Skip to main content

Bringing Pets Into the United States Requires Careful Planning

Relocating to the United States requires a lot of time and attention to detail. Obtaining visas, work permits, securing housing and transportation — in addition to packing and making travel arrangements — can be overwhelming. While many people understand that four-legged friends are often considered to be members of the family, bringing family pets to the United States also requires a lot of planning and effort.
Almost one million individuals enter the U.S. daily. Those arriving to the U.S. at a port of entry are subject to inspection by Customs and Border Protection officers. CBP ensures that those entering are in compliance with immigration, customs and agriculture regulations. It is vital that those entering have all of the proper paperwork readily available in order to save both parties a lot of time and hassle.
If you plan to bring your pets into the United States, please review a copy of the CBP brochure, “Pets and Wildlife.” You should also check with state, county and local authorities to learn if their restrictions on pets are stricter than federal requirements. Importing animals is closely regulated for public health reasons and also for the well-being of the animals. There are restrictions and exclusions on bringing many species into the United States.
Cats are subject to inspection at ports of entry and may be denied entry into the United States if they have evidence of an infectious disease that can be transmitted to humans. If a cat appears to be ill, further examination by a licensed veterinarian at the owner’s expense might be required at the port of entry. Cats are not required to have proof of rabies vaccination for importation into the United States. However, some states do require vaccination of cats for rabies, so be sure to check with state and local health authorities at your final destination.
Dogs must also be free of evidence of disease that could be communicable to humans. A general certificate of health is not required by CDC for entry of dogs into the United States, although some airlines or states may require them. Dogs must have a certificate showing they have been vaccinated against rabies 30 days prior to entry into the United States. This certificate should identify the dog, show the date of vaccination, the date it expires (there are one-year and three-year vaccinations), and be signed by a licensed veterinarian. If the certificate does not have an expiration date, CBP will accept it as long as the dog was vaccinated 12 months or less before coming to the United States.
Dogs coming from rabies free countries (such as Jamaica, the Virgin Islands, Japan, United Kingdom, etc.) do not have to be vaccinated. These requirements apply equally to service animals such as seeing eye dogs.
Birds are subject to very strict regulations. Nearly all birds coming in to the United States require a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In addition, most birds must be quarantined for a minimum of 30 days upon arrival in a U.S. Department of Agriculture Import Center. The birds must enter through one of three ports of entry where quarantine centers are located — New York City, Miami or Los Angeles. The birds must also be examined by a USDA port veterinarian, which must be scheduled at least 72 hours in advance of entry. Lastly, birds must have a veterinary health certificate from within the past 30 days in order to enter the U.S.
There are currently no regulations or requirements on bringing rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, ferrets and other pet rodents in to the United States.
If you have questions on relocating to the United States, please schedule a consultation with one of our immigration attorneys today!