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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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Compare Package Forwarding Services

5 Reasons Shopping US Stores is Trendy

Let’s say you are currently overseas for business or pleasure, and you are missing all of the goodies back home in the U.S. You’ve just got to have them, right? We don’t blame you, which is why we dug deep to find the five most common reasons people shop online from U.S stores!

 

These reasons may just surprise you, or even inspire you. Either way, happy shopping!

 

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By Country Information

Hey, India! Order your favorite US items

Are you missing your favorite U.S skincare brands while overseas? Can’t get a hold of that grooming kit for your beard just like the one in the states? Want your hands first on that electronic or phone before it hits India?

Now you don’t have to miss any of your favorite products! Get your products sent to you at discounted rates when you need them. Take a look at this infographic US Delivered sent us over to learn more: 

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Expat Resources By Country Information

What Is A Mail Forwarding Service?

When you move from one home to another within or outside the US, you want to make sure you get your mail at your new address. Mail as in: tax notices from IRS, health care information from insurance companies, paper statements, bills, checks, federal notices, magazines, journals etc.
This happens via a mail forwarding request. Mail Forwarding is a service that allows you to get your mail from your old home at your new one. Increasingly that new home for your mail is now your device!

Physical mailbox in the cloud filled with paper mail

Will I get paper mail, in 2020?

 

Despite the technological advances in our lives, there are still a bunch of things that are only be delivered via paper mail. These include:

 

  • IRS notices – tax info, and bills
  • Social security – info, benefits and checks
  • INS notices – immigration notices
  • Credit and Debit cards
  • Passports
  • Drivers Licence
  • Jury duty notices
  • Hand written notes and cards

 

How does mail forwarding work?

 

When you move from one address to another, your mail needs to move too. You can either inform everyone who sends you physical mail- like your bank, the government, IRS, etc. of the new address, or you can simply forward your mail from your old address to the new one by filling out the change of address form with the USPS, when moving within the country.

 

Man & dog are running and a bird is carrying paper mail away with it

Moving within the US

 

So, how do you forward your mail to another address? You go online or to your local post office and fill the change of address form. 
 
There are 2 options when moving your address:

Permanent change of address: USPS will update your old address to your new one in their system. Any mail addressed to your old address will come to your new address.

This is a permanent change.

We recommended it when moving overseas or when you wish to keep one permanent address for life. And never have to deal with the hassle of changing your address again.

With this change, you should get a Virtual Mailbox so you can move as many homes or countries as you wish without ever changing your permanent address.

                                *  *  *

Temporary change of address: This method changes your address anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months at a time.

After the duration of change of address expires, USPS will stop forwarding your mail from the old to the new address.

The mail will start going back to your old address, unless you renew the forwarding again. You can do this again for 6 more months.

USPS does not state what happens after 6 months, but you could keep doing it on and on forever, if you wish.

Be prepared for delayed mail in the change of address process, mostly due to ineffectiveness of the US postal system.

The upside is this is a free service provided by USPS.

 

Man waiting for the mail next to an empty mailbox

Moving outside the US

 

USPS will forward mail internationally, but for a steep cost.

 

You can enroll in the USPS overseas mail forwarding service, which costs $21.10 retail or $19.35 if you enroll online. There’s an extra cost of $21.10 for each week of service.

 

The service will cost you $84.40/month. You will also pay shipping for all Priority Mail items that USPS will ship immediately as they are received.

 

Not a cost effective way to forward your mail overseas.

 

How long does it take for mail to be forwarded to a new address?

 

If there’s one thing certain in life, other than taxes, that is the fact that people will keep moving in the near future. According to reports, about 35.5 Million Americans move each year from some place to another.

 

We have already discussed what mail forwarding is, and why it’s something you probably want to consider when moving. Time is money however, and depending on your move date, you may want to get ahead of time & start right away the mail forwarding process. 

 

After you have completed your online application with the USPS, it will take about 10 to 15 days for your mail to show up in your Virtual Mailbox

 

Keep in mind, you’ll also need to fill out a 1583 Form which grants us permission to process & handle mail for you.

 

Person being sleepy

 

Mail forwarding can be such a convenience when the time comes where you need to move. Think about it; it saves all the hassle of emailing or calling friends & relatives and ensuring they got the new address you will be moving to.

 

Once you have decide to do a change of address, your friends or family will still get to address the same location on the envelope, and then the USPS knows automatically (given that you’ve completed the mail forwarding process) what address to send it to. 

