Steps for Traveling to Japan from the U.S.


Mar 4, 2018
Washington State
Nico - male Turquoise GCC
Posted a thread a while back about my GCC Nico and I moving to Japan - thank you all who responded. Nico is safe and happy, the trip went well :) Thought I’d post what exact steps were required for me to make my move from the US to Japan with a GCC - There are so few resources for parrot owners who need to move internationally.

I started in late May and moved late October so would assume it takes about 4-5 months to complete the process.

  1. Get your bird microchipped if they aren’t already - You’ll need to write in “identifying markers” for your bird on many of the documents. They also accept leg bands (no clue why). Your microchip doesn’t have to be an international microchip; we just got a regular American one in his neck.
  2. CITES Export permit - This is the big one. You’ll need this for all of the other steps in the process, and according to USFWS(Fish and Wildlife Services) it takes about 6 weeks to get it approved. Took about 8-9 weeks in my case since they wanted my foreign address to be in a specific format and Nico didn’t have the microchip until after I turned the application in. The CITES permit will be mailed to you and is super important, don’t lose it!
  3. Start the APHIS form - This is the other big one. This is for the Department of Agriculture. You’ll need the specific form for Japan that can be found online. You’ll need to start by contacting a USDA accredited veterinarian, who will fill out the form and send it in to the USDA for approval. The vet will check for signs of West Nile fever.
  4. Veterinarian supervised quarantine - The vet will usually come to your place of residence once at the beginning of the 21 day quarantine and once at the end, to make sure your place is considered a “mosquito-free quarantine facility.” They check for the following: Windows that open have screens, two doors between the bird and the outside, no sign of mosquitos. This ensures that your bird won’t bring West Nile fever into Japan via mosquitos.
  5. Finish the APHIS form - You’ll see your vet at the end of quarantine, make sure it’s within 30 days of your travel date. They’ll check again for symptoms of West Nile fever and sign off on your form. My vet turned his form in online. The USDA will then approve the APHIS form and mail it to you, usually via FedEx overnight. You should get your completed APHIS form back within 2-3 days of your vet visit if you do it this way.
  6. (Optional) Have your bird’s wings clipped - I generally don’t clip Nico’s wings but I did have the vet clip them before the trip just to be safe at the airport, since I knew other people (who are likely unused to birds) would be handling my parrot.
  7. Contact your destination airport - I contacted Narita in my case. They have a separate form for importation, which needed to be filled out and approved by airport personnel beforehand. This is the importation side of the APHIS form, so be sure to have both the CITES and APHIS forms handy. This department at the airport also has a list of countries and US states you’re not allowed to fly from/through on your trip due to the Avian Influenza outbreak. You might want to do this step before the quarantine, but quarantine information can change super quickly and this can greatly change your flight plans so be careful!
  8. Prep your bird for a long long day - make sure they’re accustomed to their carrier, give them plenty of water and food, tell them you love them, etc.
  9. USFWS appointment - Call your local port via the fws designated ports page and make an appointment to see them THE DAY OF your flight. They’ll have you fill out an export declaration form online (that is super confusing so you’ll probably have to contact them a few times to get it filled out correctly) and you’ll see them at their office with hard copies of the APHIS and CITES forms (and obviously the bird). They’ll stamp your CITES form and give it back to you.
  10. The flight itself - Ideally your bird would be in-cabin with you, but only two airlines allow birds in-cabin internationally to Japan at the moment (Asiana and Korean Air). Both of these fly via a layover at Seoul, which is on the no-fly list for birds because of Avian Influenza. I ended up having to choose JAL, which allows birds in (air-conditioned) cargo. You’ll drop off your bird along with your check-in baggage at the airline kiosk. Make sure you note that you’ve got a bird in cargo when filling out customs paperwork.
  11. Get off the plane and immediately do more paperwork - You’ll be dragged aside by airport personnel who will want to check that you have all of the hard copies of the APHIS/CITES documentation with you. They’ll hand you a sheet of paper that you’ll need to pick up your bird.
  12. Pick up your bird (if you had them in cargo) - Nico was in the baggage claim area, at a little counter where they had all of the animals. Check if they’re okay, coo over them, etc. JAL was pretty careful with his crate so his water bowl didn’t tip over :)
  13. Haggle with Customs - I found out the hard way that customs people don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to live animals. Long story short personal pets are exempt from customs paperwork, and it says so on the METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry) website. You should be good to go.

And that’s all I could remember… Was quite a journey and not something to be taken lightly. And obviously things change all the time so this is what was required as of late October 2021. Hope it helps future travelers!

Most Reactions

Latest posts