The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently opened an application portal for a Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP) for fiscal year 2022. Through a voluntary, fee-based model, VQIP provides participating importers with expedited review and import entry of human and animal foods into the United States. The importers who participate can benefit from greater speed and predictability, allowing them to avoid unexpected delays upon the products’ arrival in the United States. In turn, consumers can benefit from importers’ improved supply chain safety, security, and reliability.
Some of the specific benefits for participating importers include:
- Expedited U.S. import entry for all foods included within an approved VQIP application.
- FDA examinations and samplinglimitedtoVQIP food entries the following circumstances:
- “For cause” situations, such as investigation of an outbreak or illness.
- Statistically necessary, risk-based microbiological samples.
- Audits of a small percentage of VQIP import shipments to verify that the products declared in a VQIP entry are consistent with the products included within the VQIP application.
- FDA examinations or sample collections, to the extent possible, occurring at the VQIP food destination or a location the importer chooses.
- FDA assistance in fulfilling an importer’s request to U.S. Customs and Border Protection to export any refused products from the port the importer prefers.
- FDA laboratories’ prioritization and expedition for processing any required VQIP samples.
- Access to an independent help desk for VQIP importers to address inquiries or concerns that arise.
To participate, importers must meet eligibility criteria, which limits the VQIP to importers that demonstrate a high level of control over the safety and security of their supply chains, among other things, and pay a fee to cover VQIP’s administrative costs. Interested importers may contact our team for further guidance regarding whether VQIP may be advantageous for them. Importers interested in applying for VQIP benefits during FY2022, must apply by May 31, 2021, and pay the associated user fee before October 1 of the year in which they intend to participate.