 

But then that raises the question: Does forwarded mail take longer to arrive?

 

There is a lot of buzz online and horror stories on forwarded mail taking weeks for it to arrive to your new address. It is true that sometimes there are factors that can contribute to a piece of mail that is being forwarded to a new address, to be delayed. 

 

The short answer is no; forwarded mail does not take longer to arrive. 

 

USPS package distribution warehouse

 

Understanding how mail forwarding works, may be a good way to understand why your new address would not delay the delivery of your mail. 

 

When someone decides to send you some piece of mail, it is initially sent to a USPS station responsible with sorting out incoming mail. If you have completed the mail forwarding process with them, then by default they will know to change (re-address) the package that is intended to be sent to you. What that practically means, is that this re-address of your package, is a bit more instant than you’d imagine. 

 

Should I choose temporary or permanent mail forwarding to forward my mail?

 

The answer depends on your move:

 

  • Or moving cities within the US?
  • Or moving homes within the same city?
  • Are you moving to a permanent or a temporary home?

 

The best solution is to get a permanent address for life so you never have to change it again, no matter how many times you move.
Kind of like your cell phone number – you don’t change that anymore when we move, why keep changing your permanent address?

 

If moving overseas, you will need to keep a US address for many reasons. A permanent change of address makes sense in this case.

 

If moving within the US or within a city, it depends on your preference whether you wish to get mail at home, a PO Box or  a Virtual Mailbox. If former, do a change of address with USPS as mentioned above.

 

If you do not wish to give out your home address because you want it to stay private, or you get business mail or you get mail at different homes, you can have all that mail consolidated and be available via a Virtual Mailbox.

 

User interface of the virtual mailbox on a computer & smart phone

 

A mail forwarding service like US Global Mail will help you get your mail via a Virtual Mailbox, no matter where you move. You can see, read and take action on your mail online, which makes life so much easier and mail handling so easy.

 

How To Forward Mail

 

Step by step of how it works: You sign up with a mail forwarding company and get a US address. This address is your anchor while you move around the globe. Your mail forwarding sign up will also come with a Virtual Online Mailbox. The process is simple:

 

  1. You get a local US address (make sure it is a street address, not a PO box). The State your address is in or place does not matter as long as it in the US.
  2. You fill a change of address form at post office fill online informing USPS that you have a new address where you mail should be delivered.
  3. Your mail and items start arriving at the mail forwarding company. The mail forwarding company then uploads the items to your online virtual mailbox.
  4. You  see those items online and decide what you want to do with them. Depending on the features offered by the mail forwarding provider, you can get mail opened and scanned or shipped, get items packed together and shipped, discard any junk mail etc.

 

What to look for in a mail forwarding service?

 

Unlocking the mystery of mail forwarding services: here are 10 things you should look for in a mail forwarding service.

 

Child at the "love locks" tourist attraction in Paris

 

There are many, many companies out there that offer mail forwarding services. Before we tell you about all our research, here is a word of caution: never sign up for one from Craigslist or such services. These might be scammers trying to get your mail!

 

What to look for when signing up with a mail forwarding company?

 

Of course, we think we are the best but you should look around and choose one that will work best for you. We want you to choose us only if we are a good fit for you. When shopping around, look for:

 

  1. Reputation: how long has the company been around, BBB rating, reviews, how secure is your mail with them
  2. Prices: how upfront and clear is their pricing, how competitive are their shipping rates.
  3. Plans: do they offer comprehensive plans for your/your family?
  4. Shipping Rates: This is a biggie! And can add up your costs significantly. Check if the service charges “retail” shipping rates meaning they don’t give you any discount on shipping and keep the discounts they get from shippers like UPS, FedEX, DHL etc for themselves?
    Or do they offer  you discounted shipping rates so you can ship for a lot less when you need to ship your mail or other items to yourself.
  5. Customer service: do they have a way for you to talk to them, do they have live phone and chat support, or is it a bot and what is the email response time? When you need a shipment to sent out asap or when you need a mail piece scanned within the hour, this matters a lot.
    At US Global Mail, we ship all requests received by 1pm the same day. And our email response times are usually less than 4 hours.

 

We did a comparison of the more popular mail forwarding companies to see how they stack up against each other. You can see the info pasted below and a larger chart here.

Mail forwarding price comparison chart