Travelling with instruments and equipment Jump to main content

Travelling with instruments and equipment

The end of freedom of movement between the UK and the European Union (EU) has not just impacted the way that musicians are able to travel from the UK for work, access health insurance and pay social security and tax. The way that instruments and equipment are transported has also changed.

Musicians need to determine if their instruments, equipment or both require additional documents for travel. Because national authorities have powers to seize and destroy instruments without appropriate certification (whether you are going abroad or returning to the UK), it is important to understand if this applies to your instrument(s) to ensure its safe and legal transportation.

Two key documents that are particularly relevant to musicians are ATA Carnets (an international customs document that covers the temporary moving of goods) and a Musical Instrument Certificate (MIC) (required for instruments containing certain protected materials). There are additional road haulage documents that may also be relevant, depending on the nature of the tour.

The UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has recently published guidance for musical artists and accompanying staff to provide information on working in the EU.

ATA Carnets

Government guidance states that as long as musical instruments or equipment are ‘accompanied’ (carried or taken by an individual in their personal baggage, or a vehicle, which travel with the individual throughout their journey), you may be able to use a temporary admission procedure in the country you are travelling to by going through the green or ‘nothing to declare’ channel. You may also be able to make an oral declaration to a Border Official.

EU Member States are responsible for import and export procedures at their borders. It is therefore important that businesses and individuals check the individual country requirements before travelling.

‘Equipment’ is not defined in EU legislation and so it is advised that if you are travelling with both instruments and equipment, that an ATA Carnet is used to avoid goods being held at the border.

If instruments are not accompanied (i.e. they are carried as freight or carried in a vehicle where the individual is not present) then customs formalities, through use of a carnet or other temporary admissions procedures will be required. In these circumstances a carnet will facilitate dealing with customs when entering and leaving the EU, and on entry to Northern Ireland from Great Britain. If you don’t use an ATA carnet or other temporary admission procedure, you may have to declare your musical instruments or equipment and pay duties on them every time you take them through customs.

We have had further confirmation from HM Treasury, that the same rules apply when travelling to Northern Ireland from Great Britain. Please note, most goods in free circulation in Northern Ireland, including musical instruments and equipment, currently benefit from unfettered access to GB, such that no customs declarations are required either on exit from NI or entry to GB.

Please note we have also published further information on the circumstances where a carnet may be used.

The ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet is an international customs document which will:

1. Allow you to import, on a temporary basis, equipment or goods for events (including live performances) into all countries which are part of the ATA Carnet system on the understanding that you will take all such goods or equipment back with you when you return home.

2. Simplify customs formalities by allowing a single document to be used for clearing goods through customs in the countries within ATA Carnet system. The European Union is considered a single customs territory for the purposes of this system. Without an ATA Carnet you will need to go through each country's customs procedures for the temporary admission of goods e.g. by lodging a temporary import bond.

There is an Issuing Fee (2021: £360 inc. VAT) plus a security bond which will vary according to the value of your instrument or equipment. You can pay for the bond with cash, a banker’s draft or bank guarantee or by using the LCC’s Carnet Security Scheme (CSS) – a one-off non-refundable payment which means you do not have to supply a banker’s draft or bank guarantee.


CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna & Flora) is an international agreement adopted between governments in 1975. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. CITES regulations can apply to musical instruments built with protected materials such as Bubinga, Brazilian rosewood, ivory, abalone and tortoiseshell, and these may require documentation and permits to import, export and travel across borders.

A finished instrument (including its parts and accessories) that contains less than 10 kg of rosewood should, in principle, not require certification to travel across borders within the EEA, but an instrument weighing more than 10 kg will require certification. Instruments or accessories containing any amount of Appendix I materials (e.g. elephant ivory) require a Musical Instrument Certificate (MIC). The application is currently free and the permit is valid for three years. If your instrument requires a MIC, you must travel through CITES-designated point of entry and exit. This will allow for customs authorities to endorse the certificate when entering or leaving the UK. The list of UK and EU CITES-designated points of entry and exit can be found below.

CITES permits are now required to move goods or specimens between Great Britain and the EU, and GB and Northern Ireland. For the movement of CITES specimens from GB to NI, and NI to GB, CITES import and export checks will all happen in Northern Ireland. This means you may use any point of entry/exit from GB but you must use one of the CITES-designated points of entry/exit in NI.


Belfast International
Birmingham International
Bristol International
Cardiff International
East Midlands
Glasgow International
Glasgow Prestwick
London Heathrow
London Luton
London Stansted
Southampton International


Belfast Seaport
Harwich international
Immingham & Hull
Liverpool Seaforth Container Terminal
London Gateway (Port of London)
Pembroke & Fishguard
Portsmouth International
Southampton ABP
Tilbury (Port of London)

A separate list is available for CITES-designated points of entry and exit in the EU.

Possible future fees for Musical Instrument Certificates

The UK Government department DEFRA are due to review the fees for obtaining CITES certificates and are considering implementing charges for MICs. As the application is currently free, we will be lobbying against any potential new charge for obtaining Musical Instruments Certificates.

Applying for a Musical Instrument Certificate

The form you will need to apply for a MIC is FED0172 (imports and exports), but more information on applying is provided by the Government. The FED0172 form relates to Great Britain only. As the EU version of CITES legislation continues to apply in relation to Northern Ireland, applications for Northern Ireland permits should use the version provided for under EU legislation. If you require a copy of this version you should request one from the APHA.

If you are unsure about your application, contact the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) by telephone (+44 (0) 3000 200 301) or email ([email protected]).


Together with the Musicians Union, the Animal & Plant Heath Agency (APHA) and UK Border Force have published a webinar series that provides a clear guidance note on how to make Musical Instrument Certificate (MIC) applications. The webinars includes CITES requirements for travel and the criteria for use, as well as practical issues such as Designated Ports of Entry when travelling with instruments requiring MICs.

Road Haulage

If you are using a UK-based haulier to transport your instruments or equipment to the EU, there are now movement restrictions. Once in the EU, hauliers are only able to carry out two additional movements, either cross-trade or cabotage (the movement of goods or people between two places in the same country), with a maximum of 1 cabotage movement within a 7-day period.

Under the terms of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) goods for commercial purposes can only be transported by a vehicle which is exclusively used for this purpose, such as a lorry.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has confirmed that, following talks with counterparts in the EU Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE), ‘splitter vans that are carrying both goods and passengers will not be subject to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement market access rules. This means that once in the EU, splitter vans will not be subject to the TCA restrictions on cross trade/cabotage for UK hauliers, and will be subject to individual Member States’ rules.’