Musicians' guide to ATA Carnets Jump to main content

Musicians' guide to ATA Carnets

April 2022

The trade deal between the UK and the European Union did not contain any special provisions for the creative services industries. Musicians wishing to work in the EU will therefore now need to check whether a visa or work permit is required if they are taking their musical instruments or equipment with them when travelling.

For information about visas and work permits, ISM members can access an individual half-hour advice session through our visa and work permit advice service. They can also access a discounted rate if they appoint Viva La Visa to obtain visas or work permits on their behalf.

Documentation for your instruments and equipment

Musicians undertaking short-term work abroad taking their instruments and equipment with them will also need to satisfy the customs requirements of the places they are going, including the European Union (EU).

If you are planning to take your instrument into a country for a temporary period, eg when working or touring abroad, and returning home with your instrument, the simplest way to deal with customs declarations is to buy an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission Carnet). For more information about carnets, please see below.

Travelling with your instrument from Great Britain to the EU

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

Government guidance states that one option for moving musical instruments or equipment which are ‘accompanied’ (carried in an individual’s personal baggage or in a vehicle and transported by that individual throughout the journey) is to use temporary admission to pay no duty on them by going through the green ‘nothing to declare’ channel. This applies to both personal and business use.

However, if instruments are not accompanied (ie they are carried as freight) then customs formalities (through a declaration or use of a carnet) will be required. In these circumstances, a carnet will facilitate dealing with customs when entering and leaving the EU. Please see below for more information about carnets if this applies to you, including a significant discount on ATA Carnets which we have negotiated for ISM members.

The management of EU import and export procedures is the responsibility of the customs authorities of the Member States. It is important that businesses and individuals confirm the processes in advance of their journey. Please note, we have heard reports of at least one musician being fined at the Eurostar station in France for not being able to show proof of purchase of their accompanied instrument to customs officers on request. This meant that they could not prove that the instrument had been purchased for use for professional purposes and not for resale. You are therefore advised to take proof of purchase and ownership of any accompanied instruments you are travelling with.

ATA Carnets

The ATA 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.

Musical instruments and other related professional equipment transported from the UK fall under this category. An ATA carnet is valid for a maximum of one year and can be used on multiple journeys within that period. It must be stamped by the appropriate customs officials upon entry and exit of each country for which the carnet has been issued. Failure to do this may mean you have to pay customs duties or taxes, and even have your equipment seized.

You must also make sure that if your instrument or equipment is damaged while abroad you still bring it back to the UK: the key principle of a carnet is that you must bring back what you take out.

How to get a carnet

Carnets are issued by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCC) (and other local chambers of commerce in the UK). The cost of a carnet comprises two elements:

1. an issuing fee (currently £360)

2. a security deposit, determined by the value of the goods/equipment listed in the carnet, and the time you are abroad. Musical instruments and equipment security deposits are calculated between 30-40% of the value. The security deposit can be arranged by

  • a banker’s draft or cash, a bank guarantee or
  • via the LCC’s in-house Carnet Security Scheme (CSS) Guarantee. This is a one-off non-refundable payment in lieu of a banker’s draft or cash or bank guarantee, and useful if you do not have the cash (and cannot secure a bank draft or guarantee) to pay the security deposit.

    If you wish to buy a carnet, you will need to register and create a profile on the LCC’s website.
  • FAQS

    What is a carnet?

    An ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet is a customs document recognised by international treaty which can facilitate your compliance with customs requirements around the world, and which will eliminate the need for a Customs declaration at border points, and the requirement to import and export duties for your instrument in the country to which you are taking your instrument.

    Will I need a carnet to take my instrument to a country in the EU?

    Now that the UK has left the EU you will need to comply with EU Customs requirements for temporary admission for your instrument.

    What documentation or formalities are required will depend on whether you are taking your instrument with you as personal baggage, or moving it by freight. If you are accompanying your instrument (i.e. carrying it with you or taking it with you in personal baggage or a vehicle) the government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) advises that one option is to use temporary admission to pay no duty on them by going through the green ‘nothing to declare’ channel. However if you are not accompanying your instrument or equipment and are transporting it by freight, you will need a carnet.

    Download our full FAQs document

    Discounted Carnet service for ISM members

    The ISM is a member of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry and has secured discounted rates for ISM members for carnets.

    2021 rates for members:

    Issuing fee: £216 inc. VAT (a saving of £144 inc VAT).

    Security deposit: will vary according to the value of your equipment. The LCC has waived the administration fee for its in-house CSS scheme (a saving of £68.40 inc VAT for ISM members).

    Find out how to apply
    and create a profile.

    Transparency notice

    The ISM receives no commission or other form of benefit or remuneration from the sale of carnets to ISM members.