Moving to a New Country With Pets

Johnny Helping Test Out Carrier Sizes Photo by Jennie Adams
Johnny Helping Test Out Carrier Sizes Photo by Jennie Adams

It has been a year since I moved from Texas to the Netherlands and five months from the Netherlands to Norway with two dachshund mixes and a cat. Boy, was that first move an adventure! Okay, BOTH moves were adventures, but for completely different reasons. Based on what I learned, I wanted to write up how to make this type of transition smooth.

Moving from the U.S. to Europe:

Pets are not allowed to be flown during certain times of the year in the hold.  This sped up me moving the pets for the first move! This is important information to check on, depending on when you are choosing to fly. Pets are flown one of three ways:

  • Fly with you
    • In-cabin at your feet (charged excess/accompanied baggage fee – much less than cargo)
    • In-cargo (charged excess/accompanied baggage fee – much less than cargo)
  • Fly on a separate flight (charged the cargo rate)
  • Shipped through a licensed commercial shipper (charged the cargo rate plus shipper´s fee)

If your pet is over 100 pounds then they are charged as cargo, but verify this with the airline as rules change regularly.

I want to clarify the “in cargo flying with you” option. This is not scheduled as cargo. After booking your flight, you call the airline and book for your pets. This is attached to your ticket, not the cargo line. I was confused by this myself.

Check online early for what specifically is needed for transporting pets to the country you are moving to. There is a lot of misinformation based on rumours and old rules. For example, everyone still believes there is a quarantine period in England and Norway, but as long as you have your pet passport, all of the shots necessary, and (for England) testing required, there is no quarantine.

Make sure your vet is qualified to do the paperwork for a Pet Passport. This is something to call about early as well. Many in the U.S. do not have the qualification with the USDA to do this. I went with one of the more commercial vet groups as they had multiple offices that I could go to with vets that had the qualifications. At one office they handled the paperwork for me. With another, I had to print off the paperwork from the Internet and bring it in for them. Make sure to also schedule these appointments early (about 30 days out from actual travel date). Because I had to move up my departure date, this became difficult as they only have so many appointments open for doing this paperwork.

The next step in the U.S. is the USDA appointment. This must be done within 10 days of your departure date for many countries including those within the European Union. I personally went in myself with my paperwork to walk it through and make sure everything was okay. The first vet I saw with the dogs had put them both on the same paperwork, so they had to be redone separately.  The new paperwork was faxed to the USDA for me. As soon as that was done I was able to leave for them to review the paperwork. Then they send you the paperwork back with the approval from the USDA. I scheduled mine 9 days before so that, if there were any mail issues, I still had a few days to correct any problems.

Make sure to purchase carriers approved for airline travel. They must be big enough for your pet to turn around comfortably. Verify cage size rules with the airline. Honestly, call a couple of different times to verify as I was told different things based on different people I spoke to. The old idea of drugging your pets is not allowed anymore. (Remember, they are not being watched and if a problem arrises there is no one there to help so you do not want them medicated. You are more stressed about the experience than they are!) There is a wonderful spray you can purchase to decrease stress that I used with the dogs and they did completely fine.

Get to the airport extra early! Getting them set up to go takes a bit of time. At the check in desk they review all of your paperwork (this was the only place ours was reviewed). The water dish attaches to the door and goes in empty. Tape a ziplock bag of food on top of any carriers going into cargo. Have it be full with more than what is necessary just in case there are any delays, cancellations, or you somehow miss your flight.Your pet is pulled off the flight and goes to the pet hotel if there are changes and there may or may not be a fee involved with this.

My flight consisted of one dog in the hold in the hard carrier, one dog at my feet in a soft carrier, and my cat in a soft carrier at the feet of a friend who graciously went on this adventure with me. We had a layover in Atlanta so I took my dog with me outside to give her a bathroom break. When doing this make sure to take all of your pet´s documentation and your passport with you. You will be going back through the security lines as there is no spot for this inside so also give yourself a lot of time before your next flight.

