How Long Does Mail Forwarding Last?

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July 3, 2023

Whether it’s to get a bigger house for the kids, find better opportunities in a bustling city, or get a nice change in scenery, the average American will move around 11.7 times in their lifetime.

Regardless of the reason, moving can mean meeting new neighbors, finding the optimal route to avoid high-traffic roads, and having a different mailing address.

But unless you report a change of address (COA) to the United States Postal Service (USPS), your mail will continue to arrive at your old address, risking essential documents and items getting lost.

To solve this problem, you need mail forwarding. In this article, let’s dive into USPS mail forwarding, exploring its duration, the process, and the various options you can choose from to organize and manage your mail.

If you need more information on forwarding mail, visit your local post office. To find one near your new city or temporary address, use FindPostOffice.org’s USPS facility locator tool.

Getting Started: What Is Mail Forwarding With USPS?

Understanding how mail forwarding works and how long the service lasts is crucial if you’re planning a move to a new city or a temporary relocation like an extended travel or vacation.

The reason? Mail forwarding services reduce the risk of mail and package theft and loss by providing a secure location where you can retrieve them. This benefit is particularly significant for businesses that rely on shipments or delivering essential documents.

Fortunately, the United States Postal Service (USPS) offers a convenient mail forwarding service to ensure your important mail items reach you at a temporary or new address. It’s a service that redirects your mail from an old address to a new one.

How Does Mail Forwarding Work?

As a quick overview, USPS mail forwarding works like this:

  • You submit a change of address request with USPS, online or in person, at a post office.
  • USPS will reroute your mailpieces after three business days or on your chosen start date as they come.
  • USPS will continue to forward your mail and packages for up to 12 months, at which point you can choose whether to extend the service.

That said, you have several premium mail-forwarding options to suit your needs. For instance, USPS’s Premium Forwarding Service Residential (PFS-Residential) option bundles your mail and ships all of them to you every week instead of one by one.

Additionally, your change of address order with the USPS only updates your mailing address with post offices. You must update your address with government agencies like the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) and companies like banks, insurance providers, and online stores separately.

Contact your local post office to determine which mail forwarding option best meets your preferences. Alternatively, you can visit the most convenient USPS facility using FindPostOffice.org’s locator tool.

What Mail Is Forwarded?

USPS will forward most of your mail. Here’s a breakdown of the types of mail you can expect USPS to reroute:

  • First-Class Mail and Periodicals: USPS will deliver First-Class mail, including letters and postcards, as well as periodicals like newsletters and magazines, free of charge.
  • Premium Shipping Services: Suppose you’re expecting packages or essential documents sent through premium shipping services such as Priority Mail, Priority Mail Express, or First-Class Package. USPS also forwards these items at no additional cost.
  • Media Mail and USPS Retail Ground: While USPS also redirects Media Mail and USPS Retail Ground packages, you’re responsible for covering the shipping costs from your local post office to your new address.

What Type of Mail Will Not Be Forwarded?

Unfortunately, USPS Marketing Mail or Standard Mail isn’t eligible for forwarding – at least, not automatically. You can ask USPS to deliver these mail items, but you shoulder the forwarding charges if you move outside your local post office’s area.

 Standard Mail A includes promotional materials, advertising flyers, catalogs, books, and circulars. On the other hand, Standard Mail B items are parcels that weigh 16 ounces or more.

USPS won’t forward restricted items, such as aerosols, ammunition, alcoholic beverages, and hazardous materials (HAZMAT). For a comprehensive list of restrictions, check out the official USPS website.

Does USPS Forwarded Mail Take Longer to Arrive?

How fast your forwarded mail reaches your new address depends on the type of mail and the mail forwarding service you have. First-Class mail usually takes one to three business days, and Priority Mail Express can take one day less.

However, forwarded mail may take longer to arrive than regular mail. The primary reason is that the postal service must process these mail items twice. First, when they arrive at the regional sorting facility of your old address and when they’re sorted and sent to your new address.

How Long Does It Take For USPS To Begin Forwarding Mail?

Once you’ve requested mail forwarding with USPS, the forwarding process typically takes three business days to start. This time delay is why USPS recommends that you plan and allow up to two weeks before they begin redirecting your mail to the new address.

How Can I Confirm That Mail Forwarding Is in Place?

