Update in vet med: Tips for GVL and VEHCS
Black and White headshot of IndeVets Employee lindsay
Words by:
Lindsay Wolcott — Associate IndeVet

As more people travel with pets these days, the number of clients needing health certificates (HC) to travel internationally is increasing. Over the past few months, Global Vet Link (GVL), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), in collaboration with the USDA, and Veterinary Export Health Certificate Service (VEHCS) have sent out several emails and memos with tips, tricks, and changes to their respective services. I have distilled the most relevant info for you below.

*This information is for USDA-accredited vets only, as we are the only ones who can sign health certificates. If you want to become accredited, click here to get started. Please be aware that requirements vary by state, and you can have more than one state accreditation. Renewals are every three years.

**I have no personal or professional connections to these entities other than being a USDA-accredited vet. For more complete information, please contact each organization directly. The information posted below is not considered comprehensive and is subject to change without notice.


Global Vet Link (GVL)

For clinics with a GVL account, this service has several perks. In addition to being able to submit interstate and international health certificates, they can also obtain European Union (EU) transit certificates. These allow pets to go through several EU countries on their way to their destination. GVL also has the Pet Travel Concierge Service with live support to help fill out forms and create a timeline of when required tests should be completed to ensure results are received on time. The fee structure is by the type of certificate needed. Once done, they send you a draft and submit it through VEHCS for you as well. VEHCS is still required to endorse health certificates submitted electronically. If you ever have a client not using a transport company service, it sounds incredibly beneficial (I have not used it yet).

GVL sends out a monthly email newsletter to keep you updated. To sign up, click here. In addition to announcements of new services, they will put country-specific updates in the newsletter. For example, in the January newsletter, the country update announced that “both the European Union and the United Kingdom updated their requirements for pets traveling into their countries on rabies “booster” vaccine. All pets traveling on a “booster” vaccine must show proof that the pet has not lapsed in vaccination coverage since the “primary” rabies vaccination. To prove no lapse in vaccination coverage, you will need to submit copies of ALL rabies certificates for rabies vaccinations given after the “primary” vaccination. Make sure to include the “primary” vaccination certificate as well.” Updates like this are important because if pets do not meet these requirements, they will not be allowed into the country. If you need to give a “new primary” rabies vaccination, be aware there is a 21-day waiting period before they can travel.

In the February newsletter, they offered in-depth information about the XL bully ban in England and Scotland and how it affects people trying to import into the country.


Veterinary Export Health Certificate System (VECHS)

While this system may seem confusing, it gets easier with practice. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), along with VEHCS and the USDA, also emailed helpful tips over the past few weeks. I have listed some of the more helpful ones below. Additionally, they have a 20-minute video with some excellent information that walks you through filling out the standard information needed for all international health certificates. There is also an in-depth FAQ.

  • Go to the APHIS Pet Travel Website before starting any HC to check the import country’s requirements. Information and forms can change overnight and without notice, so check frequently when getting a pet ready for export. Almost all HCs are country-specific now and will be listed under the respective countries page, along with their requirements per species.
  • If the pet does NOT qualify for export, DO NOT FILL OUT AND SIGN THE FORMS!
  • VEHCS accounts are set up per clinic. Your PM should be able to add you as one of their login vets. Once in, select the relevant vet signing the HC to proceed.
  • Only give the information requested on the forms; nothing extra is needed.
  • Open the PDF forms in Internet Explorer, download, save, and then fill them out in Adobe. Once completed, reupload. Alternatively, you can fill it in, print a physical copy, and then upload it with the Adobe Scan app as a PDF if you cannot save it to the computer. The app is also helpful when uploading Rabies certificates, etc. Upload each page separately so you can attach each page individually where indicated on VEHCS.
  • If the form requires the “place of origin” to be filled in, the pet’s current address must be filled in.
  • Make sure all the forms submitted have the same and correct information (e.g., the microchip numbers match, and the pet’s name is spelled the same on all papers.) The HC will not be endorsed if there are inconsistencies.
  • The date of testing is the date the sample was drawn. (This does not apply to some farm animal tests).
  • Make sure the dates and their format are entered correctly, as noted on the forms. The USA tends to use mm/dd/yyyy, but in the UK and other countries, it’s dd/mm/yyyy.
  • When printing, select “fit to page,” as margins must be visible. Do not crop seals. Make sure nothing, including the seals, is cropped off the page.
  • When submitting online, put “electronically signed” in the signature section.
  • Suppose the HC requires a return label for endorsement (i.e., orange banner countries that do not accept USDA’s digital endorsement). In that case, the owner must prepay the return label. The owner’s address must be on the label both in the mailing and return address sections. They can use their courier of choice but are advised to use a service that provides a tracking number. Select overnight or Saturday delivery to avoid delays. DO NOT PUT THE ENDORSEMENT OFFICE ADDRESS ANYWHERE ON THE LABEL! Again, upload it as a PDF.

I always print the final copy before uploading/submitting so the owner can read it and sign off that everything is spelled correctly, the travel dates are correct, etc. Some things can be changed after submission, but you must contact your local USDA office to do so, which will also delay the completion of the endorsement. As a personal preference, if an HC is required ten days before travel, I do the exam and submission on day 7 or 8. That way, there is still time for endorsement, and if there is a travel delay, the certificate doesn’t expire and is still within the correct time frame to get endorsed.


In conclusion

While filling out health certificates can be confusing and time-consuming, it shouldn’t be scary. Repetition does help, so the more you do, the more comfortable you will become. GVL and USDA APHIS are happy to answer questions, so call or email if you need to.

For generalized health certificate tips for VEHCS see my previous blog. (link)



  1. VEHCS log in
  2. USDA pet travel website
  3. If you want to become accredited, please click this link and follow the instructions for your state.
  4. APHIS general tips and FAQ
  5. APHIS VEHCS how to fill out HC video link
  6. GVL EU transit certificate link – you need to have GVL account to access
  7. GVL newsletter sign up link
  8. GVL website