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Expat Mail Forwarding (the why, how and what in 2020)

 
 
Moving abroad- whether for work, retirement or other reasons- can be equally exhilarating and nerve wrecking. There are mixed emotions of sadness at leaving behind family and friends and the thrill of starting a new adventure.
 

One question that expats often miss in the hustle bustle of moving, is what will happen to the paper mail that they get at home. Even if you have moved your banking online and get most bills via email, there are still many pieces of mail for example from the IRS, tax notices, new credit cards, renewed Drivers License, and other paperwork that comes only via mail.

 

USPS will forward mail internationally for a steep cost. You can enroll in the USPS forwarding service, which costs $21.10 retail or $19.35 if you enroll online. There’s an additional cost of $21.10 for each week of service. So about $84.40/month and Priority Mail items are are sent at an additional cost. Ouch!

 

US Airlines

 

Depending on what country you move to, getting mail can be difficult.  And keeping a US address even when you are overseas is important if you bank in the US or expect to deposit any checks in the US. Many companies, not to mention government services, require one, even if it is not your official residence.
Which begs the question:

 

How do I forward my mail to another address overseas?

 

You can do that via the USPS by getting a PO Box, and the USPS will forward your mail to your international destination. Other options include:


(1) Ask a family member or a reliable friend to pick up your mail daily

(2) Forward your mail to a family member’s or friend’s home address

(3) Use a professional mail forwarding service

 

Let’s start by looking at how you go about getting a PO Box, and then we will move on to the other options we just mentioned.

 

How to Get a PO Box with The United States Postal Service

 

To make this as easy as possible to understand, we are going to go through each step in detail, so you can decide whether this is the right option for you. Just make sure you don’t make any set-in-stone choices yet since we still have to tell you about the best way to go about your expat mail forwarding.

 

Step One: Choose a PO Box Size

 

The United States Postal Service offers 5 different PO box sizes. Namely extra small, small, medium, large, and extra large. Thankfully, they also tell you what each of these can hold! We will have a closer look at them now:

 

  • Extra small (3 inches x 5.5 inches) — this one can hold around 10 to 15 letters or 2 magazines (rolled up). The depth is around 14.75 inches which is a universal size throughout all PO boxes.
  • Small (5 inches x 5.5 inches) — this option can hold around 10 to 15 letters or 5 magazines (rolled up).
  • Medium (5.5 inches x 11 inches) — this one can hold large envelopes and magazines that are stacked flat.
  • Large (11 inches x 11 inches) — if you receive larger packages, you will want to go with this one. It can hold around 2 shoeboxes and 10 to 15 letters at the same time.
  • Extra large (12 inches x 22.5 inches) — this one can hold a number of flat rate boxes and parcels, along with letters too of course.

 

Step Two: Reserve Your PO Box

 

Once you know which size will suit you best, you need to search for the post office that is nearest to your home. Then, just click “reserve a new PO box”.

 

Step Three: Pick Your Payment Period

 

There are multiple payment periods that you can select. It is up to you and your financial needs as to which one will fit you best.

 

Step Four: Enter Your Contact and Billing Information

 

You will be asked to supply the obvious information like your first name, last name, address, card number, security code, expiry date, and a few other bits. After you have hit “submit”, you are able to move onto the final step.

 

Step Five: Validate Your ID and Pick Up Your PO Box Keys

 

By law, you have to validate your identity in person. So, you need to go down to your PO box location with two forms of government-approved ID. The primary form needs to be a federal, state, or tribal photo card. You can choose from the following:

 

  • State driver’s license
  • Non-driver’s ID card
  • US Armed Forces card
  • Uniformed Service ID card
  • US passport
  • US passport card
  • US university identification
  • Corporate identification
  • Any card issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • US naturalization certificate
  • US citizenship certificate
  • Tribal identification card

 

The secondary form can be one of these:

 

  • Lease agreement
  • Deed of trust
  • Mortgage agreement
  • Voter registration card
  • Vehicle registration card
  • Home insurance policy
  • Form I-94
  • Vehicle insurance policy
  • Utility bill

 

After they have been approved by the person at the post office desk, your keys will be handed over to you. Then you can do a little celebration dance because the PO box is yours!

