Inspection Date: The day the inspection is completed. This date is found on your inspection documents and at the top of the phytosanitary certificate.

Shipping Date: The day the shipment leaves the United States. 

Issuance Date: The day the phytosanitary certificate is printed. This date is found by the signature block at the bottom of the certificate.

There are several time limits to consider when applying for a phytosanitary certificate. The USDA policy states that phytosanitary certificates must be issued within 30 days of inspection unless the destination country has tighter time limits, which then must be met. The USDA recently amended this policy to allow phytosanitary certificates to be issued within 60 days of inspection if the shipment left the USA within 30 days of inspection. In these cases, it is important to present transportation documents that show the shipment left the USA within the 30-day limit. 

Destination country time limits must also be followed, even if they are more restrictive than the USDA policy. Destination countries can list their own time limits in several ways: inspection date to phytosanitary issuance date, inspection to shipping date, or phytosanitary issuance date to shipping date. The destination country can also specify the amount of time allowed for any of these time limits. Most countries allow 30 days, either from inspection date to issuance date or inspection date to shipping date, but some can have much shorter time limits. The European Union allows 30 days from inspection date to shipping date but only 14 days from issuance date to shipping date, while Colombia allows ten days from issuance date to shipping date. Some countries prohibit phytosanitary certificates to be written after the shipment has left the USA, while others, like the European Union, allow it. 

To calculate the number of days since inspection, use the date the inspection was completed as day number 1. Please note that there are more than 30 days in several months. An inspection completed on October 10 would need to be certified or shipped by November 8. Phytosanitary certificates cannot be issued once a time limit has expired unless the shipment is re-inspected. This is impossible if the shipment has already left the United States. Once issued, a phytosanitary certificate does not expire and may be replaced after the 30-day mark if changes need to be made.

It is the exporter’s responsibility to be aware of the time limits for their shipments and to ensure they are meeting those time limits. Shipping date time limits may not prevent a phytosanitary certificate from being issued in the USA, but if they are not met, the destination country may refuse entry of the shipment upon arrival.

To determine the phytosanitary requirements and time limits involved with your shipments, contact the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Export Certification Program.