Overall, the experience was not anywhere near as stressful as I was expecting, which was amazing. It did take a lot of planning and working out logistics, though.

After arriving you are supposed to make an appointment with a vet in the new country for them to be checked out. They can travel on leash or in carriers on public transportation so this is pretty easy to accomplish.

Your Own Documents:

I was so stressed and worried about the pets that I did not do all that was necessary at the time for myself as I thought my passport plus documents that are adequate for the U.S. were enough. They are not.

I have 2 sets of documents – one that is adequate for the U.S. and one set that is Apostilled. Getting the Apostilles completed from overseas was insane! Please do this for your own sanity before leaving the country. I had to have the documents sent to my parents then have them send them into the prospective places to have the Apostille done to be sent back to them and then for them to have them mailed to me. Documents that need the Apostille are your birth certificate, your marriage certificate, and if you have gone through any divorces, the divorce decrees.

The state of Texas was not bad. California made for an interesting process as I was married there. I had to have a company walk California through as I had no ability to be there myself or family that could do it for me. It took about a month to get all of them completed.

Moving from the Netherlands to Norway:

Based on what I read online and stories people told us from when they tried to move pets here in the past, I thought this was going to be horrid. We did this move in two rounds instead of one as we were moving all of our belongings at the same time and moving out of our flat.

Online it was reported that all animals must fly through Oslo first. Since we were moving to Bergen that would mean an additional leg to the trip. We checked with the airline and, thankfully, since we were coming from an EU country this was not an issue and we were able to fly straight into Bergen.

Around a month before the move we visited a local vet with all of our documents. He looked over them and the pets then filled out EU passport books. This things are SO much easier than the paperwork version for the U.S! Everything is in the book so you just take the little book with you to ever appointment you have and they fill in shots or anything else necessary. The passport books were a fourth of the price (possibly even less) than the expense of all of the paperwork in the U.S.

The de-wormer must be given right before your trip, so you do need to have an additional appointment a day or so before your trip to have these given and filled in. Beware of days around holidays, or see if they are okay with signing it and allowing you to administer the de-wormer and fill in the date and time yourself.

Important: the weight for a pet to fly in cabin on European airlines is lower than that of the U.S. Our cat was actually over the weight limit allowed, but we pretended it was the weight of the soft carrier and the stuff in it, not him, as we only found out after arriving at the airport. Extensive online research and speaking with the airline over the phone will only get you so much information. Our flight went great and coming into Bergen, Norway was quite simple. They just looked at our cat´s documents and let us through.

The dogs, on the other hand, were incredibly nutty. Online for the airline it said that pets could travel in the same carrier. When we called that airline they said it was fine, as long as a carrier is airline approved that would be okay, and that they could not book it until we had ordered the crate and gave them the dimensions. With that piece of information, we ordered a large crate for the two and made the reservation. Then, a day or so later we received a message that our reservation was cancelled. When we called to find out why we were told that a crate that size was not allowed (it is the size for a large dog) and that they could not fly together. At this point we cancelled the order and ordered 2 smaller crates then called back to re-schedule their flight. We were finally approved!

When the date of the flight with the dogs arrived we had a bit of an adventure that will be described on a different post in the My Adventures section. Long story short, we ended up missing our flight so the dogs were removed from the plane in Amsterdam and went to the Pet Hotel to hang out until our next flight. You cannot get your pets back in between and you may be charged for the the Pet Hotel. When we finally arrived in Bergen, we found the Pet Hotel had moved the dogs to larger crates, saying that the size we had was too small for the two hour (max) flight. The new crates were just one size down from the giant one we purchased before and had to return! I am not sure what size dogs bigger than 30 pounds and around the height of a beagle use to fly now.

Customs for the dogs was, again, quite simple. They just looked at their passports and ours then we were free to go with our insane amount of stuff. The fun of moving countries!

After arriving make an appointment with a vet for a check up within 2 weeks. The pets are allowed to travel on public transportation while on leash or in carriers.

For additional and current information please see the following two links:

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