CITES – Instrument pass – what is it and why is it important?
CITES – Instrument pass – what is it and why is it important?

CITES – Instrument pass – what is it and why is it important?

CITES – Instrument pass – what is it and why is it important?

CITES is the international convention for the protection of animal and plant species and regulates, among other things, the import and export of certain materials such as wood, which are also used in instrument making.
As a consequence of the regulations, musicians may no longer be able to travel internationally with their instrument or only with certain documents (“instrument pass”).

Why is this important right now?

The conference took place in Geneva this August, and Annotation #15 was approved. This will result in a loosening of the regulations for musicians or musical instruments already as of December 2019 – that’s great news!


Decisions and amendments to the regulations are made every three years at the CITES treaty conference. It is therefore also important for musicians to check exactly which changes the most recent conference brings with it.

This will change from December 2019:

The following new CITES regulations do NOT apply to finished musical instruments, parts of musical instruments and accessories which contain the above-mentioned woods:

  • Guibourtia demeusei, Guibourtia pellegriniana and Guibourtia tessmannii (common name: Bubinga)
  • Dalbergia spp. (common name: Rosewood).

No more permits are required for the mentioned woods. ATTENTION: Does NOT apply to Dalbergia nigra and Dalbergia cochinchinensis!

Furthermore, ONLY with certain permits (“instrument passport”) is the import and export of the following protected and typical instrument manufacturing materials allowed:

  • Dalbergia nigra (common names: Rio Rosewood, Jacaranda, Brazilian Rosewood)
  • Dalbergia cochinchinensis (common names: Thai rosewood, Thailand Rosewood)
  • Swietenia humilis (common names: Mexican or Honduras mahogany)
  • Cheloniidae spp. (Shell of sea turtles is called tortoise shell and is used for plucked instruments, mandolins, plectra).
  • Chlamyphoridae spp. and Dasypodidae spp. (armadillos) are partially covered by CITES because only certain species are listed.
  • Mysticeti spp. (whalebone of baleen whales, for the production of bows)
  • Rainwoods / Rain Sticks / Rainmakers (Trichocereus spp., Echinopsis spp., and others) made from cacti, if you transport more than three pieces
  • Ivory can come from different species (elephant, hippo, walrus, sperm whale or mammoth). The requirements vary from species to species, so you should always contact the BLV in connection with ivory.
  • skins of drums from CITES-listed species such as certain snake, lizard or zebra species

The types/examples listed above are not exhaustive. For this reason, caution is generally required when using materials derived from plants or animals:
For an unambiguous determination of the material, the use of Latin designations is mandatory, since trade names are not always unique.

In case of doubt, we recommend on the one hand to check the material on or otherwise contact the Federal Office for Food Safety and Veterinary Affairs BLV   directly.

If you buy an instrument from a store that is produced from CITES-listed species, the store must provide you with information about the type and origin of the material. If you then resell the instrument, you must pass this information on to the buyer.


When do I need an instrument pass?

If you think your instrument falls into one of the above categories, you almost certainly need an instrument pass. The best thing to do is to contact the  BLV directly for more information.

Caution: There is no guarantee that the instrument passport will be recognized by all CITES signatory states. Stricter national laws may apply in each state. Here you can find the contact details of the local authorities:

How much does the instrument pass cost?

50.- CHF

How long is it valid?

3 years

How far in advance do I have to order my instrument pass?

Usually 5 days.

Where and how do I make the request?

HERE you can find the application form with the corresponding instructions.

I don’t travel alone but with the whole orchestra. Can the orchestra apply for a “permit” on behalf of all musicians?

There is a simplified procedure: the “travelling exhibition certificate”. The form can be found HERE, the corresponding application must be submitted at least two months before the travel date.

I travel to sell my instrument. Are there any special regulations?

The instrument pass is bound to the owner and does NOT entitle the holder to sell the instrument abroad. For planned sales or purchases abroad, individual authorizations are required, which are also issued by the BLV.

You can find the application form HERE:

Application for Import

Application for Export


Dieser Newsletter wurde in Zusammenarbeit mit dem BLV, Bundesamt für Lebensmittelsicherheit und Veterinärwesen erstellt.

Das BLV vertritt die Schweiz bei der CITES-Vertragskonferenz.

Bei Fragen kannst du dich gerne an den CITES-Desk wenden:

+41 58 463 30 33