By Mark Yaxley
General Manager – Strategic Wealth Preservation, Cayman Islands
“How do I get it there?” is a question I’m often asked by clients who wish to move their gold or silver from their homes into a foreign country. Usually, their intention is to move it to an offshore depository for long-term storage. Surprisingly, it’s much easier and far less risky than most people think, if done correctly. Hundreds of shipments containing relatively high values of gold and silver are shipped around the world, every day. Here’s how it works.
The truth is, hand-carrying your precious metals, either on a commercial flight, by cruise ship or by car, across foreign borders is completely legal, however it can present challenges. Firstly, there is the security risk, you could be robbed in transit, although this is unlikely if precautions are taken. Secondly, while in your possession, the metals are uninsured, so if something does go wrong, you’re straight out of luck. There is also the inconvenience and effort to factor in, especially in the case of silver, which is bulky and cumbersome if you’re thinking of moving any significant amount. Lastly, you have to deal with the customs aspect when arriving at a foreign border. That’s why I generally don’t recommend hand-carrying any more than the stated declaration amount into a foreign jurisdiction (currently $10,000 for the US and Canada, but amounts do vary from country to country).
Instead, there are two excellent options that exist for shipping precious metals in foreign countries.
Option #1 – FedEx or UPS (Couriers)
These reputable courier services are perfect for values ranging anywhere from USD $10,000 to $100,000. Although it’s true that if you walk into your local FedEx office today and try to ship $50,000 worth of Gold Maple Leaf coins, they will not accept the package. You need to work with a third-party company that has the ability to insure packages within the FedEx and UPS networks for higher values. One example is AIB Express (www.aibexpressonline.com). Many jewellers and precious metals dealers use AIB Express’ services to ship and insure high-value packages, both for domestic and international delivery.
The benefits of using FedEx or UPS are:
- The packages are delivered within 24-48 hours (the less time the package spends in transit, the better).
- These couriers have offices in most cities/countries.
- If a package does get stuck at Customs, their staff will work with you to clear it as quickly as possible.
A few things to consider when using FedEx or UPS are:
- A commercial invoice will be required for international shipments, including the type of metal being shipped, quantity and value.
- Packing the metals securely is critical. To meet insurance requirements, the contents must be ‘double-boxed’ (a box inside a box) and should be packed tightly to avoid any movement when in transit. You also don’t want your package to be making a jiggling noise as you hand it over to a FedEx or UPS employee …
As a general rule, you can expect the cost to ship gold via FedEx or UPS, in combination with a third-party company like AIB Express, to be approximately 1% of the value being shipped and about 2-3% for silver. The majority of that cost being the insurance, and the weight surcharge for silver.
Option #2 – Loomis or Brinks (Armored Car Companies)
Companies that specialize in high-value logistics like Loomis International and Brinks are ideal for shipments with a value above USD $100,000. In short, these guys are the pros. They move large sums of cash, jewellery, art, metals, and other high value items all day long, all over the world. Their security procedures and insurance policies are extremely robust. Once it’s in the hands of Loomis or Brinks, you can rest assured that it will arrive safely and without incident. We use Loomis on a regular basis to move large amounts of metal from the United States to Cayman for example.
Aside from the value (again I recommend only using them for shipments with a value above $100,000 due to their higher fixed costs), Loomis and Brinks will generally only pick up valuables from a business with an office, a storefront or from a bank. They generally don’t do home pick-ups and don’t accept deliveries by civilians to their facilities. If you meet these criteria, their services are ideal and cost effective. Again, commercial invoices will be necessary when shipping internationally, and their teams will assist to clear your valuables through customs and ensure safe delivery to the final destination.
VATs, Tariffs & Duties
One important area that must not be forgotten when shipping metals into another country are VATs (value added tax), tariffs & duties that may be applicable to the precious metals you are shipping. These vary from country to country, so you’ll want to research them prior to deciding where to send your metals. This information can be found online, relatively easily, by searching for ‘Tariff [insert name of country]’ for example. Once you’ve located the country’s tariff document, you can search for ‘gold’, ‘silver’, ‘bullion’, ‘coins’, etc., within the tariff document itself.
If shipping to a depository in a foreign country you can also request the assistance of the depository to 1) establish whether VATs, tariffs or duties will be applicable and 2) have them coordinate the shipping service for you (for example, we offer this service to our clients).
Hand carrying your precious metals into a foreign country is an option, but it isn’t always your best option. Using couriers like FedEx and UPS for smaller shipments (up to $100k USD) can be both cost and time effective and insurance is available through third-party companies. Use armored car companies for larger amounts ($100k+), and benefit from a professional level of service. If this is all too much for you, contact your trusted precious metals dealer or depository for assistance. If they are worth their salt, they’ll be able to arrange these services for you.
Mark Yaxley is the General Manager for Strategic Wealth Preservation (SWP), a premier offshore precious metals dealer and storage facility located in in the Cayman Islands. Following the completion of his studies at McGill University, Mark joined world-renowned Kitco Metals, serving as their Product Development Manager and Product Marketing Manager from 2006 to 2013. Mark joined Strategic Wealth Preservation in 2014, focusing on the diverse needs of SWP’s high-net-worth clients. He can be reached at email@example.com.