What To Do With Mail When Moving Overseas

Written by
Amber Hobert
Published on
September 16, 2022
Table of Contents

Handling Your Mail When Moving Abroad

You might want to consider your mailing address if you're leaving the country for work, study, or retirement and are uncertain about how long you'll be away. You can either maintain a U.S. mailing address or get a new one at your new home abroad.

As opposed to the good old days of going through the post office, today, you can take advantage of a reliable postal service that might not always be available in your current location. You need to find a reliable postal service wherever you are moving or traveling to get some of the benefits we're used to from our USPS (United States Postal Service).

You may also require a U.S. mailing address for certain services. For example, you need a U.S. address to maintain your U.S. bank account. So, what do you do with your mail when you move abroad? It's a common question, so in this article, I explore the various options and how to go about it.

What To Do With Mail When Relocating Abroad

You can choose three options when it comes to mail management, depending on your needs while traveling overseas. They are:

Option One: Send them to your overseas address

You can pay the USPS a high fee to send your mail overseas if you don't want to pay for a subscription or have your loved ones sift through your personal information. You could also sign up for the USPS forwarding service, which costs $21.10 in-store or $19.35 online.

Each week of service incurs an extra fee of $21.10. In total, it costs roughly $84.40 each month. Priority mail products are sent to you at an additional expense. You must use the USPS and have a P.O. Box to have your mail forwarded to a foreign location. The USPS will deliver your mail to your international destination.

How do I obtain a USPS P.O. Box?

I will review each step to make things as simple as possible so you can determine if this is the right option for you.

Step One: Determine the postal service box size

The United States Postal Service provides five distinct sizes of P.O. boxes. They are extra-large, large, medium, small, and extra small. As you must have guessed, the bigger the size, the higher the cost.

  • Extra big (12 inches x 22.5 inches) – This one can contain a lot of flat rate boxes, parcels, and mail.
  • Large (11 inches × 11 inches) – Use this size if you get larger parcels. It can contain approximately two shoeboxes and ten to fifteen letters simultaneously.
  • Medium (5.5 inches x 11 inches) – This one can carry stacked, flat big envelopes and magazines.
  • Small (5 x 5.5 inches) – This size can hold 10 to 15 letters or five rolled-up magazines.
  • Extra small (3 inches by 5.5 inches) - Contains around 10 to 15 letters or two magazines (rolled up). The depth is approximately 14.75 inches, which is the standard size for all P.O. boxes.
Step Two: Request a postal service box

Go to the USPS website and search for the post office closest to your home once you've determined which size is appropriate for you. Then just click "reserve a new P.O. box."

Step Three: Decide your payment period

There are a variety of payment periods to choose from. Select the one that best fits your financial situation.

Step Four: Enter your contact and billing information

You will be asked for basic information such as your first and last name, address, card number, security code, expiration date, and a few other details. After clicking "submit," you may go to the next stage.

Step Five: Collect your P.O. Box keys and verify your id

You are required by law to prove your identity in person. So, bring two kinds of government-issued identification to your P.O. Box location. The principal form must be a federal, state, or tribal picture identification card. You have the following options:

  • U.S. passport card
  • Corporate identification
  • A US naturalization certificate
  • A US citizenship certificate
  • Any card issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • The uniformed service id card
  • State driver's license
  • Non-driver's I.D. card
  • U.S. Armed Forces card
  • U.S. passport
  • Tribal identification card
  • U.S. university identification

The secondary form of identification might be one of the following:

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

Your keys will be handed over to you once the clerk has approved them at the post office desk.

Option Two: Send it to a family or friend

This is an alternative to explore if you don't have the money to pay for a remote mailbox service and live near relatives or friends. You can give your postal address and have your mail sent to a family member or friend's address, requesting that they take a picture of your mail when it arrives.

From there, you can decide whether you want them to discard your mail or scan it. Remember that this is one of the least secure methods of handling your mail since you won't have a safe mail storage facility or a method to protect sensitive files from mail theft.

The challenge with sending mail to relatives or friends

When you entrust your mail to a family member or acquaintance, you authorize them to either forward your mail or open letters on your behalf. This puts your private or sensitive information at risk. You may get very sensitive and personal mail, such as IRS letters, bank statements, health insurance policies, or legal paperwork.

Think about this when you decide whether or not to show your family and friends any letters you may get. Plus, you'll probably need something that arrives in the mail while you're abroad. Do you really want others to read your mail? This is not only against federal law but also requires you to rely on others to handle personal papers and deliveries.

Option Three: Using a virtual mailbox service provider

A virtual mailbox is an online mailbox in which all of your letters and shipments are scanned and then uploaded into your account for you to see digitally from your computer or smartphone. A picture of the exterior of your package will be posted to your account so you can see who sent it and what it is when a piece of mail arrives for you.

There will be more information about that piece of mail you got, such as its weight and size. You can request that any mail be opened and the contents scanned from inside your account. A professional will then upload the scanned copies of your letters to your virtual mailbox account within a few hours.

You will receive scanned photographs of the package that you received. If you require the shipment transported to an international destination, you may pick that option and have it dispatched to your preferred location.

