Traveling Tips for Musicians

Traveling Musicians – Issues with Instruments

A Guide to Flying with Musical Instruments

The Complete AFM Guide to Flying with Your Musical Instrument



Since the US Fish and Wildlife Service or Department of Agriculture may at any time change or update information regarding international travel with musical instruments containing animal or plant materials, we here at the AFM first and foremost strongly encourage our members to contact USFWS Management Authority offices for answers to your specific questions about which materials are affected, fees for travel permits/passports and processing, as well as designated ports through which the musician needs to book travel.  The Service’s email address is  This is in the AFM’s estimation the best source for up to the minute changes in regulation or policy.  This site has been tested and the AFM deems it a safe and reliable government email service.   Agency response time is about two days to a week.   If our members want to talk directly with a FWS management authority agent, telephone and email contact information can be found here: 


• CITES is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora which “subjects international trade in specimens of selected species to certain controls”.


• LIST OF SPECIES CITES has published a list of internationally protected endangered species. Musicians who own musical instruments containing CITES related materials should be aware that ivory, tortoiseshell, Brazilian rosewood, Pernambuco wood are among the listed items.


• INTERNATIONAL CITES TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS BY COUNTRY Before traveling to a foreign country with a musical instrument containing CITES-listed materials, musicians applying for a CITES musical passport or permit should also contact CITES Management Authority in destination countries. For a complete list of national CITES management authorities visit the CITES National Contact and information page to ascertain entry and exit requirements relating to your country of destination.


• The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) provides appropriate forms necessary to obtain travel permits for musical instruments containing components of endangered species.  Specific instructions and guidelines can be found at the following sites.


FWS Musical Instrument Travel Permit Requirements:

The link includes a comprehensive video on the ban and the necessary steps one should undertake to help avoid possible problems while traveling with musical instruments.


Permits, certificates or passports can take up to 3 months to be issued – Don’t get caught at the last minute!

1. MULTIPLE BORDER CROSSING “If you are intending to make multiple border crossings with your musical instrument that contains a component parts of CITES or ESA-listed species, you should complete application Form 3-200-88 Pre-Convention, Pre-Act, or Antique Musical Instruments Certificate (CITES, MMPA and/or ESA)”

2. SINGLE BORDER CROSSING One time import, export, or re-export of Pre-Convention, Pre-Act, or Antique Specimens (CITES, MMPA and/or ESA)

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

            b) Plant species (e.g. Brazilian rosewood, Pernambuco) –“ If you are intending to make one border crossing (either an export or re-export) with your musical instrument that contains APHIS Listed plant species, you should complete application Form 3-200-32 Export/Re-export of Plants (CITES)” 


• DESIGNATED PORTS Listed in the following link are American FWS designated departure and entry ports for musical instruments that contains CITES material:


• Q&A Guidance on Elephant Ivory and Musical Instruments


Since the February 24, 2014 release of the US Fish and Wildlife Service Director’s Order No. 210, the AFM has been active redefining federal policies and procedures that have created new barriers for musicians traveling with instruments containing African elephant ivory and other CITES and US Department of Agriculture APHIS related materials.  The new Order was introduced without consultation from affected industry groups including the AFM.  For all instrumental musicians traveling abroad and returning to the US with musical instruments affected by the new Order, the AFM wants members to be aware of current regulatory policies that impact your ability to travel uninterrupted with instruments that contain component parts of African Elephant ivory and other CITES related materials.  Since there is no clear regulatory path that allows the union to provide a one stop page of comprehensive answers to the issues we confront, we provide this page simply as guidance. Please review it.  If you have more specific questions, please check with the USFWS service website relating to Travel with Musical Instruments or write to for detailed answers and travel updates.


Musicians travelling with musical instruments containing African elephant ivory and other CITES component parts are affected by new government directives issued at the beginning of 2014. The American Federation of Musicians is working diligently with the Congress of the United States along with a number of federal agencies including but not limited to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Department of the Interior), the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service-APHIS (Department of Agriculture) as well as the President’s Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking.  Together with other music industry partners, our job is multi-faceted:

• Raise awareness of the negative effect of the USFW Director’s Order on our industry

• Create comprehensive, reliable data that can be used with government officials

• Meet with federal and in some cases state officials to advocate and influence regulatory policy

• Meet with federal officials to help dovetail actions between their agencies to bring about a smoother, more seamless airport experience for traveling musicians

• Galvanize Members of Congress and their staff around our issue

• Offer expert testimony where possible to clarify our goals

• Lobby Members of Congress on behalf of musicians to provide useful legislative language for new federal proposals while commenting on proposed language that might prove harmful to musicians

Understanding the Process:

Federal controls over travel in and out of the United States are critically important.  In these times, national security and air travel safety are first and foremost in the minds of our elected officials and government professionals who have the responsibility every day to look out for the wellbeing of American citizens. In the instant case, the United States is seeking to play a leadership role in international conservation efforts.  The job of implementing the National Strategy for Combatting Wildlife Trafficking (National Strategy) rests with the appropriate cabinet members.  The Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking has the responsibility to meet and confer with the President in this case on African elephant ivory.  Recommendations led to the issuance of Director’s Order No. 210 (as amended) which impacts the implementation of CITES related regulations.

* LEGAL NOTICE: This web page is intended to be used for purposes of general information only.  Nothing contained on this page is to be construed as legal advice.  The AFM makes no guarantees or warranties of any kind regarding the accuracy of the information on this page and therefore disclaims any responsibility for harm that may result from the use of this information.  Visitors to this page are advised to consult with the applicable regulatory authorities for up-to-date information prior to traveling abroad with musical instruments.