If you are looking to send a package internationally, you might be feeling overwhelmed by the number of options that you have to choose from, and unsure about a lot of the parameters you will be dealing with. Most people are familiar with first-class mail when sending items within their home country, but less so when sending them abroad.
The First-Class Package International Service is a USPS service, designed for shipping small packages abroad. It is intended for relatively low value items, and is available to almost every country in the world. It’s a great way to ship small items internationally.
How Do You Use USPS’s First-Class Package International Service?
You can use USPS’s First-Class Package International Service by logging into the website and purchasing a shipping label, or going into a USPS store and asking an employee to help you. They will be able to correctly weigh and price the item for you, and will pass it into the USPS system.
USPS will transport the items across the country, and then hand them to relevant participating couriers in other countries for transport and delivery.
Anyone can use USPS’s first-class package international service to send mail abroad, and it can be used for any small items, provided they are legally allowed to be shipped and they do not go over the weight limit.
What Can You Send Via The First-Class Package International Service?
There are some fairly strict stipulations regarding the first class packages. They have to be a certain size, weight, and value to use this service.
Packages must be a minimum of 4 wide by 6 inches high. However, they must not be larger than 24 inches long, with a maximum combined depth, length, and height of 36 inches (length being the longest dimension). They also cannot weigh more than 4 pounds, or have a value of more than $400.
You can send rolls using the First-Class Package International Service too, and these must be a minimum of 4 inches long. They must be less than 36 inches long, and not weigh more than 4 pounds, or exceed $400 in value.
If your item does not meet these criteria, you may not be able to send it via the First-Class Package International Service, and might have to choose another mailing option.
If your package does meet these criteria but you have reason to believe it may be mistaken for other categories of mail (due to size or shape), you should write “LETTER-POST” on the package. This is a requirement for any mail that might cause confusion, so make sure you do this.
How Fast Does The First-Class Package International Service Travel?
This will depend heavily on the destination; packages that are going further will take longer to be delivered. However, the estimate is usually 1-4 weeks. That might seem like a broad estimate, but when you remember that this service runs in almost 200 countries, it’s not so surprising.
USPS cannot offer more accurate updates, because of how far-reaching this service is, and how unpredictable moving mail across long distances can be. The mail is far more likely to be delayed when traveling internationally. It is also dependent on the networks of other couriers once it has left the US, which introduces more scope for delays.
It’s important to note that this time estimate doesn’t account for delays such as customs; it assumes that everything will go smoothly. If there is a customs charge to be paid, the mail will be delayed until this charge has been settled in most cases.
Where the item is mailed from in the US may also make a difference. The package might have to travel across a large part of America before it even goes international, so be aware of this and take it into account when calculating shipping times.
How Much Can You Insure An Item For Using The First-Class Package International Service?
Unfortunately, you cannot usually insure mail that is sent using the First-Class Package International Service. Insurance is not an option offered by USPS in most cases, so you shouldn’t use this service to send valuable or important items. If they get lost, you will have no official recourse and you will not be offered any compensation.
This is why USPS limits items sent using this method to $400 at the most. It is intended to protect customers from losing extremely valuable items by sending them without insurance.
If you wish to send your item with insurance, you will have to use one of the other mailing services provided by USPS or other couriers. These will often come at a higher cost, but it may be worth it if your item has value and you want to ensure that it gets to its final destination.
Don’t send high-cost items without some form of insurance. You may lose out on a lot of money if you try this, as a lot can go wrong when packages are shipped internationally, and plenty of parcels go missing.
There are a few limited situations in which you may be able to get a small amount of insurance on these packages – see below for details.
What Extras Can You Add To The First-Class Package International Service?
Although you can’t usually add insurance to this kind of package, there are other extras that you can add for additional fees. The list includes:
- Certificate of Mailing
- Package Pickup
- Pickup on Demand
- Return Receipt Service (only if you use the Registered Mail Service)
- Registered Mail Service (in some cases, this may include some limited insurance, but you will only be able to get this for certain country destinations; talk to a USPS employee for more details about this option)
- Electronic USPS Delivery Confirmation International
If you want to add any of these extras, you can do so online, or by talking to staff at your local post office.
Can You Send Letters Using The First-Class Package International Service?
No, you cannot send letters using the First-Class Package International Service. This is intended for packages only, and any items under the minimum size requirements quoted above will be rejected and sent using a different method.