If your mail is yet to arrive at your new address, it’s natural to want to confirm whether mail forwarding is in place. Fortunately, you have several options to verify that the service is active:

  • Call USPS customer service: You can contact USPS customer service by dialing 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777) to ask for an update on your mail forwarding status.
  • Check online: Remember the confirmation code you received after completing your request? You can use it to determine the status of your mail forwarding.
  • Inspect your old mailbox: USPS will send a Move Validation Letter to your previous address after submitting your COA request. If you receive this letter, it indicates that the mail forwarding process is active.
  • Contact your mailers: Ask the organizations and individuals who regularly mail you if your new address reflects on the database. Doing so also ensures that your mailers know the change and should start sending mail to your new home address.
  • Visit the post office: You can check the status of your mail forwarding request by inquiring in person. Checking the post office also lets you know if they’re holding your packages or are in transit. Visit FindPostOffice.org to find the nearest facility in your area.

How Long Does USPS Mail Forwarding Last?

The standard USPS mail forwarding service generally lasts for up to 12 months. However, the answer to the question “how long does USPS forward mail?” can vary depending on the type of forwarding service you have.

How Long Does a Temporary Change of Address Last?

If you’ve submitted a request for a temporary change of address, the mail forwarding service can last anywhere between 15 days and six months. You can choose the beginning and end dates for the forwarding period.

How Long Does a Permanent Change of Address Last?

For a permanent change of address, the duration of the mail forwarding service depends on the type of mail. 

For instance, First-Class Mail forwarding lasts 12 months. On the other hand, USPS will only forward Periodicals, such as magazines, for 60 days.

How Long Does a Premium Forwarding Service for Residential Last?

The PFS Residential service offers a mail forwarding duration of two weeks to 12 months. Like other forwarding options, you can set the forwarding period. However, you can expect your Priority Mail delivery to be seven to ten days after your request.

How Long Does a Premium Forwarding Service for Commercial Last?

Unlike other USPS mail forwarding services, the PFS Commercial option lets you pick when to receive your mail and as many times you want. The minimum sign-up period for PFS Commercial is two weeks, and the service can last up to a year.

What Are Available USPS Forwarding Options?

USPS understands that different people have diverse needs. The type of mail forwarding option you should choose must depend on why you need to forward mail in the first place. Fortunately, USPS offers a range of options, which include the following:

USPS Temporary Change of Address

The USPS Temporary Change of Address service allows you to ensure that your mail follows you wherever you go, making it perfect if you plan to be away from your current address for a specific period, such as when you’re traveling or taking an extended vacation.

This option lets you specify when and how long you’ll be away (or the forwarding period, which ranges between 15 and 364 days), and ships your First-Class Mail and Periodicals to your temporary location.

USPS Permanent Change of Address

The USPS Permanent Change of Address service is the ideal choice if you’re planning a permanent move or relocation. This option provides a long-term forwarding solution where your First-Class Mail and Periodicals will be forwarded to your new address for 12 months and 60 days, respectively.

When you opt for a Permanent Change of Address, USPS can share your new address with business mailers upon request. This option ensures that marketing materials, invoices, and other essential documents reach your new mailing address.

USPS Premium Forwarding Service Residential (PFS-Residential)

You can choose USPS’s Premium Forwarding Service Residential for a more comprehensive mail forwarding service. This option lets you consolidate your mail items at a post office and receive them as a bundle in a single weekly shipment.

The PFS-Residential service is especially beneficial as it utilizes the reliable Priority Mail service, a fast and affordable way to deliver your accumulated mail to your desired location. Priority Mail boasts a one to three-day delivery time.

USPS Premium Forwarding Service Commercial (PFS-Commercial):

Suppose you’re a business or commercial customer. In that case, the USPS Premium Forwarding Service Commercial (PFS-Commercial) can be worth considering. This service lets you streamline by temporarily forwarding mail in your P.O. Box to a business address.

With PFS-Commercial, you can choose the frequency of mail delivery. 

Do you have an important meeting tomorrow? You can request mail forwarding for the day after. 

The service also ships through Priority Mail Express, which offers next to two-day delivery.

Moving or Relocating

When you’re moving or relocating, updating your address with USPS is crucial to ensure the seamless forwarding of your mail. 

