June 5, 2023

CITES – How to travel or export exotic Hermès handbags

4 min read

CITES – stands for Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora. It’s an international agreement between governments to ensure safe and responsible international trade of wild animals, plants, or goods made out of them. 

The general idea is to provide a system on which you can prove that the animal or animal product came from a source that doesn’t pose a threat to the species. Allowing you to travel, import, or export such animals or products. 

What countries are part of the CITES convention?

To this date, there are 184 parties involved. Covering almost all the known countries. Just bear in mind that countries are allowed to have “Country-specific measures” and in some cases, the exact rules and details are constantly changing. 

For this reason, we strongly advise that you should always check the details regarding the countries that you plan to visit as well as for any import or export. You can find a list of all the countries that are part of the CITES convention on the following link, if you click on the country name you will see an overview of all the details, including a tab that mentions all the country-specific measures. 


Who needs a CITES?

When it comes to Hermès you will need a CITES whenever you plan to travel, export, or import any bag or accessory that is made out of exotic leather, this includes lizard, alligator, crocodile as well as special skins (such as elephant, whale, and others that were used on some vintage bags). 

You don’t need it for Hermès ostrich bags, since they are farmed in South Africa and most countries don’t regulate this leather. However, there have been cases of customers who got a CITES from Hermès for their Ostrich leather just to be on the safe side when traveling, in some cases, they also issue a letter stating the details and origin of the Ostrich to make clear it’s not regulated. 

What happens if you travel without a valid CITES?

In most countries, if you are not able to provide the required documentation and the CITES your bag or accessory could be destroyed, the exact procedures vary from country to country, we advise you to search ahead of time and make sure you carry all the necessary paperwork, also a piece of good advice is to make copies out of everything (including receipts, CITES and any other document they may ask for), we know some people have reported that they provided the original CITES or Hermès invoices and later were told those documents will never be returned, this is documents you definitely don’t want to lose the original. 

Also, if you are lucky, border patrol and customs may not notice the exotic leather and you could just walk by the airport or border without any issues. But we definitely don’t advise on this, while some countries are pretty relaxing when it comes to regulations on exotic leather you never know when things may change, and missing a single document could result in your bag getting destroyed. 

How to get a CITES certificate?

If you bought your bag or accessory directly from Hermès you can ask your SA to provide a CITES for it. Be aware that requesting this certificate can take weeks (usually 2 to 8 weeks, depending on the country) so it’s good to plan ahead and get it if you can. In some cases they may want to confirm with you the reason why you want the certificate, like where are you going and when, this doesn’t affect the certificate at all and it’s not required for it, but they are probably making sure you don’t plan to resell the bag or export it. 

If you are buying the bag on the second-hand market is always a great idea to check if it comes with the CITES. Especially if you are purchasing the bag online and it has to travel internationally, again remember your bag could get destroyed if it doesn’t have the right documentation in some countries. 

For all the other cases where the bag may not have a CITES and you are not the original owners, you will need to apply for a new CITES permit. The exact steps for this can get a bit tricky since every country is different. In some countries, you reach your local CITES office and submit some basic forms along with the receipt, while in some countries you may need to submit quite a lot of paperwork, in some cases across more than one organization to complete the whole process. 

Another important aspect is that some countries have different procedures and paperwork depending if you are just traveling with the bag or if you plan to import or export.  

eCITES or Electronic CITES Permit

This new initiative plan to bring the CITES permits to the digital age, making everything in a digital form. While most first-world countries have plans to join the electronic CITES permit system only a handful of them actually have some form of eCITES in use to this date. Most countries are still in the development phase, where they are establishing the systems and procedures to use eCITES in the near future.

To this date, these are the countries that are part of eCITES. You can see that only a few countries in yellow actually have some form of eCITES.

For more information please visit the eCITES website to check the latest details.


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