Travel news

March 21, 2014

League Weighs in on Ivory and Instruments

Yesterday, the League made the case for protecting international travel with musical instruments at a public meeting of the Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking. The statement calls on the Administration and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to take into full account the essential nature of international travel with musical instruments, and to work with the music community to develop policies that support conservation efforts while also protecting international cultural activity.

On February 25, 2014, new strict limits immediately took effect for traveling with instruments that contain African elephant ivory. In an effort to protect African elephants from poaching by combating illegal trade in ivory, the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has ordered strict enforcement procedures related to the Endangered Species Act and the African Elephant Conservation Act. According to the broad terms of the order, many instruments containing African elephant ivory may not be allowed into the U.S., even if a musician is simply returning with instruments in his or her personal possession.

We fully support efforts to protect endangered species. We are concerned by very specific aspects of the ban that will significantly impact musical activity, and we are seeking a policy solution in partnership with our colleagues at the American Federation of Musicians, The Recording Academy, Chamber Music America, the American Federation of Violin and Bowmakers, and NAMM, the National Association of Music Merchants.

Orchestras regularly invite international artists to perform for U.S. audiences, tour internationally, and musicians frequently travel abroad to perform as soloists and members of small ensembles. A great many musicians, particularly string players, perform with instruments that contain small amounts of elephant ivory, most commonly found in the tips of fine bows. Ivory may also be found in an array of string instruments, wind instruments, and certain percussion instruments. Musical instruments currently in use that contain African elephant ivory, while legally manufactured and acquired, are likely to have been purchased after ban’s cut-off date of 1976, and will be completely prohibited from entering or re-entering into the U.S.

The League is in ongoing dialogue with policy leaders to seek both short and long-term solutions that address wildlife conservation goals while also protecting international musical activity that requires musicians to travel across borders with the tools of their trade.

Please find more on the rules for traveling with instruments containing protected species material through the following links to the League’s website.

Many unanswered questions remain about the process for being in compliance with these new rules, and the actual timeline for enforcement at U.S. borders is unclear. We will let you know as soon as we find answers. In the meantime, please contact the League’s Washington, D.C. office for more information.

February 12, 2014

Congress Speaks Up for Travel with Instruments

As of this Friday, two years will have passed since a groundbreaking provision was signed into law that would protect musical instruments transported in-cabin; however, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has failed to implement the new policies. The music community – including a close advocacy partnership among the League of American Orchestras, the American Federation of Musicians, and The Recording Academy – has consistently called on the FAA to complete the rule-making process that it has yet to even begin. Now, Congress is stepping in to tell the FAA to take action. Responding to ongoing evidence that musicians’ tools of their trade are often in extreme jeopardy when traveling by air, 35 members of Congress signed onto a letter this week to the Secretary of Transportation, urging immediate action. We are grateful to Congressional Arts Caucus Co-Chairs Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ), as well as Reps. Jim Cooper (D-TN), Howard Coble (R-NC), and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), for their extraordinary leadership on this effort. Thanks to the many orchestra advocates who responded to the League’s request to weigh in with the Hill. We will keep you posted as future action takes place.

February 7, 2014

Friendlier Skies Needed! Have Your Members of Congress Signed the Letter?

It has been nearly two years since a groundbreaking provision to support musicians was signed into law, but the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has failed to implement the new policies to improve air travel with musical instruments in-cabin. The music community - including a close advocacy partnership between the League of American Orchestras and the American Federation of Musicians - has consistently called on the FAA to complete the rule-making process that it has yet to even begin. Now, Congress is stepping in to tell the FAA to take action immediately.

Contact your Senators and Representative right away and ask them to add their names to the bipartisan, bicameral letter from the Hill to the FAA.  Please act fast! The letter closes for signatures at noon Eastern on Tuesday, February 11. We’ve set up an online communication that will take just moments for you to personalize and send.

Click here to contact your Members of Congress TODAY

The list of those that have already signed on is below and growing.  We are grateful to Congressional Arts Caucus Co-Chairs Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ), and Reps. Jim Cooper (D-TN), Howard Coble (R-NC), and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), for their extraordinary leadership on this effort. Ask Congress to send a clear message to the FAA – it’s time to protect musical instruments from harm in-flight.

Thank you!