How to Change Your Address Online

Changing your address online with USPS is a straightforward process. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Go to the USPS’s Change of Address page.
  2. Choose the appropriate option for your move. Are you moving as an individual, family, or business?
  3. Fill out the change of address form and complete the online request.
  4. Verify your identity using either of two options.
    a. You can use a one-time passcode (OTP) or link on your mobile phone. This option allows you to complete the identity verification process online.
    b. You can visit a nearby post office and complete the identity verification process by bringing an acceptable photo I.D.
  5. Pay the $1.10 credit card identity verification fee, which is required to process your address change request.
  6. Once you submit your request, USPS will email you a confirmation code. You can use the code to track the status of your request and modify or cancel it.
  7. When USPS activates your mail forwarding, you’ll receive a welcome kit, including valuable coupons, at your new home address.

How to Change Your Address at the Post Office

You can visit your local post office if you prefer to submit a COA request in person. Here’s how:

  1. Locate your nearest post office branch using FindPostOffice.org’s facility locator tool.
  2. Bring USPS-approved identification, such as a state-issued driver’s license or U.S. passport, to your area’s most convenient post office.
  3. Request a free Mover’s Guide packet from the retail associate. This packet contains the necessary forms and information to submit your request.
  4. Complete the PS Form 3575 by providing the required information.
  5. Submit the completed form, along with your photo I.D. for verification.
  6. Pay the fee and wait for the retail associate to process your COA request.

Does Mail Forwarding Expire?

If you have an approved request for a temporary change of address, mail forwarding will expire six months after the start of the forwarding period. 

On the other hand, forwarding stops after 12 months if you apply for a permanent change of address.

After the forwarding period ends, USPS will no longer forward mailpieces sent to your previous address to your new address. These mail items will instead be returned to their senders.

Can USPS Allow for a Mail Forwarding Extension?

Fortunately, USPS offers mail forwarding extensions beyond your service’s initial forwarding period. However, Extended Mail Forwarding is only available if you have a Permanent Change of Address service.

With Extended Mail Forwarding, you can lengthen the duration of your forwarding service by six-month increments, with a limit of 18 months. You’ll have the option to extend when you submit your COA request.

USPS will also offer the Extended Mail Forwarding service during the 11th month of your initial forwarding period. You can also buy an extension at your local post office. Visit FindPostOffice.org to find the facilities closest to your new permanent address.

What Happens After 12 Months if I Still Need My Mail Forwarded?

As mentioned, USPS will stop forwarding your mail after the forwarding period ends. While you can purchase an extension while the mail forwarding service is still active, the Extended Mail Forwarding option will no longer be available once your initial service period ends.

If you still need your mail forwarding, you can submit another change of address request. You can then preemptively purchase an extension if you need it.

How Much Does USPS Mail Forwarding Cost?

USPS provides mail forwarding services at different price points depending on the type of forwarding and duration you need.

Fortunately, the standard mail forwarding service, which forwards First-Class Mail, Priority Mail, Priority Mail Express, and Frist-Class Package for 12 months, is free. But there’s a $1.10 verification fee when you submit your COA request.

For premium services like the PFS-Residential, you’ll need to pay an enrollment fee of $23.40 if you submit a request online and $25.45 when you do so at a post office. PFS-Residential also has a $25.45 weekly cost, regardless of where you enroll.

On the other hand, the enrollment fee for the PFS-Commerical service is $23.40. USPS will also charge you for reshipment based on the postage class and the forwarding frequency.

If you need an extension on your mail forwarding, you’re also responsible for the additional $19.95 fee for a six-month extension, $29.95 for 12 months, and $39.95 for 18 months.

Related Mail Services

Aside from mail forwarding, USPS offers other convenient package services to help you manage your mail effectively even if you’re away.

USPS Hold Mail Service

If you plan to be away from your mailing address, the USPS Hold Mail service can be an alternative to mail forwarding. With this service, your local post office will hold all your mail until you retrieve them within 30 days. The service also allows you to delegate someone to pick up your mail.

The USPS Hold Mail is a free service you can request online, by phone, or in person at your local post office. Once active, your mail carrier temporarily suspends deliveries and resumes them when you return.

Stop or Forward Mail for the Deceased

USPS also provides guidance on redirecting a deceased loved one’s mail to another address, removing them from advertising lists, and stopping mail deliveries. To request a stop or mail forwarding for a loved one who passed away, visit your local post office.

Get Your Mail After a Move

From ensuring all your valuables are accounted for to picking the right moving company, there are numerous things you must consider when moving. However, you must not neglect to secure the seamless transition of your mail deliveries from your old address to your new one.

