Relocating to Hong Kong
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All you need to know about relocating your household goods and pets
Ready for island life? If you’re planning to relocate to Hong Kong, our guide covers all the essential expat topics. From vaccinations to customs, this section is all about the essential pre-departure steps to tick off your checklist to make sure your expat journey gets off to a great start.
When you’re planning your relocation to Hong Kong, there are plenty of things to keep in mind.
Our guide walks you through the different steps of the relocation process, from moving or storing your household goods to making sure you have the right vaccinations.
We’ve included a list of the vaccinations you need as well as others to consider if you’ll be traveling. When packing your bags, take a look at the customs section for tips on what to leave at home.
If you’re worried about staying healthy in the densely packed city, head to the section on health or our article about the different types of flu to put your mind at ease about the surgical masks you’re bound to see everyone wearing.
Moving and shipping household goods
Before you start packing, make sure to familiarize yourself with the relevant regulations for the importation of various items to Hong Kong. You wouldn’t want your carefully planned move to turn into a nightmare at the airport, simply because you forgot that some items might not fit the requirements. First and foremost: you can bring nearly all your personal belongings, including household goods, with you without any difficulties and without having to pay import duties.
But the Hong Kong Customs Department has a long list of items which you are not allowed to take through customs. For some of these, you can get an individual permit from the authorities. Also, make sure not to bring too much alcohol and tobacco: for any bottle or cigarette over the duty-free limit, the customs administration charges an exorbitant amount.
Household Goods and Personal Items
Importing household goods and other personal items into Hong Kong is relatively easy. Regardless of whether they are used or new, personal and household goods are free from any tariffs, import taxes, or duties. You needn’t worry about bringing your personal necessities with you on your expat assignment.
Since the items you bring with you are personal effects not intended for commercial purposes, you do not have to lodge an import declaration. For further enquires about Hong Kong’s customs regulations, please contact the Customs and Excise Department.
Everything you import to Hong Kong will be inspected by local customs officers upon arrival. You do not have to be personally present during the customs inspection process. In order to pick up your imports from the authorities after the inspection, you usually need the following documents:
- a detailed packing list
- an air waybill, bill of lading, or similar document
- your valid passport (if you are personally present at clearance)
- a photocopy of your passport and a signed letter of authorization for the person/company handling clearance (if you are not personally present)
- the appropriate license for selected imports if there are any restricted items
Cars and Currency
You may bring your own car with you, provided that it is a right-hand drive vehicle. When entering the country, you are charged a registration tax. Furthermore, you must submit your car for emissions testing. For more information on importing your car, please refer to our guide on Hong Kong driving licenses and personal vehicles.
There are no restrictions on how much currency you can import. Therefore you can bring as much of the local currency or any foreign currency as you like.
Vaccinations and health requirements for Hong Kong
Vaccinations and General Precautions
Travel health in Hong Kong does not require any specific vaccinations before starting your journey. To be on the safe side, check your vaccination status on routine shotsand make sure they are all up-to-date. Routine shots usually include flu, polio, measles/mumps/rubella as well as diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus. Vaccinations for hepatitis A and B are often highly recommended, especially if you plan on staying in Hong Kong or traveling through Southeast Asia. When you gather information for you Hong Kong visa, you should also find out about up-to-date health warnings.
It’s best to contact your family doctor well in advance of your departure to determine which booster shots you need. You might need further vaccinations, e.g. for rabies and typhoid fever, if you want to travel to other parts of Southeast Asia. However, you can easily get those immunizations in Hong Kong. Regular vaccinations for infants and children are also available.
The HIV/AIDS prevalence rate remains relatively low. Nevertheless, you are strongly advised to stick to the normal precautionary measures. The Virtual AIDS Office of Hong Kong provides you with further information on the situation concerning HIV/AIDS in Hong Kong.
