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Expats Relocating with Families and Pets in the United States Of America

Submitted: October 2013

Relocation with Families

The USA is generally a very family-friendly destination, therefore relocating to the USA with your family can be an exciting adventure for all family members. However, it can be a lengthy process to sort out the required paperwork and find appropriate schooling/childcare, so it is essential to start planning well in advance.

The first – and often trickiest – step is to deal with immigration requirements. You will have to figure out which visa and work permits are best suited to your situation. Normally, if you are bringing along children you will have to obtain your visa first and then file a request for a dependant visa. For detailed information on specific visa and entry regulations see the Citizenship and Immigration Service. To read more about Immigration matters in general see Immigration.

Although  the USA is generally a welcoming place for families, not every area is equally family-friendly. It is advisable to compare different cities and neighbourhoods in advance. 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 websites and consult online blogs and forums for first-hand information. See for example the Expat Briefing Forum.

It is also a good idea to check the crime rates in the area you are considering moving to. The FBI offers detailed information on crime rate statistics. Finally, you might also want to have a look at studies which rank cities according to their level of family-friendliness, for example the Forbes survey on The Best Cities for Raising a Family or the Forbes survey on America’s Safest Cities to Live.

Another important step is to look into schooling/childcare options. The US has numerous good public and private schools as well as international schools on offer. However, bear in mind that popular kindergartens and schools can have long waiting lists and that certain schools have admission tests and/or admission interviews. It is therefore a good idea to plan ahead and submit applications prior to relocation already.

Have a look at the respective municipality websites to search for schools in your preferred area. You can also check school rankings on the U.S. News site on school rankings and view relevant statistics on high schools in the US on the High Schools website. For further information on schooling options in the US see Education in the USA. To read more on childcare, see Family life and Childcare in the USA.

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 the USA and teach them about the local culture prior to departure already. It is also a good idea to enrol them into a language school if they do not yet speak English. For further guidance on preparing children for relocation, see for example the article on Kids’ Relocation Issues.

Relocation with Pets

Expats relocating to the US will be pleased to hear that they will normally be allowed to bring their pets along to the US. Rules and regulations tend to be less strict than in most European countries but differ according to animal type and according to the US state you are travelling to.

Generally, dogs and cats can be imported provided that they have been vaccinated against rabies at least 30 days prior to arrival. It is also recommendable to have a health certificate for them, issued by an accredited veterinary, although not all US states demand one. Irrespective of the state you are travelling to, your pet will also be subject to detailed health examinations when entering the country. Note, however, that dogs and cats travelling to Hawaii, will be quarantined for 130 days. For more information see Bringing you pet to Hawaii.

For detailed regulations on bringing various types of pets to the US see the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the website of the US Department of Agriculture. If you have specific questions, you can also contact CDC on +1 800 232 4636 or submit your question online. As rules and regulations differ from one state to another it is also crucial to have a look at the relevant US State and Territory Pet Import Regulations.

Finally, it is a good idea to hire a specialist pet relocation company to help you move your family friend to the US. Not only do these providers have suitable travel containers for pets, they also assist with the complicated paperwork and ensure that your pet gets to the US safely. Among the most prominent companies offering pet relocation services to the US are:



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