Traveling Abroad with Your Recorders
Tips for Getting Through Customs
by Barbara Prescott

Are you tempted to travel outside the USA for that dream-of-a-lifetime workshop? Before you pack up your instruments, you should know whether you are going to have customs problems!
CITES treaty:
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) treaty is designed to protect endangered plants and animals. How does this affect you? You may have been aware that there is a near total ban on trade in elephant ivory. In addition, effective in 2017, instruments made out of rosewood (which includes grenadilla) may also need customs clearance.
Top: Dalbergia stevensonii
 ( Honduran rosewood, or Palisander)
Bottom: Dalbergia melanoxylon  
(African blackwood, grenadilla , or mpingo)

The good news:
Rosewood: You may personally carry up to 10kg (22lbs) of rosewood in a recorder for personal use without needing a permit. Even if you're traveling to perform in a concert and will be paid, that is still considered personal use. A typical a=415 alto recorder made of grenadilla weighs .3kg, so even a great bass recorder should fall within the weight limit. Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergie Nigra) does not qualify for the personal use exemption.  Suggestion : bring your purchase receipt for your instrument, preferably including a specific description of the type of wood and the age of the recorder. (See   sample documentation here .)
African Ivory: You may travel internationally with your recorder even if it contains ivory, if:
  • the ivory was removed from the wild prior to February 26, 1976;
  • it is accompanied by a CITES musical instrument permit;
  • the recorder is uniquely identified; and
  • it will not be sold or otherwise transferred while outside the United States.
CAUTION: Plan ahead! Processing a CITES permit requires between 45 and 90 days. For a one-time border crossing ($75 fee):  For a "passport" allowing multiple border crossings ($75 fee, permit good for 3 years):
The bad news - Selling your rosewood recorder overseas:
Are you planning on selling your rosewood recorder overseas? Are you sending it back for non-warranty repair work?
  • Rosewood instruments sent outside the country for repair work will need a CITES permit if there is a charge for the repair;
  • Rosewood instruments receiving warranty repair will need to be inspected and cleared on reentry to the US;
  • IF your rosewood recorder is exported for sale, you must first acquire a permit ($100 fee). You must have acquired the instrument before January 2, 2017 and be able to prove that fact. 
Traveling with or selling recorders containing ivory within the US:
Alto Bressan Recorder with ivory, Bate Collection, Oxford University
The CITES treaty does not apply within the country. However, the US imposed a near-total ban on commercial trade in ivory in 2016. You may travel within the US carrying instruments containing ivory. Fortunately, if you want to sell an instrument containing ivory domestically, you may do so legally if certain criteria are met. In general, the ivory must have been imported prior to 1990, the ivory can't consist of more than 50% of the weight or value of the recorder, the ivory must weigh less than 200 grams (7 ounces) and be part of a recorder that was originally purchased before July, 2016. No permit is required. The alto recorder pictured above contains approximately 2oz (50grams) of ivory, with two ivory fittings on the head and foot joints.
We hope you bring your properly documented rosewood recorders with you for that tempting week of recorder magic somewhere abroad. Be sure to post pictures on the ARS Facebook group to make everyone envious!
Barbara Prescott of Prescott Workshop, Hanover NH, and an ARS Board member
For further information:
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