By requesting a change of address with USPS and taking advantage of the mail forwarding service, you can lower the chances of your essential mail items getting lost or stolen. Sign up by visiting the official USPS website or by submitting a request at your local post office.

USPS has over 31,000 facilities across the U.S., and finding the most convenient one for your mail forwarding needs can take time and effort. FindPostOffice.org makes finding facilities within your area easier with its locator tool.

FAQs

1. Does USPS mail forwarding include packages?

USPS’s Standard Mail Forwarding service reroutes First-Class Mail and Periodicals. However, it also redirects Priority Mail, Priority Mail Express, and First-Class Packages. In other words, yes, USPS mail forwarding includes packages.

2. How will the Postal Service know the date of my move?

When you submit a change of address (COA) request, you can inform USPS when to forward your mail to your new address. Whether you’re moving on the same date is irrelevant, as USPS mail forwarding is an optional service.

3. What if I’m just moving somewhere temporarily?

If you’re relocating to a temporary address, you can choose USPS’s Temporary Change of Address service, which has a forwarding period of 15 days to six months. Alternatively, you can use USPS’s Mail Hold service if your temporary move is only for 30 days.

4. Which USPS mail forwarding form should I use?

The mail forwarding form you should use depends on who’s moving. If you’re the only person in the household, pick the Individual COA form. Use the Family COA form if you want USPS to forward the mail of every person in your household. If you’re a business, use the Business COA form.

5. What is the USPS change of address?

The USPS change of address is a request for the postal service to redirect your mail to a new address. You’ll need to submit this request when you’re applying for a mail forwarding service.

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

While your mail carrier will collect your mail for up to 10 days when you don’t submit a mail forwarding request, mailpieces will continue to arrive at your old address. Unfortunately, this may lead to problems such as lost mail or theft.

7. How does USPS know to forward mail?

USPS will know to forward your mail when you submit a COA request. If you don’t, mail carriers will deliver your mail items to your previous address.

8. Who else should I notify when moving to a new address?

There are several people and organizations you must contact when you’re moving to a new address. These entities include government agencies, such as the Internal Revenue System (IRS) and Social Security, financial institutions, retailers, utility companies, and other mailers.

9. Why should I have USPS forward my mail?

If you want essential documents and packages to reach you, you must get a mail forwarding service. Otherwise, you risk losing your mail items.

10. How does USPS temporary mail forwarding work?

USPS’s temporary mail forwarding is a service that forwards your mailpieces for a period of six months.

11. Why hasn’t my mail been forwarded?

There can be various reasons why your mail hasn’t arrived at your new address. These reasons may include internal errors like hiccups in the delivery process or not enough time has passed yet.

USPS asks you to give a two-week allowance for your first mail items to be forwarded. But if you want to check the status of your mail forwarding, you can contact USPS through their website or their hotline. You can also find the nearest post office in Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Dallas, New York, and other cities in the U.S. through FindPostOffice.org.

References

  1. Calculating Migration Expectancy Using ACS Data
    https://www.census.gov/topics/population/migration/guidance/
  2. Standard Forward Mail & Change of Address
    https://www.usps.com/manage/forward.htm
  3. Mail Forwarding FAQs
    https://about.usps.com/news/state-releases/fl/2009
  4. How Long Does USPS Forward Mail? (All You Need To Know)
    https://querysprout.com/how-long-does-usps-forward-mail/
  5. Change of Address – The Basics
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/Change-of-Address-The-Basics
  6. What is Priority Mail®?
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/What-is-Priority-Mail
  7. Premium Forwarding Services
    https://www.usps.com/manage/forward-premium.htm
  8. Priority Mail Express
    https://pe.usps.com/businessmail101?ViewName=PriorityMailExpress
  9. Contact USPS
    https://www.usps.com/help/contact-us.htm
  10. Temporary Move
    https://moversguide.usps.com/html/help/SCOA_HELP_TEMPORARY
  11. Extended Mail Forwarding
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/Extended-Mail-Forwarding
  12. Premium Forwarding Service Commercial
    https://www.usps.com/business/manage-mail
  13. USPS Hold Mail® – The Basics
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/USPS-Hold-Mail-The-Basics
  14. Mail Addressed to the Deceased
    https://www.usps.com/manage/mail-for-deceased.htm
  15. USPS Mail Forwarding: What You Need to Know
    https://updater.com/moving-tips/mail-forwarding-timeline