(From the past mission president)
Receiving packages for our missionaries remains a very frustrating task. Please be aware that we can't predict when your package will arrive without any problems, or when it will be stopped and returned by customs, or even disappear. Sometimes boxes are delivered but assessed fines. We've had huge, heavy boxes arrive without customs fines, and we've had small, light boxes arrive with fines. There is no pattern to what is held and what comes through without a problem.
Possibly the most frustrating situation is when a missionary's package is stopped by customs. We receive the notices, and we used to spend many hours both for our own personal packages and for boxes sent to missionaries, only to be told after the paperwork is all done that the package can't be released and must be returned to sender. Of the hundreds of packages held in customs, only ONE TIME did we get the package released from customs and delivered to the missionary. That was a new custom-fitted prosthetic leg for one of our elders.
You can try My Missionary Shipping which has the advantages of 1) the sender can track the box all the way to it's destination, and 2) faster delivery at a lower cost. We have problems with these packages getting stopped in customs too.
We can't predict when your package will arrive without any problems, or when it will be stopped (and possibly returned) by customs, or even disappear. We've had huge, heavy boxes arrive without customs fines, and we've had small, light boxes arrive with fines. But here are a few tips that may help:
- Small boxes or envelopes are better than big boxes. Big boxes seem to attract attention of customs agents.
- Complete the customs form required by the sender, and underestimate the value of the contents.
- Don't use the title "Elder" or "Sister" when you ship--just address it to your missionary's name.
- Never label your shipment as "medical supplies" or "medication". Spanish laws prohibit individuals from receiving medication by mail. If you feel you must send some type of meds, label it as "vitamins" or "tablets". Again, this is unpredictable. One Elder received a 3-month supply of medication with no problem, and another mother sent a box labeled "medical supplies", which had simple first-aid supplies like bandaids and ointment, and it was returned to the sender.
- If you are sending a pair of something, like shoes, consider sending them one at a time. Then you can honestly state a very low value!
- Please send mail to the mission office address. You can mail a package to the mission office also. Usually packages and mail are delivered to individual areas within two weeks. When mailing packages to the mission office, always include the name of the mission, so that if it does get delivered with a fine, someone from the mission can retrieve it without having to get written permission from the missionary. This is not so important for letters, as they never are assessed fines.
(from the current mission president)
Actually, we discourage packages as postage is expensive and they are often held by the "black hole" of Customs in Madrid, at which point we really can't do anything. Sometimes they do send it through but charge extra postage or "duty" (we've had packages cost 60 to 70 euros in addition to postage). A better idea might be to make sure your missionary has a debit (bank) card that you can put extra money on for birthdays etc. Then if you really need to send a gift, make it something thoughtful that doesn't cost much, sent to the mission office. Missionary mail slots are very small, and in the past, packages that have been left by the door have been stolen. Also, if they are transferred it may be difficult to get their packages to them. Hint - a picture or sticker of the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child on the outside seems to help packages get through. :)