Customs and import to New York City


Be prepared with your paperwork when coming through customs. The more proof you have to justify your visit/move to the United States, the easier it will be to expedite the process and answer any questions. The most important of these documents are your passport, visa, any employment contracts, and proof of insurance.

Foreign visitors to the U.S. arriving via air or sea no longer need to complete papers as "Customs and Border Protection Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record" or "Form I-94W Non-immigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Record". Those who need to prove their legal-visitor status—to employers, schools/universities or government agencies—can access their CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) arrival/departure record information online.

CBP now gathers traveller's arrival/departure information automatically from their electronic travel records. Because advance information is only transmitted for air and sea travellers, CBP will still issue a paper form I-94 at land border ports of entry.

For a complete list of custom requirements and to search for particular information, go to United States Customs. The free pamphlet "Know Before You Go" at (Click on "Travel" and then click on "Know Before You Go! Online Brochure") is a helpful guide. For further questions, you can contact:
U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP)
1300 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, DC 20229
Tel. 877/287-8667

Bringing Pets to the USA

The importation of pets into the USA has always been strictly controlled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ensure that diseases such as rabies are not introduced. Therefore, animals require a rigorous medical exam no more than 30 days before departure, must appear healthy upon arrival, and may require a valid rabies or other vaccination certificate depending on country of origin. Quarantine is not required by most U.S. states and territories; however, Hawaii and Guam do have quarantine requirements. Pets excluded from entry into the United States must be sent back to the country of origin.

Requirements for Dogs Arriving in the USA

Whether returning or coming to the United States, all dogs must appear healthy. And if your dogs are coming from a high-risk country for rabies, they must have valid rabies vaccination certificates to enter the United States. Other requirements:

  • Dogs must be at least 12 weeks old to get the rabies vaccination.
  • If this is your dog's first rabies vaccination, you will have to wait 28 days before traveling to allow the vaccine to take effect.
  • If you're not sure or don't have proof your dog was vaccinated before, have your dog vaccinated; then wait 28 days before traveling.
  • If your adult dog's rabies booster is current, you can travel without waiting 28 days.
  • Your dog's rabies vaccination certificate must be valid for the duration of your trip.

Some states may require other vaccinations and health certificates. Check with your destination state's health department External before traveling.
The US Department of Agriculture External has additional restrictions for some dogs arriving in the United States, such as working dogs.

Requirements for Cats Arriving in the USA

Cats generally don't need rabies vaccinations to enter the United States. However, some states require vaccination of cats for rabies, so it is a good idea to check with state and local health authorities at your final destination. Other requirements;

  • A veterinarian issued health certificate stating your pet is healthy within 10 days of travel. (usually required by the airline)
  • Microchip is recommended
  • Optional vaccines include Feline enteritis (also known as Feline panleukopenia or Feline distemper), Rhinotracheitis and Calicivirus.

Importing Other Pets into the USA

Pets besides cats or dogs are allowed for import, although there are different requirements depending on the pet.
Some animals, such as primates (monkeys and apes) or rodents, won't be allowed back into the United States even if they originally came from the United States.
For a complete list of custom requirements and to search for particular information, go to Centre of control, disease and prevention webpage. Also refer to the article on Expat Pets for guidelines and requirements.

Find continued information related to traveling with pets to/from the USA in the following links:

Crate size, preparing pets for flight, feeding, shipping, and dealing with airlines:

Laws for importing pets into the United States:

Questions about traveling with your pet:

Learn more about how to stay healthy while enjoying your pets

Traveling with Pets to the USA

Get detailed information from your preferred airlines before purchasing a cage or kennel. Most airlines allow pets to travel in the cabin if their carrier is small enough to fit under your seat. Small birds may also be able to travel in the cabin, but tropical birds such as parrots are usually not allowed. Also note that some airlines, cities, or states can restrict certain breeds, so check before you travel.

If your pet's cage does not fit under your seat, you will have to ship it as checked baggage. Since the outside air temperature also affects the temperature in the cargo bay, airlines may restrict the transportation of pets during certain times of the year. For example, some US carriers don't allow pets to be shipped between May and September, the hottest months for animals to travel in the Northern Hemisphere.

However, each airline has distinct requirements. Check with your airline to determine what requirements they may have.

How to Prepare Your Pet for Travel

  • Before leaving, acquaint your animal with the container
  • Add some familiar toys or your clothing items so your pet has a sense of familiarity
  • Allow one carrier per pet, unless they are young and used to being paired
  • Sedation of your pet during the trip is generally not recommended and should only be used as a last resort
  • If your pet is allowed in the cabin, check in as late as possible
  • If your pet is going in the hold, check in early so they can go to the baggage area and be put somewhere quiet and dimly lit in order to relax
  • Contact the airline for their specific requirements and to inform them you will be traveling with a pet as there is a limit on the number of animals on a flight  
  • Reduce the quantity of food the day before but give the pet enough water. A light meal 2 hours before the pet is put in the carrier will help to calm it (and is a legal requirement in the United States)
  • Exercise your pet before leaving for the airport and again before check-in.
  • Remember to make sure that your pet is properly identified (e.g. microchip). Affix two pieces of identification onto the collar - a permanent ID with your name and home address and telephone number and a temporary travel ID with the address and telephone number where you or a contact person can be reached.


As noted above, quarantine is not usually required. However, the CDC is authorized to detain and medically examine any persons/animals arriving into the United States and traveling between states who are suspected of carrying communicable diseases.

U.S. Quarantine Stations, located at ports of entry and land border crossings, use these public health practices as part of a comprehensive Quarantine System that serves to limit the introduction of infectious diseases into the United States and to prevent their spread.
Additional Quarantine Information:

  • Dogs that are not accompanied with rabies vaccination proof, including those that are too young to be vaccinated (i.e. less than three months of age), may be asked to be confined until it is considered adequately vaccinated against rabies (the vaccination is not considered effective until 30 days after the date of vaccination).
  • Dogs may not be sold or transferred during quarantine.
  • Importers must provide a contact address where the dog will be kept during the confinement period. Yet, if the importer will travelling with/without the dog at several addresses, all points of contact must be provided.

Download the application form required for entry into United States with a domestic pet.

For complete information visit & contact:

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Webpage: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
E-mail contact: CDC-INFO
Addresses: Quarantine Station Quick Reference List

Update 13/02/2020


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Customs for personal medication
Prescription medications should be in their original containers, it is advised that you travel with no more than personal use quantities, a rule of thumb is no more than a 90 day supply. If your medications or devices are not in their original containers, you should have a copy of your prescription with you or a letter from your doctor.

The FDA is responsible for pharmaceutical admissibility determinations. If you have any questions as to whether a specific pharmaceutical may be imported into the United States, please contact the FDA, Division of Import Operations and Policy, at (301) 796-0356.

If you are traveling with medical devices such as needles or oxygen tanks that could pose a security or safety concern to others, be sure to have a copy of the prescription for those items from your doctor. You should also contact the Transportation Security Administration about any additional requirements they may have.

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Find more definitions and general answers on expatriation issues in the Expat FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions).

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