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China (People's Republic of) - CIFER - Guidance for industry

Please note the critical deadlines for establishments to submit update and renewal applications in 2023 for current registrations in CIFER.

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1. Important CIFER deadlines for establishments in 2023

Product type Application for modification "Application for Extension" (renewal) window in CIFER CIFER "Application for Extension" (renewal) function is unavailable GACC registration expiry date in CIFER for specific product types
Meat and meat products other than casings Submissions to CFIA requested now Table Note 1 February 1, 2023 to April 28, 2023 Table Note 2 May 1, 2023 to July 31, 2023 July 31, 2023
Dairy products Submissions to CFIA requested now Table Note 1 March 1, 2023 to May 29, 2023 Table Note 2 June 1, 2023 to August 31, 2023 August 31, 2023
Fish and seafood Submissions to CFIA requested now Table Note 1 Completed in 2022 Not applicable Not applicable
Honey Submissions to CFIA requested now Table Note 1 June 1, 2023 to August 29, 2023 Table Note 2 September 1, 2023 to November 30, 2023 November 30, 2023
Medium risk products Submissions to CFIA requested now Table Note 1 Not applicable in 2023 Not applicable in 2023 Not applicable in 2023

Table Notes

Table note 1

Note: the "Application for Modification" must be approved by GACC before an "Application for Extension" (renewal) can be submitted; therefore "Applications for Modification" should be submitted in CIFER as soon as possible.

Return to table note 1  referrer

Table note 2

Note: companies that miss the "Application for Entension" renewal window risk letting their registrations expire and losing market access to China.

Return to table note 2  referrer

2. Registering establishments with China using CIFER

The China Import Food Enterprise Registration (CIFER) system was developed by the General Administration of Customs of the People's Republic of China (GACC) to facilitate online registration of foreign establishments which manufacture, process, or store food and agri-food products prior to export to China. Canadian food and agri-food businesses which only export products and do not manufacture, process, or store products do not require registration with GACC.

Food and agri-food products have been classified into 3 risk categories by GACC, namely "high risk", "medium risk", and "low risk".

As of January 1, 2022, Canadian establishments which conduct the above activities must be registered in CIFER prior to the export of their products. The registration of establishments with respect to "high risk" and "medium risk" food and agri-food products involves preliminary reviews by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) prior to approval by GACC. For background information on China's new food requirements, please refer to New establishment registration requirements for food exports to China (Decrees 248 and 249).

The registration of establishments responsible for exclusively "low risk" products is performed by GACC alone and does not involve the CFIA. For more information on "low risk" products please refer to the food export notice China Decrees 248/249 – Registration of low-risk food product companies.

CFIA food inspectors will provide support to Canadian establishments, as necessary, to facilitate establishment registrations in CIFER. If you do not have an existing CIFER account, please note the following pre-requisites:

3. Before creating your CIFER account

Safe Food for Canadians licence

Establishment identification numbers

GACC requires all establishments to have an "overseas registration number" issued by the foreign competent authority of the exporting country. In Canada, the CFIA is the competent authority.

"Low risk" establishment identification numbers

Note: "low risk" establishments who intend to request CFIA-issued export certificates (for example, a Certificate of Free Sale) must obtain a SFC licence prior to export.

"Medium risk" and "high risk" establishment identification numbers

Note: "medium risk" and "low risk" establishments may use their 8 character SFC licence number as their establishment ID number. However, use of the SFC licence number for CIFER account creation is not recommended as establishment identification numbers cannot be amended in CIFER after an account is created. In addition, an establishment's SFC licence number can be subject to change under certain circumstances, for example when a SFC licence expires without renewal in advance of the expiry date.

Note: "high risk" establishments should only use 1 of the above 2 options and should not use their SFC licence number to create their CIFER accounts.

Creating an account in CIFER

Tip: when completing an application in CIFER, establishments are encouraged to utilize the CFIA's Checklist Tool to help guide them through the application and ensure all required information is included.

4. Account certification

Tip: when completing an application in CIFER, establishments are encouraged to utilize the CFIA's Checklist Tool to help guide them through the application and ensure all required information is included.

5. Creating and amending product applications in CIFER

What is an "application" in CIFER

To be able to export to China, establishments must register their products with GACC prior to export. Each category of product that an establishment wishes to export must be registered with GACC in their CIFER account.

Establishments must create "applications" for product registrations in the CIFER system for submission to CFIA if the establishment is responsible for the manufacturing, processing, or storing of "medium risk" and "high risk" food and agri-food products.

Product applications in CIFER will be 1 of the following 2 types

  1. Application for registration in CIFER
    • A separate "application for registration" must be completed in CIFER for each product category an establishment wishes to export to China
    • Establishments are responsible for working with their importers in China to determine the correct Harmonized System (HS) Codes and China Inspection and Quarantine (CIQ) Codes for each product in CIFER that they intend to export
    • The CFIA is unable to provide guidance on which HS and CIQ codes should be entered in CIFER
    • Establishments should be prepared to upload to CIFER detailed documentation regarding their establishment and their product(s)
    • Examples of documents that may be required by GACC include, but are not limited to:
      • valid SFC licence (sometimes termed a "production certificate" in CIFER)
      • establishment floor plan
      • Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan
      • product package or label photos
      • Genetically modified organisms (GMO) or non-GMO certification document
      • process flow charts
      • any other supporting documents which demonstrate compliance with China's regulatory requirements for food or agri-food products or which assist GACC in determining establishment or product compliance
  2. Application for modification in CIFER
    • If an establishment needs to make amendments to an approved registration, they will need to submit an "Application for Modification" in CIFER
    • The modification process can include changing a name, removing products or adding additional products for GACC approval under a product category in which the establishment is already registered
    • The process in CIFER to complete an "Application for Modification" is the same as that for the "Application for Registration"

Note: GACC does not allow modification of certain fields of a registration in CIFER such as the establishment ID number and the address of the establishment

Tip: when completing an application in CIFER, establishments are encouraged to utilize the CFIA's Checklist Tool to help guide them through the application and ensure all required information is included.

