Bringing Your Pets When You Immigrate to the U.S.

If you are immigrating to the United States, the good news for your dog and cat is that they won’t need a passport or visa. Bringing pets into the United States is not an immigration law matter.

However, before bringing any pets to the United States, you will need to check into U.S. customs restrictions. Rules regarding pets are handled by the agency known as Customs and Border Protection, or CBP. Its purpose is to make sure the pets don’t pose a danger to public health, meet any necessary quarantine restrictions (these vary by which state you arrive in), and comply with any agricultural, wildlife, or customs requirements and prohibitions.

Which Pets Cannot Be Brought Into the U.S. at All

Monkeys aren’t allowed into the United States at all. Turtles are subject to various restrictions.

Endangered or threatened animals (or plants, migratory birds, marine mammals, or certain dangerous wildlife) cannot be brought in without getting a special federal permit in advance. Note that some pets – including species of dogs, cats, turtles, reptiles, and birds -- may be considered endangered.

If you come from a country that is considered to be affected with Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (H5N1), you cannot bring your bird into the United States. Regardless of what country you are from, you will most likely need to obtain a USDA import permit for your bird.

Is your pet a rabbit, guinea pig, hamster, ferret, or other rodent? You’ll be happy to hear that no entry restrictions apply to it.

Preparing Your Pet for U.S. Entry

You will need to make sure your pets will are in good health and have had all the proper vaccinations.

You may need to do some planning well in advance. For example, a dog that has never been vaccinated against rabies must be vaccinated at least 30 days before it enters the United States. And you’ll need to bring the certificates that proves your dog’s rabies vaccination if you’re arriving from an area where rabies is still found – with an English translation, if need be. Similarly, if you are bringing a dog from a country where “screwworm” is found, you’ll need to get a certificate from a full-time salaried veterinary official stating that the dog has been inspected for screwworm within five days prior to coming to the United States and that the dog is either free from screwworm, or was found to be infested with screwworm and held in quarantine and treated until free from screwworm prior to leaving the region.

If you are flying, check with you air carrier ahead of time for its rules about pets. It is likely to require a health certificate (most likely from your veterinarian) for any traveling pets.

Consider what sort of crate or container you’ll bring your pet in. The regulations require that animals be in suitable cages, with enough space, ventilation, and protection from the elements. The container must be plainly marked on the outside with your name and address.

What Will Happen When the Animal Arrives?

Your pet will be examined at the port of entry. If it is not in apparent good health, and might carry a condition that's dangerous to others, you may be required to pay for further examination by a veterinarian.

Will Your Pet Be Quarantined Before Reuniting With You?

Pet birds (except those that originally came from the U.S.) must be quarantined for 30 days in a special USDA animal import facility, at your expense. You’ll need to make advance reservations. There are only three such facilities, in New York, Miami, and Los Angeles.

Dogs being brought to either Hawaii or Guam are subject to locally imposed quarantine requirements.

Will There Be a Duty Fee?

You need not pay duty on dogs, cats, or turtles. Other pets may be included in your personal dollar exemption if they accompany you and are indeed your personal pets, rather than for sale.

For More Information

Check with your local U.S. consulate for details, check the CDC's "Legal Authorities Related to Animal Importation," or read the publication “Bringing Pets and Wildlife Into the United States.” 

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