Lesson 3: The Ever-Changing Paperwork Nightmare

Just when we were starting to get the hang of the mountains of paperwork required to move halfway across the world, we were thrown another curve ball just for good measure. This time it had to do with correctly importing a terrified dog into the country as manifest cargo (unaccompanied). Everything started off normal: frantically checking the weather, having David’s parents take the dog to the vet for his second health certificate, taking said certificate to the state capitol for endorsement, frantically checking the weather again, panicking because it looked like it might be too warm on the day the trip was booked, moving meetings around to accommodate meeting the dog at the airport, frantically checking the weather, having David’s parents drop the dog off at the airport in the US so he could make the trip, having the flight delayed an hour, and so on. We monitored Kenobi’s progress across the north pole and into Chinese air space, and finally saw that the flight had arrived. David was sent on operation “rescue the dog” alone as Kayla had stayed home from work with a cold and didn’t much feel like being trapped in a car for 4+ hours that day, thank you very much. David figured he would be fine, he had seen how Kayla handled the process of turning their cat over to the authorities, and he had been told that the process should be similar for his dog when he arrived. Unfortunately he was told this by someone whose native language was Chinese and did not properly understand the question…

Upon arrival at the airport David and Jacky had trouble locating the cargo office where the dog was supposed to be dropped off. Once they found it they were told that no one knew where the animals were delivered and that “the agents” usually handle all of that. What agents? Who are these people? Surely someone could tell them where to go to find his poor terrified dog. Eventually David got an email saying the dog had been delivered to the warehouse and they were able to find the dog and give him some water before he was whisked away to the quarantine facility. At this point everyone realized that a few major mistakes had been made in the dog importation process. Luckily Kayla had been able to make several calls and found a nearby agent in Shanghai who could get all the proper paperwork filled out, so their poor dog was not deported.

So what went wrong?

  1. Chinese rules/regulations regarding living/working/importing things into their country change constantly, so most people you talk to are not sure what the most recent regulations are. We tried finding a “customs declaration” form when leaving the airport for our air shipment, because we were told that would be needed. After asking multiple people, no one seemed to know what we were talking about, so we gave up and left. Co-workers had assured us there was a workaround for that form because no one seems to be able to find it. Little did we know we needed that form for two reasons.
  2. We were lead to believe that we could handle the entire cargo/import process ourselves, just like we had done with the cat. This was, however, not the case. When the pet does not travel with you, a customs clearance and import permit of some sort is required. These can conveniently only be applied for by a Chinese agent acting on your behalf. How we were unaware of this requirement is beyond me. I am a bit surprised the airline did not mention there was a difference between the luggage/cargo options, but with how frequently things change here and how uninspired I was by the knowledge of the airport staff regarding pets, I suppose I’m not actually that surprised.
  3. Pets are required to be imported within 14 days of the owners arrival, and the owner is required to declare the impending arrival of their cargo pet before exiting the airport. Obviously this did not happen, as we were unaware of the requirement! Kenobi actually arrived 26 days after we did and David had not declared his impending arrival. Great. Luckily the fact that his delay was weather related and we found an “agent” meant another day off work to go to the airport, fill out the missing declaration form, have the agent explain everything in Chinese. Luckily no one ask us any difficult questions.

At this point we are eagerly awaiting the fun process of picking up Kenobi from the quarantine facility next Thursday! This whole ordeal cost us 8600 yuan (~$1300), but with the added cost of the flight ($1200), we still paid HALF of what a pet moving company would have charged us to move Kenobi. In the end, I suppose it was worth all the frustration since things seem to have resolved themselves, but it was quite a panicked day we had. Now we know all the rules for the next time we want to import a pet into China. Which is never, since we already maxed out our two passports. And they’ll probably change the rules next week anyway.

Now please enjoy some photos of Roxy yawning and looking like a sausage. I have nothing else to offer you today.

Roxy Yawn

2 thoughts on “Lesson 3: The Ever-Changing Paperwork Nightmare

  1. Yikes. Glad you eventually figured it out, though! Poor Kenobi. Happy he at least got to see David before they took him away. Hopefully that will make him a little less stressed knowing you’re both there.


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