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

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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 three 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:

Before creating your CIFER account

Safe Food for Canadians licence

Establishment identification numbers

"Low risk" establishment identification numbers

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

Creating an account in CIFER

Account Certification

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 one 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")
      • establishment floor plan
      • Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan
      • product package or label photos
      • GMO or Non-GMO certification document
      • process flow charts
      • any other 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

    Note for meat and meat products: The new registration requirements/process for meat/meat product (including animal casings) establishments are indicated in Decree 248 (Chapter II). The submission of detailed questionnaires previously agreed between the CFIA and GACC need to be completed by the applicant as part of the registration. At this time, up to date product type questionnaires may not be available in the CIFER system for meat and meat products.

    Meat and meat product establishments should continue to work with their CFIA local offices to prepare application packages, including supporting documents, for electronic submission to the local CFIA office which in turn will be forwarded to GACC by email. Therefore, the paper-based, legacy process described in the Export requirements for meat and poultry products for China should continue to be followed. However, the CFIA anticipates that, eventually, this registration process for meat and meat product establishments will be completed within the CIFER system when ready.

  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

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.

Renewing registrations in CIFER

Registrations in CIFER are typically valid for a period of 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. An option to submit an "Application for extension" will become available in CIFER approximately 6 months before the registration expiry date. Establishments should complete the "Application for Extension" 3-6 months prior to the expiry date to ensure their application is approved by GACC on time.

An option to submit an "Application for extension" will become available in CIFER approximately 6 months before the registration expiry date. Establishments should complete the "Application for Extension" 3-6 months prior to the expiry date to ensure their application is approved by GACC on time. Establishments will need to contact their local CFIA office after submitting an "Application for extension" to advise of its submission.

Note: Establishments which were on eligibility lists with China prior to the implementation of CIFER, will have an expiry date that is sooner than 5 years. Most fish and seafood establishments will have to renew their registrations in CIFER before January 2023.

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 two documents via email from the local CFIA office that must be completed and submitted back to CFIA, specifically:

Note: 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.

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.

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:

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.

Verifying GACC approval of product categories and products

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

Within any of the three 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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