While it’s very possible to travel internationally with your pet, it’s important to make sure that you have all the proper documentation you need for your pet to be allowed into another country. Travelers in the United States must obtain a US pet passport, which is a term that refers to gathering all the documents and receiving approval to travel with your pet and enter a foreign country.
It can take some time to gather all the appropriate documentation that you need. So, it’s best to get started on obtaining a US pet passport as soon as you know that you will be leaving for a trip. Here’s what you must do to get a US pet passport and travel internationally with your pet.
Before You Start
Before you start making plans to obtain a US pet passport, make sure to first check your visiting country’s government travel site for information on pet travel. Different countries will have their own laws and policies for bringing animals into and out of the country.
In general, countries will require all pets to have updated rabies vaccines, updated health records, and a USDA endorsement. Countries with more rigorous laws may have additional requirements, such as microchipping and passing diagnostic tests for certain parasites.
It’s also important to ensure that your type of pet is allowed in the country. In most cases, cats and dogs are allowed inside another country. However, other pets, such as rabbits, may be prohibited. These animals are often invasive species to the country and have caused significant damage to the environment and natural ecosystems. Countries with even stricter laws may entirely prohibit the entry of pets from an outside country.
The 4 Steps to Get a US Pet Passport
1. Make a List of Health Requirements
Keep in mind that you are working towards gathering the documents you need to obtain a USDA endorsement and additional health records to enter a different country. You’ll also have to keep in mind that your specific airline will have its own set of pet travel policies. Since country and airline pet travel policies overlap, it’s best to work on them simultaneously as you’ll probably need to submit similar documents to each entity anyway. It’ll be helpful to make a list so that you have all your pet travel requirements in one organized place.
2. Schedule an Appointment With a Veterinarian
Once you have all of your documentation requirements listed out, schedule an appointment with a veterinarian. You can mention to veterinarians that you plan to travel internationally, and they will have a general idea of what they need to do to help your pet enter a different country. You can also work with an accredited veterinarian, which is a veterinarian that has USDA approval to assist individuals with obtaining a USDA endorsement for their pets.
If you choose to schedule an appointment with an accredited veterinarian, make sure to complete the USDA worksheet prior to your visit. Keep in mind that if a country requires a health certificate endorsed by USDA, you need to receive the approval and signature of an accredited veterinarian.
3. Submit Documents, Forms & Fees to USDA
Once your pet is up to date on all its travel requirements and receives clearance from a veterinarian, you can start to gather forms and applicable documents to submit to the USDA. The USDA offers a helpful checklist that ensures you are sending everything that’s required for an endorsement.
There are two ways that you could submit forms and documents to the USDA. First, you can work with an accredited veterinarian. Accredited veterinarians have access to a system called the Veterinary Export Health Certification System (VEHCS). This system allows them to directly send paperwork to the USDA on your behalf, and this can be done electronically.
You can also submit paperwork by shipping them via postal mail to a USDA endorsement office. The USDA strongly recommends sending documents with overnight express services. This will minimize delays and expedite the process of getting an endorsement mailed back to you.
Keep in mind that the standard application fee for USDA endorsements is $38 per pet. You may also have to pay attentional fees if your endorsement requires lab tests. You’ll also have to pay for your shipping label as well as a prepaid express return shipping label for the USDA to use to ship documents to you. Payments can be made via check, money order, or credit card.
4. Receive USDA Endorsement
Once you submit your documents, keep track of the days so that you know when you can expect to receive your endorsement. If you complete forms and submit documents correctly, you can expect an endorsement to be processed in upwards of 3 business days. Keep in mind that this processing time doesn’t take shipping days into account.
Make sure to keep original copies of endorsements and other health records in a safe place. The officials of your destination country will not accept electronic copies and will only accept originals for entry.
Traveling with your pet will require obtaining the proper documentation, which can take several weeks to a couple of months to complete. Getting an early start will make the process of obtaining a US pet passport as minimally stressful as possible. So, start as early as you can to ensure that you have an ample amount of time to receive a USDA endorsement and other documentation required for entry to your destination country.
Featured Image Credit: Brian Goodman, Shutterstock