This is usually First Class Mail International, and it is intended for postcards, letters, and large letters. Prices for this service vary based on the weight of the item. There are other options, but this is the equivalent of the First-Class Package International Service if you want to send a letter.
How Much Does The First-Class Package International Service Cost?
The price depends on the weight and size of the item that you are sending, but prices start from $14.85. Commercial rates start from $14.11.
It’s best to check the weight of your package and then look on USPS’s website or talk to your local USPS store to get an idea of what it may cost to send. This will ensure that you get accurate, up to date information about the price.
Is The First-Class Package International Service Affordable?
The First-Class Package International Service is one of the cheapest services for sending mail abroad, so it is pretty affordable. USPS is partnered with various other mailing companies across the globe to ensure that mail can be transported and delivered cheaply and effectively.
Of course, this comes at the cost of speed, because this service is not a quick one. If you want your package to arrive quickly, you will have to pay considerably more to send it. The First-Class Package International Service is one of the more economical options, but it certainly isn’t the quickest.
Should You Use The First-Class Package International Service?
You should use the first-class package international service if you don’t need an item to arrive particularly quickly and it is within the parameters above (in terms of size and item value). It isn’t the fastest of the shipping services when sending mail abroad, but it is a fairly cheap option, which makes it attractive to many users.
This is particularly true for businesses that ship a lot of items abroad. If your customers are happy to wait for an item to be mailed, this service is ideal because it is reasonably low cost. However, if your customers expect their items more quickly, you may need to choose another service.
What Other International Services Are Available?
There are a few other services offered by USPS, as well as those offered by private couriers, which may have different advantages and disadvantages. Almost all of USPS’s other services will be more expensive, although they may offer things like insurance and more flexibility regarding package size and weight.
You can choose from any of the following:
- Global Express Guaranteed
- Priority Mail Express International
- Priority Mail Express International Flat Rate
- Priority Mail International
- Priority Mail International Flat Rate
- Airmail M-Bags
- International Priority Airmail
- International Surface Air Lift
- International Business Reply Service
These are almost exclusively more expensive, as the First-Class Package International Service tends to be USPS’s cheapest offering for international mail. Things like Priority Mail will move more quickly, however, and you should be able to purchase insurance if you use one of these services. In some situations, therefore, they are a better option.
Should You Use The First-Class Package International Service?
Whether you should use this service or not depends upon your mailing needs. If you are operating a business, you may find the service useful to transport goods to international customers cheaply and simply, although you should be aware of (and communicate) the length of time that can be involved.
Similarly, if you are shipping items to friends or family abroad, you might find the First-Class Package International Service is the best and most economical option, especially if you are careful about sending things in advance.
However, it is also worth comparing this service with the services offered by other couriers, as you may find a better deal (in terms of price or speed) elsewhere. Don’t forget to check what weight and size band your package falls into first, however, or you won’t be able to compare accurately.
Are Any Items Prohibited Using The First-Class Package International Service?
There are restrictions about what you can send abroad, and it is important to familiarize yourself with these before you attempt to utilize this service. Sending banned goods will result in confiscation, sometimes of the entire package. Even if an item can be shipped nationally, it may be prohibited in your destination country, so pay attention to this.
Some items are prohibited entirely, including:
- Nail polish
- Hemp-based products
- Dry ice
Other items may be sent in some cases, but you should familiarize yourself with the restrictions surrounding them. These products include:
- Live animals
Get a full list from USPS before you pack your items and make sure that you are aware of any restrictions or prohibitions before you send the package. This will ensure that you aren’t sending things you shouldn’t be, and reduces the risk of your package being held up by officials or getting confiscated.
Mailing can be a minefield, so get in touch with USPS if you are having trouble with the First-Class Package International Service or understanding its limits and restrictions. You want to make sure that you are sending your package using the cheapest and fastest service available, and an employee should be able to help you determine this.
You can also make your mailing life easier by getting a Virtual Mailbox from US Global Mail. This provides a secure location that you can have packages delivered to, whether they were shipped nationally or internationally. These packages will be signed for and stored safely until you are able to collect them.
If you are running a business with a lot of international mailing, this can take the headache out of deliveries and make life more straightforward. Even individuals can benefit massively from this; it saves you from wasting time waiting for deliveries that are delayed or never arrive!