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.


Effective as of June 12, 2013
-- Musical instrument certificate (“passport”) for multiple export, or re-exports of a musical instrument containing species listed under CITES and/or the ESA

To ease the paperwork burden on musicians traveling with musical instruments made from CITES-listed species, the United States put forward a proposal at the 16th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to implement a passport program that would facilitate the frequent non-commercial, cross-border movement of musical instruments for purposes including, but not limited to personal use, performance, display, and competition with the issuance of just one document.

Until June 12, 2013-
Animal species (e.g. elephant ivory, tortoiseshell) -
If you reside in the U.S. and intend to make multiple border crossings with your musical instrument that contains a CITES-listed animal species, you should complete application form 3-200-23 pdf. When submitting your application, please include a cover letter indicating that your application should be considered for a musical instrument certicate (also referred to as a "passport").  

Plant species (e.g. Brazilian rosewood)- If you reside in the U.S. and intend to make multiple border crossings with your musical instrument that contains a CITES-listed plant species, you should complete application form 3-200-32 pdf. When submitting your application, please include a cover letter indicating that your application should be considered for a musical instrument certicate (also referred to as a "passport").  


After June 12, 2013- We are in the process of developing a new application form for the musical instrument passport program.  In the interim, we request that you apply as specified above. We will update this page when the new application becomes available. 

Before traveling with your CITES- listed musical instrument, we recommend that you contact the national CITES authorities in the countries to which you are traveling. For a complete list of national CITES authorities, click here.

For more information on traveling internationally with your musical instrument, click here pdf
For general information on CITES permit requirements, click here pdf.

Designated Ports

If your musical instrument contains elephant ivory, tortoiseshell, or another protected species, you will need to travel through a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) designated port. For a complete list of FWS designated ports, click here.

If your musical instrument contains a CITES-listed plant species, such as Brazilian rosewood, you will need to travel through a USDA-APHIS CITES designated port. For a complete list of USDA-APHIS CITES designated ports, click here.

Watch the on-demand webinar
Experts from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service participated in an interactive webinar, hosted by the League of American Orchestras, in partnership with the American Federation of Musicians, The Recording Academy, and National Association of Music Merchants to provide information on the laws and regulations that govern international trade in protected species and to help musicians and manufacturers comply with them.