How to import regulated horticultural, plants, live animals and animal products using the automatic, multi-agency approval system.
For regulated horticultural, plants, live animals, animal products and high risk food and feed products you must submit one or more advance notifications for every import declaration you submit to HMRC’s Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system.
For regulated import consignments that contain horticultural, planting material and plant-related goods, you must provide an advance notification to the Procedure for Electronic Application for Certificates (PEACH).
For regulated live animals, animal products and high risk food and feed imports, you must provide an advance notification to the Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES), EU’s central IT system for control of third country imports of live animals, animal products and non-animal food products.
You must also make an import declaration to HMRC’s CHIEF system.
Defra’s ALVS enables the Rural Payment Agency (RPA), Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and Port Health Authorities (PHA) to pass their decision notifications (as a result of risk assessment or inspection decisions) captured on PEACH or TRACES electronically to HMRC.
Where a release decision is given, agents and importers who handle horticultural, plant, live animals, animal products and high risk food and feed products benefit from faster customs clearance times and less paperwork handling.
Use the manual release form if ALVS cannot process an automated release.
Imports in the scope of the ALVS
All RPA/APHA/PHA controlled imports will be routed through ALVS. However, importers and agents cannot see or log onto ALVS.
ALVS enables APHA’s Plant Health and Seeds Inspectors (PHSI) and/or the RPA’s Horticultural Marketing Inspectorate (HMI) to provide their import control decisions electronically to HMRC on customs ‘Route 1’ consignments containing plants, flowers, fresh fruit and vegetables that are:
- imported into England and Wales from countries outside the EU
indirect imports of controlled products that come into the EU through another member state and have England or Wales as their final destination where either the:
member state didn’t carry out all 3 types of checks required to prevent the introduction of plant pests and diseases
checks were undertaken but the importer wants to suspend payment of duty/tax and move the goods under Community Transit to the UK
You can see which crops must be entered into PEACH on the RPA website or the import regime for plant health controls guide.
ALVS also enables the APHA and PHA to provide their import control decisions electronically to HMRC on customs ‘Route 1’ consignments containing live animals, animal products and high risk food and feed imports that are:
- imported into Great Britain from countries outside the EU
- indirect imports of controlled products that come into the EU through another member state and have a location in Great Britain as their final destination where either the:
- member state didn’t carry out all 3 types of checks required to prevent the introduction of animal diseases or food health risks
- checks were undertaken but the importer wants to suspend payment of duty/tax and move the goods under Community Transit to the UK
Exclusions from the ALVS
Relatively low volumes of controlled horticultural, planting material and plant-related goods are imported through Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man, therefore these regions are excluded from ALVS.
Affected goods landing in Scotland or Northern Ireland continue to have manual controls at the point of arrival. Importers should carry on using their existing import clearance procedures. Importers must send import declarations and the support paperwork to HMRC’s National Clearance Hub by fax or email.
Fax: 0800 496 0699
Importers in the Isle of Man should continue to send documentation to the local office on the island.
For live animals, animal products and high risk food and feed imports the following are out of scope of ALVS:
- animals that enter under the PET Travel Scheme
- animals or animal products imported for research, diagnostic or sampling analysis purposes
- CITES imports
- intra-EU imports
- imports from the EEA Countries (Iceland, Norway), Switzerland, Faroes, Lichtenstein or from EU Special Territories (the Åland Islands, the Canary Islands, the Channel Islands, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mount Athos, and Reunion)
- subsequent enforcement action by Lead Authorities after an import has been refused entry
- any additional customs checks that HMRC or Border Force instigate (for example, CAP documentary checks)
- customs clearance of a live animal import where AHVLA are unable to complete the Common Veterinary Entry Document (CVED) A Part 2 and so issue a detention notice
- personal imports
- goods removed from a Customs Warehouse into free circulation
- high risk food products accompanied by a Common Entry Document (CED) that enter the UK through the Port of Dover (currently Port of Dover staff aren’t registered to use TRACES)
How the ALVS works
If you import controlled plants and plant material, you must register on Defra’s PEACH system. Use this system to make an advance notification of goods to be imported. This is risk-assessed and you will be told (in PEACH) whether physical/identity and/or documentary inspection is needed.
Not all imports of fresh fruit and vegetables are controlled. But you must register for imports of plants, flowers, fresh fruit and vegetables that are regulated by the RPA’s HMI and/or the APHA’s Plant Health and Seeds Inspectors.
Following completion of APHA and/or RPA checks, inspection results are entered on PEACH and a Quarantine Release Certificate (QRC) and/or an HMI Conformity certificate is issued to you.
For live animals, animal products and high risk food and feed imports you or your agent submits an advance notification (Live animals on a CVEDA, animal products on a CVEDP), and high risk food and feed products on a CED) onto TRACES.
When you also send an import declaration to the HMRC CHIEF system the key import information is passed to Defra’s ALVS and matched against the advance notification.
Once the inspection body has provided proof of the outcome of their checks on PEACH or TRACES, ALVS collects the release/hold/refuse decision(s) from PEACH and TRACES and matches them to a relevant customs declaration entry that it has received from CHIEF.