 

Ask someone to pick up your mail daily

 

Works short-term. Long term though… not really. If your close friend or brother asks you to pick their mail for a week, that’s fine. You can help out! But picking up their mail daily for a month or a year sounds crazy. Plus, are you comfortable when your friend or sibling looks through your bank statements or W4 form?

 

person giving out mail

 

Forward your mail to a friend’s home

 

Are you comfortable with your friend or sibling looking at your tax documents or W4’s? Even if you can compromise your mail privacy and confidentiality, you still have the issue of getting it to yourself. Are they going to go to the Post office and mail your stuff every week?

 

Use a mail forwarding service

 

A mail forwarding company receives your mail, gives you near real time access to it so you can view it, read the contents and have it bundled and forwarded to your new home or office or any place in the world.

 

Can USPS forward mail internationally?

 

As we mentioned briefly earlier, you can ask the USPS to forward your mail overseas. But it is ridiculously expensive. It would almost be more worthwhile to fly back to pick up your packages, parcels, and letters up yourself!


The best way to get your mail securely, in near real time so you can act on it as soon as needed, is to use a professional mail forwarding company.

 

USPS mail

 

How do mail forwarding services work?

 

Mail forwarding services give you a US address which you use to redirect your mail to. You fill out a change of address form with the USPS and tell USPS to start sending your mail to the new address.  When your mail arrives at this address, the mail forwarding company will usually
 
 
– upload it to a Virtual mailbox, which you can access via a secure login
– you can see images of your envelopes and boxes along with other info like sender, weight, dimensions of boxes etc.
– you can take actions on your mail to have it opened and scanned to read contents
– you can store your mail for some time and then have it bundled and shipped together to your new home
 
At US Global Mail, we have helped over 80,000+ expats with our mail forwarding service.
 
 

Top Reasons Expats Need Mail Forwarding

 

Shop Any US Website. Whenever you are overseas, that can make getting items from your favorite US companies in the mail, a problem or a difficult attempt. Many companies do not ship overseas or if they do ship, then you can expect to pay some very high shipping fees. With a US address, you are able to receive all those items at your US location, and from there we can ship them to you at up to 80% off the typical cost you would.

 

Direct Access To Mail. When getting a virtual mailbox, you are able to stay on top of mail 24/7, with your own login credentials. It’s a bit similar to e-mail, only for mail & packages. Log into your account, request a mail scan or have some item shipped; all with the click of a button.

 

Cloud Storage. When you get mail, all items are scanned and uploaded into your virtual mailbox. You can receive an unlimited number of mail items to your address with unlimited storage. You can also store your items up until 180 days, free of charge. And eve if you do need to store items for a longer period of time, it only costs a few additional cents for your item. Saving files online, makes accessing files more reliable and a cheaper option for your mail.

 

Privacy. When you have mail clerks are the company you work at, handle your mail and ship to you, then you probably have a series of people that get to your mail before you do. With a virtual mailbox, you are the first one to access all important documents from your phone or computer, without a bunch of intermediaries. Communication with customer service can be done within the app as well; so any request you need, can be completed within just a few clicks.

 

It’s More Reliable. The alternative to having a professional company handling your mail, is having some relative or friend picking up mail on your behalf, heading over to the post office and shipping them out. As you can realize, over the course of several weeks and months, this can turn into a part time job for your friend. And even if you did have someone so committed to just deal with your mail, they probably would have to work it into their schedule to get it shipped to you in time (making up for several delays, or mistakes in forwarding on your items.) When you have a professional mail forwarding company handling this on your behalf (and especially a company like US Global Mail that has been around for 20+ years,) you are assured to get your mail on time.

 

How much does mail forwarding cost?

 

US Global Mail plans start from $10/month. You can view our plans and pick one that works best for you. USPS mail forwarding is $84.40/month. Here’s a comparison cost chart of some of the common services.

 

Is a Smart Mailbox Going to be Your New Best Friend?

 

The likely answer is, yes! Virtual mailboxes are a fantastic way to make sure all your important documents reach you, no matter where you are in the world (which expats benefit greatly from, of course). But to give you a better idea, let’s go through all the advantages you will gain by opening a smart mailbox.

