Cat On An Overseas Trip – Part II: Essential Documents

This post is Part II of my Cat On An Overseas Trip post series. While Part One discussed travel accessories, Part Two will be all about travel documents that you’ll need on both USA and Malaysia ends. In fact, before you make other arrangements, your pet’s documents should be the first step in the process that you should handle, as some may require action before you can get the permits and certificates. Due to the slightly complicated procedures on the Malaysian side, I decided to wait till I had all the necessary paperwork before writing about this part of the process.

We’ll cover three main aspects of documentation, and their required fees.

1) USA documents.

2) Malaysia documents.

3) Private, for-hire agents to process Malaysia documents.

USA documents

You need:

1) Rabies certificate, which, as you know, comes free with rabies vaccination updates. Every vet or hospital has their own certificate template. Mine looks like this:

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 3.23.49 PM

2) Microchip, about $50. Somewhere along the confusing barrage of information from various websites on importing pets to Malaysia, I was told that I need an ISO compliant microchip. I also read somewhere that a microchip is optional for cats, but required for dogs. Two agents I called  did not confirm this when asked. One merely said that if the microchip ID number is under 15 digits, I wouldn’t have to redo my cat’s chip; the other said if we hired him, he had an “inside” connection that would forgo this requirement. He must have thought I am that dumb to believe his horseshit.

My cat’s chip had under 15 digits, and (when we arrived,) I wasn’t questioned. Excellent, one less thing to worry about.

3) International health certificate from USDA accredited vet, approximately $100. Vets will only issue you the certificate 10 days before your date of travel, and after they determine that your pet is healthy and all shots are updated. There is a domestic and international health certificate — remember to ask for the international one! It should be in a standard format that looks like this:

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 3.22.12 PM

4) Once you have the international certificate in hand, you need one additional step – a $38 notary stamp from the USDA. You CANNOT go to the random nearest local USDA office, it MUST be one that has an Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) department. You can either: a) Fedex your international certificate to be notarized, or b) drive to their office and get it done, but CALL FIRST and let them know you’re coming. In the Washington D.C. area, USDA APHIS Richmond was a drivable two hours from where I lived, and since I waited till my last few days to get the health certificate, personally going to the office was the quicker option.

Malaysia documents

You need:

1) Import permit, which I believe is a different colour in its original format. Mine was emailed to me by the private agent. It looks like this:

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 2.11.47 PM

To obtain this permit, you have retain a private agent to get it processed for you. The permit itself is $40 and the private agent will quote you his fee for getting the permit for you. We’ll discuss private agents in more detail shortly.

2) Quarantine booking form, can be found on the Department of Veterinary Services website:

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 4.19.15 PM

It’s free to reserve but there is a daily charge for room space. A limited number of air-conditioned rooms are available for extra, but we’ll get to that in a separate post. Do not send your quarantine space booking form to the email above. I believe it may be out of date, or I just had zero luck reaching anyone via that email. Use the fax number provided (03-8787 2378) BUT call them to double confirm (03-8787 2377/2379.)

When you’ll need to present your pet papers: I didn’t get asked for any documents when I flew the USA leg (D.C. to San Francisco) of the trip, but your airline might. The carrier that takes you from the USA to Malaysia will definitely want USA health and rabies certificates, as well as the Malaysian import permit. Upon arrival, Malaysian quarantine aka MAQIS will ask for the original USA international health certificate, USA rabies papers and Malaysian import permit.

Private, for-hire agents

It used to be that you could handle the entire process on your own if you so chose, but in the past couple of years, they’ve been referring individuals to use the services of “agents” to not only apply for the permit on your behalf, but to also get you through the entire import process. These agents will usually quote you for a “package” deal of services that includes import permit application, quarantine space booking, customs clearance, release of pet after the seven days period and even delivery of pet to your home. Save for the former and the latter, the rest are simply making sure you get hold of the right people to fill and sign forms. My personal opinion based on experience with hiring an agent is that those of you who are committed to seeing the process through by yourself (except the import permit application,) can do this without an agent’s help.

Thus, hiring an agent seems like it should be a choice, but isn’t.

How agents are required in this process:

1) For getting the Malaysia pet import permit. Charges vary between $50 – $100 depending on the agent you hire.

When you might want to hire them for services beyond import permit:

1) If you are newly arrived in a location that’s beyond driving distance range for you to visit your pet during the seven-day period, and to collect him/her once it’s done.

2) You don’t want to go through all this hassle of paperwork, phone calls and such. Remember that even if you hire an agent, they only do the Malaysian paperwork, and NOT the USA ones.

3) If you are not confident that you’ll be able to handle the process on your own. The only reason I can think for this “lack of confidence” is language barrier, or you’re moving to Malaysia on your own and have zero logistical backup, or both. If it helps you to know, all the officials are friendly in person and speak English well. I’ll be posting parts 3 and 4 on the travel experience, and the quarantine process; from that, you can determine for yourself whether it’ll be too difficult to fly solo.

In case you do need one, there are a few professional Klang Valley-based pet moving companies listed with the International Pet And Animal Transportation Association. MAQIS also has a number of individuals that they might recommend to you. I cannot vouch for either type of agents, but based on what I know, large company movers are efficient but more expensive, whilst individual agents are charge less but professionalism may not be quite on the ball. My price range estimate for agent fees is anywhere between MYR 500 – MYR1300 for their “packages.” I only agreed to have an agent hired because of relatives at home that were freaking out over the process. If I could do over, I would not hire an agent beyond the import permit application.

Whichever way you chose to handle your paperwork on the Malaysian side, I’m sure you’ll choose based on your personal needs. Whatever gives you peace of mind in ensuring your pet gets to join you in Malaysia without a glitch, is the best way to go. If you know of a good agent with reasonable charges, please share his or her contact details in the comments.

That’s it for Part II. We’ve got out documents and our travel accessories, now we’re ready to fly. Stay tuned for my next post on jet setting across the globe with Schubert cat.

Comments or questions? Post them below!

Next: Read Cat On An Overseas Trip – Part III: The Journey. 

Previous: Read Cat On An Overseas Trip – Part I: Travel Accessories.

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  1. Pingback: Cat On An Overseas Trip – Part I: Travel Accessories – Shermian Lim

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