The inspection decision is transmitted electronically, directly into CHIEF. Where a ‘release’ decision is received this will result in automatic customs release of the consignment. The clearance time for ‘Route 1’ consignments is therefore reduced to approximately 10 minutes.
To match a customs declaration to a PEACH or TRACES entry ALVS requires that on both submissions certain data must match exactly.
For PEACH applications, the Declaration Unique Consignment Reference (DUCR) and weight (net mass) must both match what is entered on the equivalent customs declaration and in addition the commodity code used on the declaration must be the same as the commodity/variety description used on the PEACH application.
The current mapping between the HMRC Integrated Tariff of the European Community (TARIC) (commodity code) and the commodity/variety to be used on PEACH applications, can be viewed in the spreadsheet below:
For TRACES entries, the CVED/CED reference number, commodity code and weight (net mass) or number of animals must match that submitted on to the equivalent customs declaration.
When ALVS cannot perform a match for example, due to a data entry error, the Agent or Importer will be notified immediately via an ‘E0’ exception report generated via their customs software.
If all key data items are matched and assuming there are no outstanding additional HMRC control requirements, CHIEF automatically clears the import declaration on receipt of a release decision from ALVS.
The APHA or RPA decision is shown by a green traffic light on PEACH. Following clearance of the import declaration CHIEF sends a finalised state message to ALVS which is transmitted to PEACH and the ALVS Help Desk Tool (view capabilities for Government Agencies only) enabling all the government decisions to be viewed in one place.
The importance of the DUCR and the CVED/CED reference number
The DUCR is the primary data item that will be used by ALVS processes to match a PEACH application with a corresponding CHIEF import declaration. You can also complete the DUCR Part number suffix as an option. Similarly the CVED/CED reference number generated by TRACES is the primary matching item that will be used by ALVS processes to match a TRACES application with a corresponding CHIEF import declaration.
It’s important to ensure that the advance notification of import submitted to PEACH contains exactly the same DUCR, optionally completed part number suffix or the advance notification of import submitted to TRACES contains the correct CVED/CED reference number on the associated import declaration submitted to HMRC. Any mismatch in this data or in secondary matching on commodity code and the net weight or number of animals will lead to a delayed release decision for your consignment.
The automated process saves time and administrative costs. You no longer need to send fax certification relating to the lead agency checks to the National Clearance Hub because ALVS will send the lead agency decision(s) electronically, and in real time, direct into CHIEF where ‘release’ decision(s) on all items of the import declaration will result in an automatic release of the consignment(s) if there are no separate Customs or Border Force related checks to satisfy.
Approved Trader Status scheme for importers
The Approved Trader Status scheme (ATS) allows importers to self-certify their own horticultural consignments. Once you have been granted approved status you get immediate release of your consignments at the point of import, apart from occasional random checks by RPA’s HMI at your import point.
The scheme only applies to the imports of commodities subject to the Specific Marketing Standards (not the General Marketing Standard commodities). It’s open to importers who can show:
- suitable facilities
- a record of good compliance with import rules
- regulation training in place for their staff
- inspection records showing the appropriate corrective action, if applicable
If you’re approved you will gain ATS status for 3 years. Your business will be subject to regular checks and audits, checks of quality-control records (against your PEACH records) and inspection of your fresh produce. HMI will review your business annually. After prior warning, status can be withdrawn if your business fails to meet the criteria concerned.
How to apply for the ATS scheme
Contact your local HMI. The regional inspector will take you through the approval process.
How the ALVS works with other customs procedures
You should be aware that the ALVS does to some extent affect certain other customs procedures, as follows:
Customs Freight Simplified Procedures (CFSP) - if you are authorised for CFSP, you must record a CFSP approved location in your PEACH advance notification otherwise ALVS will not provide release decisions to CHIEF- if a location is approved for CFSP, you will see a CFSP location indicator in PEACH
Simplified Frontier Declarations (SFDs) for Local Clearance Procedures that you submit to CHIEF generate communication with PEACH and if a match with an advance notification is made via the DUCR, an automatic APHA release control decision is returned to CHIEF, enabling goods to be moved to an authorised trader’s designated premises
Enhanced Remote Transit Shed (ERTS) - if traders are authorised to have inland Plant Health and Horticultural Marketing Inspectorate conformity inspections within their ERTS premises, the communication with PEACH is generated when the goods are entered to a customs procedure through submission of a full Customs import declaration, if a match with an advance notification is made via the DUCR, an automatic APHA and/or RPA release control decision is generated, enabling the goods to be moved from the temporary storage ERTS facility
Benefits of the ALVS for your organisation
The main benefits of Defra’s ALVS are:
- you (or your agent) do not need to send lead agency certification to HMRC for physical checking
- you can reduce the amount of paperwork resulting in reduced administration costs
- CHIEF routing is enhanced to enable you to identify which authorities are involved
- processing and customs clearance of relevant consignments will be faster
- you or your agent can see RPA, APHA, and HMRC clearances in one place on the PEACH system
- if you comply consistently with regulations, inspections will be fewer, allowing lead agencies to focus on non-compliant traders
- the system allows improved coordination of government inspections
Plant Health Imports helpdesk
Telephone: 0844 248 0071
Telephone: 0345 607 3224