 

Trustpilot reviews

 

1. Mail Security and Privacy

 

Identity and package theft is a growing concern throughout most countries these days (sadly). It just isn’t safe to have your parcels and letters left in a previous neighbors’ box or outside their door anymore, especially if you have moved overseas.

 

With a virtual mailbox, this won’t be a concern anymore.

 

You get access to your mail online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Not to mention that your delivery is guaranteed. There won’t be any missed or stolen packages anymore. You can cross that off your “things to stress about” list!

 

By now, you are probably wondering how all of that is possible. Don’t worry, we will tell you how it works.

 

Firstly, the apps use industry-leading security that will always work. Yep, we’re talking bank-grade encryption here — your mail security is not a joke to us! Any information that travels through our warehouses and servers is protected against hackers and thieves.

 

Secondly, all the staff members are aware of the privacy policies, compliances, and controls they must abide by in order to give you the best service imaginable. So, no matter where you are in the world, your US mail will be kept safe from your old neighbors, nosy family members, and the government. Basically, privacy is our middle name.

 

Thirdly, 2-step verification is enabled on all accounts to ensure it is really you trying to look at your incoming mail. It isn’t just your username and password you need, but also a secondary bit of information to ensure complete security, all the time.

 

Finally, you can always change how you handle your mail data. Whether you want to back it up, download it, or delete it entirely, it’s up to you.

 

2. Check Your Mail Any Time

 

Since you are an expat, you probably aren’t going to be in your old home country all that often, right? Not to worry, with a virtual mailbox you can access all your mail, no matter where you are in the world.

 

Missing important bills or documents is a thing of the past!

 

3. Never Have to Enlist People’s Help with Your Mail Again

 

Asking a previous neighbor or your old colleagues to take care of your mail until the next time you fly over to sort it can be incredibly stressful. You are likely to receive important documents such as tax notices, IRS letters, passport renewals, credit cards, insurance paperwork, bills, and checks that you won’t want people snooping through. Makes sense!

 

In this case, a smart mailbox is definitely the right way to go. You can have your super-important letters scanned immediately so you can sort them out on the day they’re delivered. And, you can make sure everything is bundled up and shipped to your new overseas address insanely quickly.

 

4. You Can Still Shop In the USA

 

Depending on where you live now, they might not support the importation of American goods. As an expat, you are bound to be fairly frustrated by this — hence another reason to set up a virtual mailbox. You can shop online in the United States of America, have it shipped to that address, and then tell the expert mail handlers that you want it sent to your current address. It’s as easy as a, b, c!

 

5. You Will Be Saving the Planet

 

You know as much as we do how annoying spam mail is — supermarket coupons, pizza deliveries, gym brochures — and you won’t even be in the US to be able to use them, so why bother getting them forwarded by the USPS?

 

With a smart mailbox, the professional handlers will discard anything that is clearly spam before they upload your mail every day. You won’t even have to see the annoying stuff. The best part is, these pizza deliveries advertisements won’t just be going to the landfill. Instead, they are recycled to ensure we do our bit to save the trees.

 

6. You Can Have the Same Mailing Address for the Rest of Your Life

 

Yup, you read that right; we thought we would leave the best till last!

 

We are going to assume that you’ve moved a lot in your life. Correct? We thought so. And with each move comes all the boring paperwork — including changing your address with the USPS, your driver’s license, passport, and everything else. It’s hard work.

 

But that all changes with a virtual mailbox. Regardless of where you move, your mailing address can stay the same. Perfect, isn’t it?

 

The Bottom Line

 

Here at US Global Mail, we have helped over 80,000 expats find freedom with their mail thanks to our awesome smart mailbox. We can’t help to start making your snail mail dreams come true! If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to get in touch. We are always happy to help.

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NY, CA, TX, FL – what state should your mail forwarding address be in 2020? The answer will surprise you!

So, when you are ready to sign up for a mail forwarding service after you do all the due diligence (rates, plans, shipping prices, trustworthiness etc,) do you look for a service that lets you reserve an address in the same state you are moving out of?

 

Don’t. Your mail forwarding address should be state-agnostic. Really, its a virtual address, in the cloud. So the state does not matter one bit. There are far more important criteria that you should consider, when choosing this important service. Click here for a list of important factors to consider & associated pricing.

 

One of the biggest advantages of moving forward with a virtual address is that it does not have to be tangibly associated with your actual physical location – wherever that might be on the planet today.

