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Expats Relocating with Families and Pets in Hong Kong

Submitted: August 2013

Relocation with Families

Hong Kong is can be a great destination for expat families as it has a low crime rate, excellent schools and many facilities for children. On the downside, you will find that due to the dense population and hilly areas it is not always easy to get around with pushchairs or find a quiet place in the city. Furthermore, life in Hong Kong can also be fairly expensive. Yet all things considered, it can be a rewarding experience for the entire family to move to Hong Kong, provided that you plan your relocation thoroughly and  well in advance.

The first thing to look into are entry requirements for dependants. Normally, you will have to obtain a long-term visa or permanent residence for yourself first and then apply for a Dependant visa for your spouse, children under 18 and your parents over 60. A dependant visa cannot be obtained for long-term partners. Long-term partners may, however, apply for a Prolonged visitor visa, provided that you can prove you have been in a relationship for over 12 months. Finally, you should keep in mind that the visa application process may not be completed at the same time for all family members. To read more about Immigration matters in general, see the Expat Briefing article on Family Members and Marriage for Expats in Hong Kong and have a look at the Immigration Department Website.

Another important step is to look into schooling options. Popular schools - in particular international schools - can have long waiting lists, therefore it is essential to apply early and apply to more than one school. To search for schools in Hong Kong use the Education Bureau search tool. Also have a look at online reviews and forums to read about others’ experience with the schools of your choice. For further information on schooling options in Hong Kong see Education in Hong Kong.    

If you have younger children you will also need to take care of childcare arrangements. Hong Kong has plenty of nursery schools, kindergartens and child care centres. However, as annual fees can range anywhere between HK$10,000 and HK$100,000, make sure to do a thorough research and compare prices and services offered. Note that it is also very common to hire nannies, thus you will find many nanny agencies. To read more see Family life and Childcare in Hong Kong.

It is also essential to find a family-friendly area to live. In this respect, it is recommendable to consult online blogs and forums for first-hand information. See for example the Expat Briefing Forum.

Finally, you should take ample time to prepare your children for the move. If approached the right way, the move will be an exciting new start for your children too. Make sure to tell your children about Hong Kong and teach them about the local culture prior to your move already. It is also a good idea to enrol them into a language school if they do not speak English nor Chinese. For other useful guidance on preparing children for relocation, see Resources for People on the Move: Kids’ Relocation Issues.

Relocation with Pets

Expats wishing to take their pet along to Hong Kong, will have to apply for a Special Permit and ensure that their animal meets the requirements set out by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD).

Dogs and cats can generally be imported provided that they have a microchip, are vaccinated against rabies and other infectious diseases and have an official third country veterinary certificate issued within 14 days prior to departure. Pets that are younger than 60 days or over 4 weeks pregnant will not be allowed into Hong Kong. Further requirements differ according to the country you are travelling from. Dogs and cats from:

  • country group I (Australia, Fiji, Hawaii, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan and UK) are normally exempted from quarantine, provided that they meet certain requirements, see fact sheet for country group I
  • country group II (Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Belgium, Bermuda, Brunei, Canada, Cayman Island, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Guam, Iceland, Italy, Jamaica, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Netherlands, Norway, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sweden Switzerland , USA (Continental), Vanuatu and Virgin Islands) are normally exempted from quarantine, except pets which are younger than 5 months that will have to stay in quarantine until they reach 5 months, see also fact sheet for country group II
  • country group III (all other countries) must spend 4 months in quarantine at the Animal Management Centre and meet the requirements set out in the fact sheet for country group III

No matter which country you travel from, you must notify the Duty Officer of the Import & Export Section of your import intention at least 24 hours prior to reaching Hong Kong, either on +852 2182 1001 or under foii_airport@afcd.gov.hk. If possible you must also ensure that your pet travels into Hong Kong on a direct transport route.

To apply for a Special Permit, you will need to submit Form AF240 to the Permit & Certification Unit and pay a fee of HK$432, and HK$102 for each additional dog or cat. The process is normally completed within 5 days. For more information see: AFCD – Import of dogs and cats.

Birds can generally also be imported but you will need a veterinary certificate attesting the health of your feathered friend. You will also need to obtain a Special Permit and pay a fee of HK$344. Due to the outbreak of avian influenza certain birds from selected countries may not be allowed into Hong Kong. For more information se: AFCD – Importing birds.

For information regarding the import of other pets and animals, have a look at: AFCD – Import of Animals and Birds.

 

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