Endangered Species “Passport” Approved

March 15, 2013

Musicians traveling internationally with instruments containing endangered species material (such as ivory, rosewood, and tortoise shell) will have access to a new permitting process in the coming months. International rules have long required special permits for entering and exiting each country with instruments containing protected materials. A proposal to create a streamlined “passport” process was approved by 178 nations at a March 13 meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). 

  • It will take several months for each country to determine their procedures for issuing and recognizing the new passports. 
  • Under the new system, each country may also continue to apply additional permitting requirements for complying with their added layers of domestic endangered species rules – so the CITES passport may not cover all permitting requirements.
  • Until a new passport system is in place, musicians will be subject to prior permitting requirements and procedures, and are encouraged to contact the management authority for each country through which they travel for further details.  In the United States, U.S. Fish and Wildlife is the permitting authority and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  
  • The existing permit process is extremely complicated, and confusion abounds about the current rules and what will come with the new passport process.  Limited information about the current rules is available from U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

The League continues to partner with the American Federation of Musicians, the Grammy Foundation, the International Society of Violin and Bow Makers and others to seek clarity and technical assistance for musicians on how to navigate the evolving rules. Some of the details we are pursuing include clearer information about the endangered species material covered by permitting requirements, guidance on how to access reliable information about the rules for such a wide variety of countries to which musicians travel, and accurate information about the penalties for non-compliance.  We are also encouraging policymakers to ensure that any new permit process is affordable and efficient. Please stay tuned as we make further guidance available and contact League Government Affairs with any questions.