 

There’s absolutely no reason whatsoever you could be sitting on a beach in Miami while using a virtual address based out of New York City – using that same address when you decide to spend a month in Thailand, a week in Moscow, or a weekend in Paris.

 

In fact, some would argue that the biggest leverage you get out of a virtual address is the fact that it isn’t ever tied to your physical location. Why waste that big benefit when you don’t have to?

 

Let’s dig a little bit deeper into where you should set up your virtual address moving forward!

 

World traveler stepping on the top of a Globe map

 

Does the state of my address matter? Will I become a resident & pay taxes in the state in which I have my mail forwarding address?

 

Once you fill out a change of address form with the USPS, it will forward your mail to that address, irrespective of where in the US it is. And US laws don’t make you liable for taxes in any state without living there. Just having an address in the state does not mean you become a resident of that state.

 

Just to be perfectly clear, this means that you can have a mailing address set up through your forwarding service based out of Reno, Nevada while your business, your job, and your entire life is headquartered in Saginaw, Michigan.

 

There’s no rules, no regulations, and no laws restricting you from having this kind of setup. On top of that, there’s absolutely zero penalty whatsoever to having your mailing address physically separate from your physical address.

 

As long as you still pay your state and federal taxes based on the rules, regulations, and laws dictating that based upon your physical location and where you have earned your income you have no worries at all.

 

On the flip side of things, it’s important to understand that you are not going to be able to use this mailing address from a company like US Global Mail as proof of residency somewhere else.

 

Florida citizens do not have to pay state income taxes, but that doesn’t mean that a US Global Mail based out of Tampa, Florida while you are living and working in New York City gives you those same tax benefits.

 

That’s just not the way the system works and it’s critically important that you understand that going forward.

 

How does it work?

 

You can simply forward your mail from your existing address to the address of the mail forwarding company, and no one will be wiser! That is no one will know what your new address is – they will keep sending you mail at the old address and USPS will redirect it to your  new address. The redirect request with the USPS will work for 6 months at a time and will have to be renewed. This option is also great when you don’t want to move your address permanently and expect to cancel the mail forwarding service at some time in the future.

 

There are a whole host of other benefits you get to take advantage of when you move forward with a mail forwarding service like US Global Mail, too.

 

We are talking about benefits like:

 

  • Extra anonymity and privacy with these kinds of mailing addresses
  • The ability to eliminate junk mail from your life forever
  • An opportunity to know EXACTLY what has been sent to you before you check your mailbox
  • An opportunity to digitize your entire mail reception history for your own personal records
  • The chance to search that digital record quickly, easily, and effectively
  • Check-cashing services that have all checks redirected to your bank directly to be deposited ASAP

 

… And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

 

It’s not hard to see why so many people choose to take advantage of mail forwarding services today.

 

Condominiums in downtown Miami

 

Fancy/Premium addresses:  Mail forwarding companies or commercial mail receiving agencies (CMRA’s) sometimes will offer a choice of several states and addresses to you. Your personal mailbox number could potentially be in New York, Florida, Texas, California, the possibilities are endless! However, these fancy or “premium” addresses can come at a steep price; often a discreet +$14.99 is hidden somewhere! Watch out. And don’t pay for something you absolutely will get no additional value out of. Instead choose the service that works best for your needs.

 

Truth be told, those “premium addresses” are almost never worth the extra price tag.

 

Sure, the vanity address can be cool – for little while – but who is really paying attention to your address (your mailing address, anyway) enough for that to matter?

 

The odds are pretty good that they shine out those premium, fancy vanity addresses will wear off pretty quickly. Well before the price tag comes down, anyway.

 

All the money you would have spent on those vanity addresses can be redirected to get a couple of months – or even a year – of quality mail forwarding and mail scanning services from an organization like US Global Mail, without missing out of any of the benefits those addresses would have brought to the table.

 

When is having an address in a particular state important?

