USPS Mail Forwarding: What You Need to Know

Forwarding your mail may sound simple, but the United States Postal Service (USPS) mail forwarding service can easily get a bit convoluted (or altogether forgotten!) amidst all of the other time-consuming tasks on your moving checklist. Between choosing the right form and calculating when to expect your mail, updating your address can get complicated.

We’re here to help answer some common questions about forwarding your mail with the USPS:

Which USPS mail forwarding form do I need?

First things first: you need to select the right form when changing your address. Luckily we have a detailed blog post to walk you through each type of USPS Change of Address (COA) form. Short on time? Here’s a summary of the three primary forms you can choose from when forwarding your mail with the USPS:

  1. Individual: Use this form if there’s only one person in the household moving or if multiple people are moving to different places. Have roommates? Each of you should fill out a separate Individual Change of Address Form. And if your brother is your roommate? You two have the same last name, but if you’re moving to different places, you’ll each need an Individual Change of Address form for USPS mail forwarding.

  2. Family: If everyone within one household has the same last name and is moving to the same place, file a Family Change of Address Form. This is the easiest way to forward your whole family’s mail with the post office.

  3. Business: Yes, businesses have their own change of address form. As long as you’re authorized to forward mail on behalf of the company, you can change the entire organization’s address with one Business Change of Address Form.

What are my options to complete the Change of Address (COA) form?

You can either submit your COA form online or fill out a “PS Form 3575” that you can pick up at your local post office (please note that, unfortunately, the post office no longer allows you to print the form from your home computer). Your request to forward your mail can either be temporary or permanent. 

If you need to visit your local post office to fill out your Change of Address form request, here is a quick video on what the post office is doing to maintain CDC social distancing guidelines.

When will the USPS mail forwarding begin?

Once your Change of Address Form has been submitted, it typically takes the postal service about 7-10 postal business days to process your USPS mail forwarding request. If you want to begin receiving your mail on move-in day, be sure to submit your request at least 7-10 days in advance.

How much does USPS mail forwarding cost?

Forwarding your mail in person by filling out the Change of Address Form (PS Form 3575) at the post office is free. Submitting your request online, however, requires your email address and a $1.05 fee for identification purposes. The Postal Service wants to ensure your identity is safe, so they use your credit card to confirm your identity for online change of address requests.

How does the postal service know when I’m moving?

The USPS mail forwarding service lets you select the date you want them to start forwarding your mail to a new address. You should start seeing mail at your new home on or just after your selected start date. Since the process can take up to 10 business days, your mail might not arrive on the exact date you selected. Give the postal service about a week after the selected date before you  notify them of any missing mail.

How do I know my USPS mail forwarding request was received?

As long as you’ve completely filled out and submitted your request, the post office will promptly mail a Move Validation Letter to your current address. Once the postal service finishes processing your Change of Address Form, they’ll then send an official USPS Customer Notification Letter or Welcome Kit to your new address, including a Confirmation Code. You can use this code to edit or cancel your forwarding request in the future, so be sure to file the number away somewhere safe.

If you submitted your USPS Change of Address request online, keep an eye on your inbox. In addition to the Move Validation Letter and Customer Notification Letter you’ll receive in the mail, the postal service will also email you a Change of Address Confirmation with your Confirmation Code. Again, be sure to keep this code safe in case you need to make changes to your request later.

mail forwarding

It’s been 2 weeks. Where’s my mail?

You’ve given the post office more than their 7-10 business day time frame to process your USPS mail forwarding request, and you still haven’t received any mail. What do you do? Your best bet is to stop by your local post office and let them know. Be sure to bring your ID to prove your identity and your Confirmation Code as reference, and they should be able to help you sort it out.

How long does USPS mail forwarding last?

Unlike diamonds (or roaches), mail forwarding isn’t forever. The postal service has different time limits depending on the mail being sent. The majority of your mail will be forwarded for 12 months, including First Class Mail, Priority Mail, and First-Class Package services. This gives you a year to update your address with your friends, family, bank, and other businesses.

Do you subscribe to any magazines or newspapers? These have a much shorter time limit of just 60 days. After roughly two months, your USPS mail forwarding service will expire, so be sure to update these addresses with each company (or the Updater app) first.

Important Reminder: While forwarding your mail and packages through the post office is great, it doesn’t actually update any of the businesses that you care about with your new address – such as your bank account, credit cards, airline loyalty programs, alumni associations, and so on. Forwarding your mail simply ensures that your mail is forwarded to your new address. Be sure to contact each business and update your address to keep up with your bank statements and alumni events, for example.

What if I don’t submit a USPS mail forwarding request?

What a rebel! If you feel like living on the edge and forgoing the whole change of address process, the post office will collect your mail and store it for a maximum of 10 days. After those 10 days, your mail will either be forwarded or returned to the sender if possible. If the USPS is unable to return or forward the mail, it will be discarded.

Thankfully, you have our guide to USPS mail forwarding to make updating your address easy. So hop on down to your local post office or visit the USPS Change of Address website and get the process started without stress! And don’t forget to check out our Epic Moving Checklist or First Apartment Checklist for the ultimate moving checklists to help you stay organized during your move.

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