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Help Avoid Interrupted International Travel

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Do you have a passport for your musical instrument? If you don’t, here’s how one scenario might play out. You book or land a job overseas in “paradise” or you travel abroad to participate in a glorious international student music festival. You leave the US without a hitch, instrument in tow, and in full view. You spend two or three unforgettable weeks performing. Upon return to the US, a customs and border agent notices your instrument and moves you into the inspection line. Your instrument is inspected, and behold, agents identify a CITES or ESA-listed rare wood, endangered species, or plant-related component. Customs and/or agriculture agents ask a series of questions about ownership. You are then asked for your USFWS musical instrument permit or passport. Hmm …what’s that? You don’t have one?!

Well, so much for paradise because, what comes next may be excruciating and unbearable.

For AFM members who own valuable musical instruments that may contain parts or products of species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and/or the Endangered Species Act (ESA), it is imperative that you act immediately to obtain a US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) traveling permit for your musical instrument. You should apply as far ahead of your trip as possible because government processing time may be unpredictable. Whether you are planning a one-time trip, or multiple tours outside of the US, you should immediately apply for the appropriate permit to allow you to exit and re-enter the US without putting your instrument at risk. Even if you are not currently planning international travel, get a permit anyway! Since the permit has a three-year lifespan, you will be prepared in case you are booked to travel and work at the 11th hour.

If your instrument does not contain any of the federally listed materials, consider now whether you plan to purchase an instrument or raw materials that appear on the list. Learning about and observing USFWS guidelines (click here) prior to departure from the US can save you time, trouble, and lots of money.

 

 

From US Fish and Wildlife Service website:

Traveling Across International Borders with Your Musical Instrument

Musical instruments may contain parts or products of species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and/or the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Brazilian rosewood, tortoiseshell, and elephant ivory are among the protected species most commonly found in musical instruments.
If you are traveling with a musical instrument that contains Brazilian rosewood, elephant ivory, tortoiseshell, or another protected species, you will need to obtain proper legal documentation before crossing international borders.  You may need CITES documents for other species, particularly wildlife species, so always check before traveling.  
To determine if your musical instrument contains a species listed under CITES and/or the ESA, please refer to the following lists:

If you are unsure whether you need to obtain a permit, please contact the Division of Management Authority, Branch of Permits directly.

Permit Information

If you have determined that your musical instrument contains a species that is protected under CITES and/or the ESA, you will need to apply for one or more of the following permits.  Be sure to plan ahead for your travel.  You should allow at least 45 days to process your application, noting that some applications may take up to 60 days.  

One time import, export, or re-export of Pre-Convention, Pre-Act, or Antique Specimens (CITES, MMPA and/or ESA)
Animal species (e.g. elephant ivory, tortoiseshell) - If you are intending to make one border crossing (either an export or re-export) with your musical instrument that contains a CITES or ESA-listed animal species, you should complete application form 3-200-23 pdf.

Plant species (e.g. Brazilian rosewood) - If you are intending to make one border crossing (either an export or re-export) with your musical instrument that contains a CITES or ESA-listed plant species, you should complete application form 3-200-32pdf.


 
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