Official Controls Qualification
(Animal Health Paraprofessional) OCQ(AHP)

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OCQ(AHP) - CSO (Certification Support Officer)

The Certification Support Officer (CSO) course provides training for paraprofessionals who wish to work on behalf of the Government, under the direction of a Certifying Officer (CO), to collect the evidence required for the CO to complete Export Health Certificates for products of animal origin (POAO).

The minimum entry requirement for the CSO course is three 'A' levels, one of which must be in a science or food production subject.

If you cannot meet these entry requirements but consider that you have alternative relevant qualifications or you have three years' relevant experience in a regulatory/enforcement role related to food hygiene/standards, please email with your details. These will be forwarded to an APHA senior veterinary manager for consideration.

If you are applying for eligibility based on experience, please detail the specifics of your role and how this relates to the work of a CSO. Without this, an accurate assessment cannot be made and the application will be rejected.


It is important to note that to be authorised by APHA as a CSO you must make two declarations:

  • That you have have no current or spent convictions relating to fraud, animal or public health
  • That you have no financial or family interest in any of the companies for which you will be undertaking work as a CSO. Please discuss this with your employer’s CO (OV or FCCO) before registering for the training.

The Certification Support Officer course covers:

  1. Working on behalf of the Government
  2. The regulatory structure which sets the required standards for certification undertaken by COs with the assistance of the CSO
  3. The code of conduct for certification
  4. How to assess and monitor production processes
  5. How to collect the evidence required before a commodity can be certified for export
  6. The principles of certification and how these are applied to export certification
  7. How to complete supporting documents required for export certification in compliance with official requirements and utilising appropriate guidance
  8. The implications of incorrect certification

The qualification requires each candidate to complete the following phases:

  • Study the online course
  • Pass the end of course exam
  • Receive authorisation from APHA

Once Authorised as a CSO you will work under the direction of a CO who will be a veterinary surgeon holding the OCQ(V) - Product Exports qualification or a Food Competent Certifying Officer (FCCO).

You will be required to undergo revalidation of the OCQ(AHP) - CSO qualification every three years.


To study the CSO course you must first register on the AHP database. When you register, you will be asked to nominate your employer or a representative of your employer who will confirm your right to work and eligibility for the qualification (see the Supervisor page for more information). For the CSO qualification, this confirmation must be provided by an Official Veterinarian or a Food Competent Certifying Officer (FCCO).

The person you nominate will receive an email asking them to confirmed that the checks have been complete and that your fulfil the requirements. You will be notified by email when this confirmation has been made. You will then be able to log in and enrol on the CSO course.

Registration Fee

  • Registration for OCQ(AHP) courses - £59 plus VAT

There is a one-off fee for registration. Registration must be done on an individual basis and must be accepted before you can enrol and access the OCQ(AHP) courses. See the Registration information section for more details.

Enrolment Fee

  • OCQ(AHP) - CSO online course - £199 plus VAT

Retake Fee

  • OCQ(AHP) exam retake - £49 plus VAT

Employers of 20 or more OVs and AHPs

Whilst it is required that each AHP registers individually, employers of 20 or more AHPs and OVs may apply, in advance, for group invoicing facilities. If your employer would like to apply for group invoicing facilities, please ask your accounts department to email Improve International. It takes up to two working days to set up this facility. If your employer already has a group invoicing facility they will provide you with a payment code to use when you are asked for payment at registration and enrolment. Your employer will be invoiced by Improve International for each use of their payment code.

How do I access the training?

The training is accessed via your own Personal Training Dashboard, once you are registered and enrolled on the course. The training can be done at a time to suit you, over more than one session and is followed by an invigilated, online, multiple choice exam.

How long does the training take?

The length of time it takes to complete the online course depends on your pace of study but will take in the region of six hours for the OCQ(AHP) - CSO course.

Authorisation by the APHA

The APHA will be notified automatically, through this website, that you have passed the exam and will process your authorisation for AHP status, a process which takes up to ten working days. You cannot start work while you are waiting for authorisation. Once your authorisation is granted, you will be notified by email and will be able to download your certificate of authorisation from your Personal Training Dashboard. The APHA will send you a personal stamp to use on official export documents. This will be sent to the address that you used for registration.

Once authorised as a CSO you will be required to work under the direction of a Certifying Officer who will be an Official Veterinarian or a Food Competent Certifying Officer.

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