In Hong Kong, you have to deal with mosquitoes all year round. They are usually worst in spring and summer, starting in April, until cooler and dryer weather sets in around October. However, in most parts of Southeast Asia, mosquitoes are not only a nuisance. Sometimes, they also carry dangerous diseases.
Even though these diseases are very rare in Hong Kong, there have been a few cases of dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis. Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne infection caused by the dengue virus. It is common in many countries throughout Southeast Asia. However, in most cases, dengue fever is brought to Hong Kong by people who were bitten by an infected mosquito while abroad. It is very rare in Hong Kong itself, and it cannot be spread directly from human to human.
Cases of Japanese encephalitis have also been reported in Hong Kong, although it is very rare, too. There have only been about a dozen cases within the last ten years. Vaccinations for Japanese encephalitis are only recommended if you plan to travel to other Asian countries and spend some time in rural areas.
Nevertheless, you should take a few simple precautions to prevent insect bites:
- Wear long-sleeved clothing which covers your arms, legs and ankles when spending time outdoors. Some hikers have been infected with scrub typhus by mites living in Hong Kong’s countryside.
- Apply insect repellent containing DEET to all skin not covered by clothing. Bear in mind, though, that the concentration of DEET should normally not exceed 35% for adults and 20% for children. Pregnant women and infants shouldn’t use such repellants at all.
- Sleep in air-conditioned rooms or put mosquito screens on windows and doors.
- If you do not have any screens, use a mosquito net for your bed.
Moving with pets
Owning pets in Hong Kong has become increasingly popular. If you would also like to travel to Hong Kong to start your expat life with your pet, plan ahead and give yourself enough time to complete the necessary paperwork.
Hong Kong imports of pets are regulated rather strictly. Our guide gives you an overview of import permits, relevant restrictions, and quarantine requirements for pets in Hong Kong. Additionally, we’d like to provide you with some details concerning pet care and the obligations for the owners of pets in Hong Kong.
Importing Pets to Hong Kong
Bringing pets to Hong Kong is regulated by the AFCD (the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department). Keep in mind that failure to abide by the rules of this department can lead to refusal of entry or to quarantine for your pets in Hong Kong at your own cost and risk.
Before traveling to Hong Kong with your pets, you need a special permit from the AFCD. This permit is valid for six months and allows you to bring and keep pets in Hong Kong. Make sure to apply well in advance, allowing two or three weeks for processing and mailing. You can download the necessary application form (AF240) online. However, you will have to turn in your applications in person or by mail to:
Permit & Certification Unit
Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department
Counter 10, 5th Floor
Cheung Sha Wan Government Offices
303 Cheung Sha Wan Road
The application includes a permit fee, which you must pay with the application. The fee ranges from HKD 344 for birds, reptiles, rodents, and rabbits to HKD 432 for cats and dogs.
Requirements and Restrictions
Once you have the permit, you still need to fulfill other requirements for keeping pets in Hong Kong. Depending on what kind of pet you own, different rules apply.
Cats and Dogs
For cats and dogs, in addition to the special permit, you need to present the following documents upon arrival:
- an animal health certificate, issued not more than 14 days before departure
- a residence certificate, which proves that your pet has been continuously residing in the country of origin for 180 days prior to departure
- a vaccination certificate, which certifies that you had your pet vaccinated for certain diseases no less than 10 days and no more than one year before departure
- an airline certificate stating that your pet has travelled the entire journey on one aircraft
Furthermore, all cats and dogs have to be identifiable by microchip, which you need to declare on the health certificate.
If you import your dogs and cats directly from a nation defined as group I and II countries by the Hong Kong administration, they are normally exempt from quarantine. Group I countries include Australia, Fiji, Hawaii, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwand, and the UK.
There are too many countries in group II to mention them all. Some of them are Austria, Canada, Finland, France, Italy, Malaysia, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, and the USA.
If you come from any country which does not belong to either group, new pets in Hong Kong are subject to a minimum of four-month quarantine at the AFCD. As the list of countries is subject to ongoing review, make sure to contact the AFCD in advance.