Signatures to the Letter as of February 6, 2014:

Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA)

Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA)

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL)

Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN)

Rep. Michael Michaud (D-ME)

Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN)

Rep. William “Lacy” Clay (D-MO)

Rep. Billy Long (R-MO)

Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE)

Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ)

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY)

Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC)

Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA)

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN)

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN)

Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN)

Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX)

Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX)

Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX)

Rep. Donna M. Christensen (D-Virgin Islands)

Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA)

November 21, 2013

New EU Rules Ease Travel with Instruments

The World Customs Organization (WCO) has announced that, effective November 21, musicians travelling through the European Union (EU) with portable musical instruments as professional equipment may use the “green” or “nothing to declare” customs channel at airports.  According to the new regulation adopted by the EU, “Total relief from import duties shall be granted for portable musical instruments temporarily imported by a traveler with the intention of using them as professional equipment.” The WCO Secretary General has said the policy change will improve “cultural life and economic activities.” The WCO press release emphasizes that customs officials will need training to become fully aware of the policy change. Travelers may wish to print out the WCO announcement and regulation to have on hand. Also, note that this policy change does not impact permit rules for travel with instruments containing endangered species material. We will keep you posted as the League learns more. 

September 4, 2013

Tick-Tock: Fall Countdown on Policy Concerns

With summer coming to a close, Congress is returning to a packed policy agenda, including an array of issues that impact the arts and the nonprofit sector. Thanks to all in the orchestra community who connected with policymakers while they were home for the August recess. There are plenty more advocacy opportunities ahead:

  • International Policies: For U.S. musicians traveling abroad, the League has created a travel tips and resource webpage as U.S. officials begin to implement a musical instrument passport for instruments containing protected species. Updates will be made to the page as new information becomes available.
  • Domestic Air Travel: In domestic air travel news, the President’s FY14 budget included a request for new Department of Transportation funds to support the implementation of new helpful rules on the transportation of musical instruments by air. Given the tense Congressional budget climate, however, the prospect seems dim for budget approval. The law containing helpful improvements for air travel was passed in early 2012, but has not been implemented by the FAA. The League continues to work with its coalition partners to pursue implementation.

May 2, 2013

Endangered Species and the Traveling Musician

Register today to participate in a national webinar providing guidance for musicians traveling internationally! Individual musicians and ensembles worldwide present their artistry across borders, often bringing highly specialized instruments that are essential to the quality of performances.

Special permits are required to travel internationally with certain musical instruments containing protected species, such as ivory, rosewood, tortoise shell, and other material. How can you know whether your instrument requires such permits? The League of American Orchestras, in partnership with the American Federation of Musicians, The Recording Academy, and NAMM, is hosting a webinar, featuring experts from U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the agency that implements the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in the United States.

Join us on Tuesday, May 14 at 2:00pm Eastern for a free, interactive webinar that explains how to be compliant with the existing rules, invites your questions, and provides insights into what a new CITES instrument passport might mean for traveling musicians.

Register here >>

Please note:
This webinar will also be recorded and available on-demand for those unable to join us on May 14.

For further background on this topic, please visit the League’s summary of recent policy developments related to travel with instruments containing protected species.

March 15, 2013

Endangered Species “Passport” Approved

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 Recording Academy, 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.  

March 13, 2013

Instrument Passport Under Consideration

Important news for orchestras and individual musicians touring internationally! Musicians carrying instruments with endangered species materials (such as ivory, tortoise, and rosewood) require special permits in order to cross borders in compliance with international and domestic rules. Note that this permitting process is separate from the duty requirements and carnet process familiar to most musicians. This week, the U.S. is proposing an instrument passport concept for consideration by the parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which may streamline the process for complying with certain international permit requirements. The League, in partnership with the American Federation of Musicians and The Recording Academy, has been in communication with U.S. Fish and Wildlife as it pursues an initial international discussion of the passport proposal. The current rules for obtaining permits are quite complicated, as there are layers of CITES requirements, plus each country's own domestic rules - and there is not a central resource for understanding what is required when traveling to multiple countries. While a streamlined process and the expressed interest in facilitating international travel with instruments is welcomed, the League, together with our national partners, is asking the U.S. and its international counterparts to ensure that any new approach takes into consideration the practical issues of cost and time involved with obtaining permits. The current CITES meeting concludes on March 15. Whether the passport concept is formally adopted, recommended for further consideration, or tabled, the League will stay in close contact with U.S. Fish and Wildlife to seek clear guidance on how musicians can comply with permit requirements. Please stay tuned!