6. Cancelling a registration in CIFER

Establishments wishing to cancel an entire product category registration (for example, poultry, grain products, aquatics, or other categories) must submit an "Application for cancellation".

If an establishment only needs to remove a specific product within a category but not the entire category, then an "Application for modification" should be submitted.

Tip: when completing an application in CIFER, establishments are encouraged to utilize the CFIA's Checklist Tool to help guide them through the application and ensure all required information is included.

7. Renewing registrations in CIFER

Timing

Registrations in CIFER are typically valid for a period of 5 years. However, establishments which were on a China eligibility list prior to the implementation of CIFER, will have an expiry date that is sooner than 5 years.

Establishments are responsible to note the expiry date of their approved registration on the CIFER Query page to ensure they do not miss the renewal deadline set by GACC. The "Application for extension" is only available for the 3 to 6 month period before the expiry date. This means that exactly 3 months before the expiry date, the "Application for Extension" button in CIFER will no longer be available to establishments in CIFER. Establishments will need to contact their local CFIA office after submitting an "Application for extension" to advise of its submission.

Process

GACC has advised CFIA that all establishments that were registered in CIFER by GACC (that is, did not self-register in CIFER after January 1, 2022), must update their registrations in CIFER with an "Application for modification", prior to completing the renewal process via an "Application for extension". The "Application for modification" must be approved by GACC before an "Application for extension" can be submitted. Regardless of registration expiry date, all establishments registered by GACC in CIFER (that is, did not self-register in CIFER), must update their registrations in CIFER by submitting an "Application for modification" as soon as possible in 2023. This includes all "medium risk" establishments with expiry dates in 2026 and 2027.

Tip: when completing an application in CIFER, establishments are encouraged to utilize the CFIA's Checklist Tool to help guide them through the application and ensure all required information is included.

8. After an application has been submitted to CFIA in CIFER

Once establishments have submitted their applications (either new, renewals or amendments) in CIFER, they will need to contact their CFIA local office by email to advise that they have submitted an application in CIFER. In the email, establishments must supply all of the information that CFIA requires to complete its assessment, specifically:

The CFIA local office will acknowledge receipt of the email with the above information.

Review of applications by CFIA is a multi-step process. Once the initial application is received and reviewed by CFIA in CIFER, establishments will be provided with 2 documents via email from the local CFIA office that must be completed and submitted back to CFIA, specifically:

Note: for the purpose of CFIA enabling CIFER registration by an establishment, the "legal representative" is a person who is legally responsible for the establishment. An establishment's legal representative must be the same person whose name appears on any document uploaded to CIFER.

Note: a company seal is an official sticker bearing the company logo or other official graphical identifier that would be applied on company documents. A company stamp is an official company imprint of such a graphic, often in ink and applied with a stamping device, or its digital equivalent.

9. GACC review of applications for product registration

After CFIA submission of applications, GACC's timeline for review is unpredictable.

It is common for GACC to return applications due to incompleteness or errors, such as: missing documents from the uploaded documents package; improper formatting (for example, missing signatures or seals/stamps); or other corrections that need to be performed by the establishment.

After GACC identifies problems and returns the application, establishments are responsible for uploading missing documents as well as deleting incorrect documents and uploading their corrected versions within CIFER. Then their applications must be resubmitted to the CFIA. After an application has been corrected and resubmitted in CIFER by establishments, they must notify their CFIA local office via email that they have resubmitted their application. After review for completeness and correctness, CFIA will submit the corrected application to GACC within CIFER.

10. Establishment monitoring of applications in CIFER

Following a submission, establishments should monitor their CIFER accounts often to watch for changes in their application status. Common application statuses can include, but are not limited to:

11. GACC approval of applications

Application "Approved" by GACC in CIFER

When GACC approves a new "Application for registration", the establishment will be assigned an 18-digit China registration number for that product category and a new entry will appear on the CIFER Query list. At this time, the establishment is able to request an export certificate to export the products approved in the registration.

When GACC approves an "Application for modification", some changes such as the addition or removal of products will not show in the CIFER Query list while others, such as a name change, will be reflected in the CIFER Query list.

When GACC approves an "Application for extension", the registration expiry date will be updated in the CIFER Query list.

Note: it is important that export documentation accompanying shipments reflects the information that is currently in CIFER. Information mismatches between export documents and the information in CIFER can create problems for shipment clearance upon arrival in China.

12. Verifying GACC approval of product categories and products

Within their CIFER accounts, establishments can view their GACC-approved registrations in 3 ways:

Within any of the 3 options above, establishments can view the product HS Codes and CIQ Codes for which they are approved by GACC to export to China by viewing the list under the section "Qualification obtained of Registered in China".

Establishments are encouraged to verify with their importer prior to shipping that they are registered in CIFER for the correct HS and CIQ Codes. Incorrect HS or CIQ codes in CIFER may delay or prevent shipment clearance upon arrival in China.

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