Disability assistance dogs from all countries are exempt from quarantine regulations and the requirement of six-month residency. However, you must have the dog tested for rabies anti-bodies.
You cannot import puppies or kittens, and neither can you bring pregnant animals. If your pet is still young, you may have to put it in quarantine after entering Hong Kong. For further details, please get in touch with the AFCD.
Due to the continuing threat of avian influenza, you must provide detailed information on the health status of your pet bird. Importing a bird into Hong Kong requires a valid health certificate: It must be issued by a veterinary officer from your home country and must not date more than five days before departure. The import of birds to Hong Kong from selected countries, such as India or South Africa, is still outlawed.
Reptiles, Rodents, and Other Pets
Reptiles, rodents, and other pets in Hong Kong also require a veterinary health certificate dated no more than 14 days before the departure date. Some additional conditions apply for certain mammals (like chinchillas) and pet turtles.
In general, we recommend you to always contact the AFCD before brining your furry or feathered friends. In this way, you won’t have any hassle concerning pets in Hong Kong.
The Prior Document Checking Service checks all your import documents for pets in Hong Kong in advance. It’s a great way to be sure that nothing is missing.
Pet Transport and Pet Care
After completing the tedious paperwork, you need to take one more step before you and your pet can get settled into your new home. You need to arrange for proper transportation and familiarize yourself with procedures at the airport.
Hong Kong law requires you to transport your pet by air via the fastest route from your home country to Hong Kong. When making the reservation for the airline, ship your pet as “manifest cargo”. Pets are not allowed to enter the country as excess baggage.
Make sure to label the cage, box or other container for your pet correctly. To avoid unnecessary delay during the inspection of your pet upon arrival, contact the Duty Officer of the AFCD Import and Export Section at least two working days before your scheduled arrival.
Arrival in Hong Kong
Upon arrival at the airport, your pet will undergo medical examination. Particularly dogs will be officially licensed by AFCD officers. If your dog has a microchip other than that used for the identification of dogs in Hong Kong (an AVID encrypted transponder), then it will be re-chipped in Hong Kong. This procedure takes place at the owner’s expense and will cost you HKD 80.
If you are importing birds, they will be subject to sample testing on the Avian Influenza virus at the airport animal facilities. As this requires extensive laboratory tests, it may take several days until you can take your bird home with you. This procedure is also very cost-intensive, so you might think twice before shipping your favorite parakeet to Hong Kong.
Living with Pets
Owning a pet is quite common in Hong Kong, but many still prefer smaller animals or birds to dogs or cats, as space is usually very limited. If you want to take your dog with you, you should keep this in mind when looking for an apartment. Furthermore, not all rental agreements allow tenants to keep a pet. You should therefore clarify this issue with your prospective landlord before signing the contract. When going shopping in Hong Kong, you’ll notice that veterinary services as well as pet supply shops are readily available. Some larger supermarkets also offer pet products.
It is important that you protect your cat or dog against fleas and regularly check for ticks, so that your pet can safely enjoy its new environment. Snakes can be a problem, especially in the countryside, as everyone reading up on travel health in Hong Kong will know. You should therefore keep your cats indoors. Cases of attempted pet poisoning, although occasionally reported in recent years, have declined dramatically due to educational campaigns and police attention.
In Hong Kong, great attention is directed towards keeping parks and public areas clean. It is important that you always clean up after your dog, as any failure of doing so may result in an on-the-spot fine. In quite a few parks, specific collection bins for dog waste are available.
Furthermore, if you own a large dog, you have to keep it on a leash in public places at all times. You can, however, register your dog for an examination by the AFCD to prove that it can be controlled off-leash. If you pass this examination, you are allowed to walk your dog without a leash.
You need to renew the license which your dog receives upon arrival in Hong Kong every three years. With every renewal, your dog has to be revaccinated against rabies.