October 18, 2012

League Weighs in on Cross-Border Travel Rules

Orchestras and musicians that travel abroad should be aware of changes under discussion regarding customs documentation for musical instruments. The U.S. is proposing an international "passport" system for musical instruments.  In advance of the March 2013 convening of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is proposing a new resolution to potentially streamline and make uniform the permit requirements for musical instruments that cross borders. In close partnership with the American Federation of Musicians and The Recording Academy, the League submitted recommendations to FWS and has met with top officials in DC, urging U.S. policy leaders to ensure that any new permitting approach would not result in any unintended paperwork burdens or costs. There will be an opportunity for public comment in November, and the League will be reaching out to orchestras to weigh in. If your orchestra tours internationally, please feel welcome to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. in the DC office to discuss this topic in further detail. The League will keep orchestras apprised as further details emerge.

February 6, 2012

Success! Air Travel to Improve for Musicians

An important provision that eases air travel for musicians was approved by Congress on  February 6, 2012 as part of a broader package of federal aviation programs.  The FAA has been operating on a series of short-term extensions since the 2007, and reauthorization has been a lengthy and hotly debated process. Throughout that time, the League and the American Federation of Musicians have partnered closely to advocate for a policy that will improve the ability of musicians to fly with their instruments in cabin.
The new law will make the process of flying with an instrument more predictable by allowing on board all musical instruments that can fit into the overhead bin or beneath the seat of an airplane.  In addition to a uniform carry-on policy for small instruments, there is also a provision for oversized instruments that allows a musician either to buy a seat on the airplane for a large instrument like the cello, or choose to check the instrument. Thus far, airline policies have varied widely, with each individual airline responsible for adopting and enforcing its own policy regarding carry-on luggage and checked baggage. This has made it difficult for musicians to know what to expect when they travel. The FAA will soon begin implementation and airline policies regarding musical instruments will become uniform.

March 25, 2008 

Draft Rules are Tricky for Touring

In the post-September 11 atmosphere of heightened security, touring orchestras have faced a number of potentially challenging new travel rules, from limits on carry-on items to restrictions on bows made of rare woods.  Yet another rule under consideration could place a burden on orchestras touring internationally.  In an effort to improve security at our nation’s ports of entry, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is proposing new, potentially cumbersome documentation requirements for all items shipped by cargo.  While the draft rule would apply only to cargo shipped by sea-going vessels, DHS aims to eventually extend the rule to cargo shipped by air and ground.  The League has submitted comments calling on U.S. Customs and Border Protection to ensure that new rules will not hamper international cultural exchange.

Read League Comments to DHS

September 27, 2007 

Letter Confirms Pernambuco Decision

Please take note of a new document to have on hand while traveling internationally. A letter from the U.S. Department of the Interior officially confirms that finished bows made of pernambuco wood can be transported across international borders without burdensome certification requirements. This June, the international community considered an endangered species proposal that could have required musicians to obtain special permits before traveling internationally with instruments made with the Brazilian wood pernambuco - commonly used in crafting fine bows and other instrument parts. The League partnered with U.S. bow makers, NAMM: The International Music Products Association, and the American Federation of Musicians to successfully protect the ability of orchestras to travel internationally with their instruments. The letter can be helpful for musicians to carry while traveling with bows as they pass through customs.

View the Letter

June 14, 2007 

Exemption Approved for Travel with Bows

Orchestras and individual musicians touring internationally may continue to travel with their bows, after winning an exemption during negotiations at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).  The international community met over the past two weeks to determine whether to include the Brazilian pernambuco tree on the endangered species list. Most fine bows used by string musicians are made from pernambuco wood. Negotiators settled on adding the tree to the endangered species list, but applying the listing only to "logs, sawn wood, veneer sheets...," specifying that finished bows that are transported internationally would not be subject to cumbersome CITES permit and certification requirements.

April 23, 2007

League Weighs in on Pernambuco

Negotiations are underway to determine whether the pernambuco wood that is used to craft most fine bows will be added to the endangered species list—and whether strict restrictions on transporting the wood internationally will only apply to the actual lumber, or might also be applied to items made from pernambuco, including bows used by traveling musicians.  The League, in partnership with the American Federation of Musicians, weighed in with the U.S. representatives to the international convention, calling for responsible conservation efforts that will also protect the ability of musicians to travel and perform internationally with their instruments.

pdf Read League/AFM Comments 23.05 Kb