The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is extending its application period for its Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP) to July 31. The application extension is because of the COVID-19 public health emergency and current travel restrictions and advisories.

The importer program is a voluntary fee-based program that provides expedited review and import entry of human and animal foods into the United States for participating importers. Consumers and importers benefit from this program, according to an FDA statement issued Friday.

The period for importers to submit their notice of intent to participate and their completed application for the VQIP for the Fiscal Year 2021 benefits period has been extended. The application portal will remain open until July 31, 2020. After it closes, the agency will review applications before the start of the annual benefits period, beginning with the federal fiscal year on Oct. 1, 2020.

The pandemic has hindered the ability of accredited Certification Bodies to conduct on-site regulatory audits and issue certifications to foreign entities, which are required as part of the VQIP application, according to the FDA statement.

To participate, importers must meet certain eligibility criteria, which include ensuring that the facilities of their foreign suppliers are certified by Certification Bodies that have been accredited through the FDA’s Accredited Third-Party Certification Program.

The FDA says it is continuing its efforts to ensure that the application process for VQIP is as efficient as possible.

Resources for importers interested in participating include:

Importers can submit questions about the program to the VQIP Importer’s Help Desk via phone at 1-301-796-8745 or email at

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