need to Know

Importing food into the United States is no easy feat; instead, it is a process that is rife with regulations and limitations set forth by multiple agencies, including United States Customs and Border Protection and the United States Food and Drug Administration. Indeed, before food can be imported into the U.S., it is subject to FDA inspection to ensure that it is safe, sanitary, and properly labeled.

However, there may be a way to expedite the process and mitigate the onerous inspection procedure: VQIP.

VQIP: What’s That?

As explained by an online publication issued by the FDA, VQIP stands for Voluntary Qualified Importer Program. This program is a fee-based program that allows for the expedited review and importation of foods when importers are able to achieve and maintain safety and food security. The biggest benefit of VQIP for importers is that importation of food products will be expedited, with the FDA immediately releasing a shipment upon its arrival in the United States.

The fee to participate in the program for the first year is approximately $16,400.  The fee is annual and FDA will publish in the Federal Register the fee for subsequent years.  The fee is non-negotiable, and must be paid by all participants in the program.   The FDA is also currently considering comments on how this may affect small importers.

Eligibility for VQIP

Importers who may be eligible for the program include those who meet the following criteria:

  • Development of a quality assurance program that illustrates control over supply chain safety and security;
  • History of importing food to the United States of at least three years;
  • FDA facility certification for each foreign supplier;
  • Compliance with numerous regulations set forth under FSVP, HACCP, seafood HACCP, and more including development of a VQIP Quality Assurance Program; and
  • No history of non-compliance or FDA administrative or judicial action.

Applying for VQIP

The FDA just began accepting applications for the program on January 31, 2018. In order to apply for VQIP, you will need to visit the FDA website and establish an online account at www.access.fda.gov. For those who apply early in the 2018 season and are approved, benefits will begin in October, and will last through September of the following  year (approximately a one-year period). An application must be renewed on a yearly basis.

Working with an Import and Customs Lawyer in Filing Your VQIP Application

There is a limit on the number of applications the FDA will assess and approve. Further, because of the strict eligibility requirements for joining the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program, it is critical that you obtain legal counsel when filling out and filing your application. A small error in the application could render your business unable to participate, with eligibility denied until the following year.

When you work with a qualified import and customs lawyer who is familiar with import laws, FDA regulations, and VQIP rules, you enhance your chances of having your application approved.

Contact The Law Offices of Paula M. Connelly Today

Being admitted into the VQIP program could be a boon for your business. To learn more about the program or to file your application today, contact The Law Offices of Paula M. Connelly for a consultation with an experienced customs and import lawyer you can trust. You can reach Attorney Paula M. Connelly by phone, or by sending a confidential message using the intake form online.

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