Don't go to the USA with your drum kit

Important advise for drummers travelling overseas to America.

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

Drummers do you have ivory; Brazilian rosewood; abalone; tortoise shell, whalebone or other materials built into your kit? And are you travelling abroard with your drums? If so, there are certain precautions you should take to protect your instrument, especially if travelling to the USA.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)  has, for some time now, been concerned with the illegal trade of endangered flora and fauna such as Brazilian rosewood, African ivory, mother of pearl and abalone to name but a few. These species have for many years been used in instrument manufacture.  The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have introduced regulations that allow for instruments with certain endangered species to be seized by authorities when musicians have been entering or leaving the country when working. This has raised grave concerns for the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) and the American League of Orchestras who have been lobbying hard for an exemption for musicians.

Due to the efforts of the AFM, the USFWS issued an amended order making it possible to travel with instruments made, sold or transferred before February 2014  The latest update from AFM legislative director states ‘The original order can be found here with a link to the amended order at the end of the document.’ The key issue is that while this exemption now exists, you still need to be able to prove purchase, transfer details of the instrument and be able to provide supporting documentation.

CITES has recommended the use of an ‘Instrument Passport’, which when drawn up and approved, will identify when the instrument was bought and should include accompanying purchase/transfer documentation and identifying photos of the instrument.

Specialists have discussed this issue with International Federation of Musicians (FIM) and employers across Europe and a joint letter is being drawn up asking that clear concise information from CITES and the US Government be issued as to how musicians can obtain these ‘passports’. A meeting is being held in Europe on the 16 October to discuss the passport and its implementation

We have also spoken to the AFM and they advise having both a permit from your home country and a permit for the country to which you are travelling, if going to the US for a single visit that permit can be obtained here.

The MU contacted the UK authorities over this issue and My Drum Lessons have been advised that until such time as the internationally recognised ‘instrument passport’ is available UK musicians, whether individual or a group, can apply for a CITES Permit.

Following our last publication on this, the UK issuing authority ‘Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency’ (AHVLA) have informed us that contrary to previous advice the form that is required to obtain a Travelling Exhibition Certificate (TEC) is actually Form FED 0173.

The AHVLA has stated that you contact them directly for detailed advice. Please note it is not advisable to attempt to sell your instrument abroad and if you are planning on doing so seek detailed advice from the AHVLA.

The Musicians Union is working with other international musicians unions and employers on behalf of drummers to try to make this process easier and more transparent for musicians. We will update this information as necessary.

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