 

If you have a business and you are based in Florida and you need to bill your customers, it makes total sense to have a billing address in the city or at least the state you operate from. From a customer standpoint, it looks less suspicious. They won’t have to question the authenticity of who they are sending their money to. Certain health care providers will also require you to reside in the state you are covered in to maintain your insurance rates. The rates for insurance coverage can vary state-to-state. If you like the plan you currently have, it would be very important to maintain an address in your current residency state. If you are trying to be discreet about moving or traveling abroad, then you do have the anonymity of maintaining your residency state address. Other than those few areas though, there’s no issue in having an address in a different state; rather it’s just a preference. In that case, those options are certainly available to you!

 

The real big benefit in moving forward with a mail forwarding service that lets you pick where your new mailing address is located is the freedom you are afforded with that choice.

 

If you want your customers to feel like you are more of a local business than you are, by all means pick and address near where most of them live – even while you run that business from across the country or across the world.

 

If you want your customers to feel like you are more of a “global business”, don’t be shy about picking a mailing address in any of the major financial hub cities in the country – cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston.

 

If you just want an extra layer of security and protection when you give up your mailing address, pick and address that sits squarely in middle America. Something in Ohio, something in Iowa, and something in Wisconsin works just as well as anything else!

 

The freedom for you to pick and choose where you are new mailing address is located is a huge advantage you don’t want to overlook.

 

The Dallas skyline

Vanity Addresses: are they really worth it?

 

So, you’ve researched a few mail forwarding companies; one company offers a real street address in Nevada. Another company offers 3 street addresses (one in Wisconsin, one in Texas, and one in New York etc.) In this example, let’s say the Wisconsin address is their standard address. The Texas and NY addresses are premium (meaning they cost more.) Standard mailbox prices are usually “free”, or, included in the price of membership. The prices for a premium address can range anywhere from an extra $4.95 per month and all the way up to $12.95 per month.

 

So the real question is: what is the value in these “premium” addresses? Is it just the address itself? The location? Convenience? Why would you want to pay extra for a mailing address? Here you will find, transparent pricing with no hidden fees nor unnecessary addresses that beef up your bill.

 

It all comes down to your expectations, your budget, and the kinds of services that come included with that new “premium” address.

 

If you are paying a mountain of money for nothing more than a vanity address, is it really worth the extra expense, headache, and hassle to move forward?

 

Or would you rather spend that money on a full-service, top to bottom mail scanning and mail forwarding organization that offers a whole host of other benefits on top of a new, discrete mailing address?

 

The choice is yours and yours alone. Only you will be able to know what your best fit the be.

 

Payment Example

 

You want a personal mailing address to give out to your friends and family and you want a separate address for your bills and taxes, all on the same account of course:

 

  • Standard mailing address on an individual plan, $25/mo
  • Premium mailing address on an individual plan $25 + $4.95/mo
  • Separate 1583 forms for the addresses which need to be notarized
  • One forwarding request (you can only have one open at a time via USPS), then reach out to everyone who needs your change of address

 

A lot of the premium address locations are UPS storefronts. Not a private office or warehouse that deals specifically with commercial mail and package forwarding, a UPS store. Which is why these addresses are not equipped to handle all incoming mail and packages. They literally are not built for it. On top of that, each location will handle mail differently, since the UPS stores are not owned or managed by the CMRA, the possibility of errors occurring increases dramatically.

 

Delayed access to mail

Another issue with using vanity addresses is that often times the mail from those addresses is sent to the company central warehouse for processing. This means a delay for 3-5 business days on your mail. Using the company central warehouse address gets you access to your mail much quicker.

 

For example, at US Global Mail, we enter all mail received within 12 – 24 hours in customer virtual mailboxes.

 

Access to digital mail through the virtual mailbox

Final thoughts:

 

In a nutshell, if you absolutely cannot live without an address in a particular state, use the mail redirect option with the USPS and keep forwarding your mail. That lets you keep your address intact.

 

Otherwise, simply do a permanent change of address with the USPS and rest easy. You will get your mail via a Virtual Mailbox anyway!

 

At the end of the day, it really does come down to your goals, your expectations, and your budget.

 

There are a lot of options out there to pick and choose from – including moving forward with the USPS. But services like US Global Mail provide a lot of benefits that the USPS simply cannot provide right now and may never be able to offer in the future, too.

 

Look at how you hope to take advantage of these mail forwarding services today and in the future and choose a service that’s going to best align with those goals. Find a service that is affordable, reputable, and reliable and you won’t have any headache or hassle moving forward.

 

Best of luck!