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Ellen Paul

URGENT: Notice regarding imports and the new APHIS "Permitting Assistant"

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The Ornithological Council is one of several organizations that has been consulting to the designers/programmers contracted by APHIS Veterinary Services to design a new online permit system.

It is called the VS Permitting Assistant. It is not in and of itself the permit application system, which is known as e-permits. It is a guidance system to help you identify if you need a permit and if so, which permit. You would then go to the existing e-permits system to apply.

PLEASE REFRAIN FROM USING IT AT THIS TIME. The Ornithological Council has reviewed it and it is faulty in myriad ways, the most serious of these being that it tells you that you don't need a permit - when, in fact, you absolutely, positively need a permit.

The Ornithological Council is communicating with NIES on an urgent basis because if you use this thing now, you are going to get inaccurate results and if you rely on those results, you will show up at the border without the required permits. If you need help with import permits and the increasingly complex import process - for any agency, be it USFWS, APHIS, CDC, and CBP - please contact the Ornithological Council for assistance.

 

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Has it improved at all since your post?

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Yes and no. The worst problem - the fact that the system was telling you that no permit was needed - was partially corrected on April 4. At least now it tells you that "action is required."

However, it still doesn't tell you what action or anything else.

It says: "Uh oh, something's not right. This request has not yet been defined in this assistant and documentation may or may not be required. Please use the Contact Us link on the page for guidance."

Moreover, they have still not added the definitional categories (such as Avian, all - research) and "various countries."

Bottom line is that the import process is now so complex that even if this permitting assistant ever works efficiently for ornithologists, there is still so much more to know that the permit system can't tell you, such as treatment methods, when your lab needs to be USDA-approved as BSL2, and much more - and that's just for APHIS. Add the complexity of the USFWS requirements, the CDC, Customs and Border Protection - and not just the permits, but the actual importing process. So the bottom line is that ornithologists are still much better served by consulting with the Ornithological Council than relying on an online query system for any one agency. This system was developed to alleviate the pressure on the very understaffed National Import Export Services office, which fields non-stop phone calls all day. And they can't possibly take the time needed to query you in detail about your specific imports. So relying on the expertise of the Ornithological Council is your best bet.

 

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