Official passports, tourist passports, visas, movers, car shipping…all big headaches. Just when you think you have it all done, you find one more detail you can’t ignore. You can’t ignore it if you have a pet, that is. You need to apply for a pet passport if you have a fur baby that is part of your family.
So, what is a pet passport?
A pet passport is simply an official record of your pet’s health and immunization records. It puts all required information in one simple document. After the veterinarian completes the forms, they go to the state agency, which verifies and authenticates the information. Your vet will get the paperwork back an pass it back to you. This paperwork is what you will carry with you when travel.
Why does my cat/dog need a pet passport?
The European Union is in the process of instituting the “Pet Travel Scheme” which is a system which will allow animals to move from country to country will less hassle and red tape. In order to make it easier for country officials to determine that your pet meets the requirements to enter a country, countries began to utilize the pet passport.
In order to enter the EU, your pet will need to meet requirements. The basic requirements include a rabies vaccination less than ten days before entering the country and a microchip which is the European standard rather than the American standard.
Where do I get a pet passport?
Go to your veterinarian to get a pet passport. Vets on military bases may be more familiar with the different country requirements and how to complete the paperwork than local veterinarians who have little experience with importing or exporting animals.
How much does it cost to get a pet passport?
A pet passport will cost you what your vet charges you for the services and the state will charge you for completing the paperwork. (Some vets may charge to fill out the paperwork and notarization.) If you go online and do a search for “pet passport” you will find companies who would like you to buy their version of a pet passport and add-on the cost of a leather carrying case or some other accessory. These are not necessary. Your vet will still have to fill out the forms and make sure your pet’s health information is correct on the forms. Save your money and let your veterinarian download the forms from the USDA website!
One more thing to remember…
Make sure your veterinarian is using the most up-to-date regulations when filling out paperwork. Currently, Italy requires people to use a pet-shipping company to bring animals into the country. I know they seem to allow military families to bring their pets into the country if they come on the same flight, but if you wait and have your pet join you later, you will have to pay one of these pet-shipping companies.
Living in Vicenza, you can travel to at least seven countries driving for less than half of a day. Cheap flights abound. If you don’t believe me, just check out all the budget airlines in Europe.
Because most popular travel locations are countries that belong to the European Union (EU), the passport is almost a non-issue. Though you may be stopped at a border crossing, most likely you will not. European Union countries have open borders with one another. If you fly from one EU country to another, you don’t usually have to go through customs. So again, no passport.
Even though you should always have the passport to prove your citizenship, you won’t get your passport stamped in EU countries.
So, why bother with a tourist passport? If no one is looking at my passport, why shell out another hundred bucks for a second passport?
First of all, the government issues the
maroon no-fee passport for official travel only. The no-fee passport signifies that you are a government dependent and the Status of Forces Agreement protects you. Your visa is attached to the no-fee passport. If there is a natural disaster (think Japan Earthquake), the no-fee passport allows you to be evacuated with American military forces. The passport is for official use. Period. (I admit, I am a rule person. If there is a law, I try to follow it. I don’t download illegal movies. I wear my seatbelt and try not to speed.)
**AS OF 2012, THE OFFICIAL PASSPORTS ARE NOT MAROON ANYMORE, THEY ARE ALL BLUE!**
Also, some countries may not accept your no-fee passport if you are not traveling for government business. Nothing could be more disappointing than planning some great R & R travel and then being turned around at a border. This type of mistake could cost you a lot of money if you have non-refundable reservations.
There are some safety considerations for Americans visiting other countries, as well. If you are toting around a no-fee passport, you are identifying yourself as connected to the United States government. Anyone who has watched more than five minutes of American Forces Network television knows there is always potential for terrorism. If you are carrying an official passport, it could make you more vulnerable *IF* an incident occurs while you are on vacation. (Even though, we know that in almost all certainty, it won’t happen.)
What about travel to non-EU countries?
You may want to visit some countries that are not part of the European Union. Because travel to countries such as Croatia is inexpensive, many people stationed in Vicenza love to visit. However, you will have to go through a checkpoint and possibly customs to get in and out of Croatia and other non-EU countries. On the upside, if are looking forward to having your passport stamped, this is where you will get that stamp!
My take on the tourist passport…
Before you leave the United States, apply for your tourist passport. Make sure everyone in the family has a tourist passport. You may not want to hang around and wait for them to arrive once you are in Europe and so close to all the places you will want to visit.