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Expats Relocating with Families and Pets in China

Submitted: October 2013

Relocation with Families

Relocating to China with your family can be an exciting adventure for all family members. However, it is crucial to start planning well in advance as it is can be a lengthy process to sort out the required paperwork and find appropriate schooling/childcare.

The first thing to look into are entry requirements. Normally, you will have to obtain a visa and work permit for yourself first before you can apply for a visa for your children and/or spouse. Typically, the visa required for dependants is Q1 for long-term stays of dependants or Q2 for short-term visits. However, children wishing to attend a school in China will be required to obtain an X (student) visa. For detailed information on different visa types and visa requirements see the Chinese government website on Immigrating and the Expat Briefing articles on Immigration.

In China life quality differs significantly from one area to another, so it is essential to spend ample time on finding a family-friendly area to live. You will want to look for an area that has adequate facilities for children and access to good medical care and schooling. For this purpose, have a look at the respective municipality website, for example Beijing or Shanghai,  and consult online blogs and forums for first-hand information. See for example the Expat Briefing Forum.

Another important step is to look into schooling options. Expats tend to prefer international schools, not least due to language of tuition. However, these schools tend to be on the pricier end. It is advisable to do a thorough online research and check online forums for school reviews! Also keep in mind that popular institutions have long waiting lists, so make sure to contact the schools prior to your move already. You might be interested in the list of international schools provided by the Chinese Ministry of Education and the Telegraph article on International Schools in China.

For further information on schooling options in China see Education in China. To read more on childcare, see Family life and Childcare in China.

Finally, make sure to prepare your children for the move. If approached the right way, the move will be an exciting new start for your children. Tell them about China and teach them about the local culture prior to departure already. It is also a good idea to enrol them into a language school to learn basic Chinese. For further guidance on preparing children for relocation, see Kids’ Relocation Issues.

Relocation with Pets

Expats relocating to China are allowed to take along one pet per person. However, generally only dogs and cats are permitted. That said, you should keep in mind that exact rules differ according to the city you are relocating to. For example, certain cities ban certain dog breeds. For guidance on banned dog breeds in Beijing, have a look at the recent NY Times article “List of Dogs Banned in Beijing”.

It is difficult to obtain clear information on pet imports to China on official Chinese websites, especially in English. To avoid any misunderstandings, it is recommendable to approach one of the professional international pet relocation companies for advice prior to relocation.

Furthermore, as dealings with Chinese authorities can be tedious, especially if you do not speak Chinese, it might be a good idea to hire the professional pet relocation service to carry out the pet relocation entirely. Not only do these companies have suitable travel containers for pets, they also take care of the complicated paperwork and make sure your pet meets the necessary requirements.

Examples of companies offering pet relocations to China include:

Pets can either be brought to China as guest baggage, or unaccompanied cargo on the most direct route to China. In either case, they will be put into quarantine for 7-30 days before being allowed to enter the country. The exact duration depends on the country you are travelling from. For example, pets entering China from Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore or Taiwan, will normally stay in quarantine for 7 days. Animals from other countries are likely to stay in quarantine for up to 30 days.

When importing cats and dogs to China, you will normally be required to provide the following documentation:

Note that a microchip is currently not mandatory but if your animal has been microchipped, make sure to include the record of microchip implantation too. It is also advisable to provide Chinese copies of the required documentation.

Once your pet has been allowed entry into the country, you will need to make sure to comply with local obligations. For example, in certain cities, such as Shanghai, dogs must be registered with the local police department. Upon registration, you will obtain a dog licence, which must be renewed yearly. Fees for a yearly  licence currently stand at RMB 2,000 for dogs held in the city centre of Shanghai and RMB1,000 for dogs in the Shanghai suburbs. When walking your dog, remember to take the dog licence along and keep your dog on leash at all times, otherwise you risk paying a fine.

For further information on pet importation, see the guidance provided by Pet Travel and by Second Chance Animal Aid Shanghai. For detailed information contact the local authorities of the city you are travelling to, or one of the pet relocation companies listed above.



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