All mail and parcels in the United States arrive at a physical location. As a result, each online order you place and any document you receive, whether from a private or federal organization, can be accepted to your address and uploaded into your account.

Why Choose A Virtual Mailbox Service Provider?

Shop on any website in the United States

When you are abroad, purchasing things from your favorite U.S. company in the mail might be a challenge or a tricky endeavor.

Many businesses don't ship internationally, or if they do, shipping prices are exorbitant. With a U.S. address, you can get these products at your U.S. location, and then mail forwarding providers can ship them to you overseas at an affordable price.

Maintain an online record

Your mail will be automatically scanned and uploaded once you sign up for a virtual mailbox. You'll be able to view an infinite amount of mail items and save them for as long as you like. You may also store files for up to 180 days, free of charge.

Even if you need to keep stuff for longer, it only costs a few cents per item. Saving files online makes file access more dependable and offers a more cost-effective alternative for your mail.


You probably have a sequence of people who get to see your mail before you do when postal clerks at your workplace handle your mail and send it to you. With a virtual mailbox, you are the first to view all critical papers from your phone or computer, cutting out the middleman.

Most of these virtual mailbox providers allow communication with customer care through an app, so you may address any request you have with a few clicks.


An alternative to having a professional firm handle your mail is to have a family member or acquaintance pick up the mail on your behalf. This person will also take it to the post office and send a dispatch to your location.

As you can see, this may quickly evolve into a part-time job for your friend over the course of several weeks and months.

Mail forwarding services allow you to maintain your customer experience, even if you're locked up in prison. You're not left waiting on delays or mistakes to pop up without realizing it.

Tips For Handling Mail When Moving Abroad

Use e-statements whenever possible

Check the websites of each service you use to determine if they provide electronic invoicing or e-statements. If you choose this option over getting physical papers, you will receive your monthly statements via email via the entity's mail site.

Saving the statements and invoices as PDFs and putting them on a cloud storage provider is recommended if you wish to handle these papers. Both Google Drive and Dropbox are good storage backup choices.

Choose how you want to handle your mail

Examine the three methods listed and discussed above for managing mail when moving overseas. I recommend utilizing a virtual mailbox if you have the extra cash. They will perform all of the heavy work in terms of mail handling for you.

How To Receive Forwarded Mail And Packages

Each country and housing area have its own method of receiving deliveries. Some places, for example, enable you to keep your mail at a post office, whilst others offer postal services in convenience stores.

Activate mail forwarding

Whether you're moving temporarily or permanently, you'll need to forward your mail. Otherwise, the post office will not know where to deliver your mail. To forward your mail, complete the USPS Form 1583, which permits the virtual mailbox provider to collect it.

Remember that you'll need to get the form notarized before mailing it. Fortunately, an online notary can handle everything for you. Again, some virtual mailbox service providers will pay for your online notary expenses. Also, remember that you will need to provide other forms of identification when completing this form.

After that, you'll need to update your mailing address on any website with an account. You'll also need to update your address with USPS. This can be done online or by getting a copy of the Mover's Guide from your nearest post office and filling out PS Form 3575.

Make sure to arrange mail forwarding at least a few weeks before your relocation. After you make your request, USPS will begin forwarding mail after a few working days.

Keep track of your accounts

If your carrier enables tracking, keep a check on your papers whenever you forward mail. Anything might happen to your documents while they are in transit.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use a virtual address for banks in the United States?

You are a foreigner with no residential address in the United States. Does this mean that you can't open a bank account? If you already have an account in the U.S., you can update your billing or mailing address to a virtual address.

If you don't already have a U.S. bank account and are currently living abroad, you can open one with a relative's address and then change your postal address to your virtual location later.

Why do I still have to be concerned about snail mail?

Most organizations and services allow you to get digital or email versions of your papers. However, for security reasons, you will always receive the following letters in the mail:

  • Jury duty summons: Unless you unregister to vote in the United States, you will continue to get jury duty summons.
  • IRS notices: The IRS will only issue notifications via regular mail.
  • Acceptance of debit or credit cards: If you want to open a new account or get a new card, you'll need to get these cards via mail.
  • Driver's license: While you may simply update your information online, you will need an address if you want a new license copy.

It is challenging to check certain services, although doing things online is excellent. The IRS, for example, will only send physical letters, not emails. They use these operational steps to ensure people don't get caught in phishing attacks.

Can the USPS forward mail internationally?

As earlier stated, you can request that the USPS forward your mail overseas. However, it is too costly. In fact, flying back to pick up your shipments, bundles, and letters would almost be cheaper than asking USPS to send them across.

However, using a professional mail forwarding service is the ideal method for global mail forwarding. This ensures that you get your mail safely and in near real-time, allowing you to act on it as quickly as possible.

Outsource Your Overseas Mail Forwarding

In this article, I have outlined all the different ways you can choose to manage your mail while traveling overseas. Physical mail is still essential and used widely in the United States to send vital documents, including health, financial, and mortgage documents.

If you plan to move abroad, it is vital to set up processes to help you manage these crucial documents. This is where you need the services of a reputable mail forwarding company.

They are there to assist you and relieve the stress of worrying about your mail. They also assist digital nomads and other frequent travellers in accessing their mail content on time and from anywhere. It is worth giving it a try!

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