Temporary Mail Forwarding
June 26, 2023
The United States Postal Service (USPS) processed 33.2 million address changes in 2022. Delivering mail to the correct address is no easy feat, even for the Postal Service.
If you move to a different city, state, or country for a short period, you need a way to receive mail despite your new address. In this case, temporary mail forwarding can be an option for you.
So, how does mail forwarding work? How do you request a mail forwarding order with USPS? Should you choose temporary or permanent mail forwarding?
This article explains what mail forwarding is and how you can request a change of address (COA). This article also discusses how to extend the mail forwarding period and what other forwarding options and related services you can use.
Do you need to visit a post office to request mail forwarding or change your address? FindPostOffice.org’s online search platform can help you locate a post office in Los Angeles, Houston, Cleveland, Atlanta, Seattle, and other cities in the U.S.
What Is the Difference Between Temporary and Permanent Mail Forwarding?
When you need to change your address and have your mail forwarded, choosing between temporary and permanent forwarding can significantly impact how USPS handles your mail.
With a permanent COA, USPS will redirect your mail to a permanent address. You can use this option if you change your address without expecting to return to your old address anytime soon.
Examples of situations where you can use the permanent mail forwarding option are moving to another house, changing apartments, and leaving the state or country for over 12 months.
On the other hand, a temporary COA is for individuals, families, and businesses that need to change addresses for a short period.
Suppose your house is undergoing renovations that can last a few months, and you must relocate until the work completes. A temporary COA can work in this situation.
How to Set Up Temporary Mail Forwarding With USPS in 7 Easy Steps
Requesting a temporary mail forwarding service with USPS has several steps. The following sections explain these steps briefly.
Step 1: Go Online to the USPS Change-of-Address Form
Visit USPS.com and fill out the online COA form in a few steps. The instructions on the online form can help you file the correct COA for your specific situation.
Step 2: Tell USPS Who’s Moving
If you file a COA for yourself, your family, or your business, ensure to include this information to let USPS know for whom the change of address request is intended.
Step 3: Let the Postal Service Know That It’s a Temporary Move
To ensure that USPS delivers your mail to the correct address for the requested period of time, choose the temporary change of address option instead of the permanent one.
Step 4: Fill Out Your Old and New Addresses, and Submit the Form
When filling out your address, write your current address and the new temporary address to where you want USPS to forward your mail.
Step 5: Pay the $1.10 Identity Verification Fee
Pay a $1.10 identity validation fee when making a COA request. If you use your debit or credit card, USPS can electronically verify your card’s information with the issuing bank. USPS uses this process to prevent fraud by ensuring your card info matches your identity.
Step 6: Keep an Eye Out for Your Move Validation Letter
After you input your information and pay the identity verification fee, you should receive a move validation letter within five days of the COA taking effect.
The letter also includes a code to cancel the mail forwarding request online without visiting your local post office.
Step 7: Make Sure to Change Your Address With USPS Two Weeks Before Your Next Move
Bring acceptable photo identification (I.D.) when visiting your local post office location. Fill out P.S. Form 3575 (change of address order form) and give it to the retail associate, who will verify your identity and process your COA request.
What Is a USPS Temporary Change-of-Address?
A temporary COA is a request telling USPS to reroute your mail, such as letters and packages, for a specific period for the selected individuals at the specified address.
Temporary forwarding has a minimum period of 15 days and a maximum of 364 days starting from the listed start date.
Moving or Relocating
If you’re moving to a new place permanently or for over a year, consider submitting a permanent change of address order. Doing so allows USPS to reroute your mail to your new address properly.
Suppose you’re relocating for a short time, such as when visiting your second home or having an extended stay with relatives for less than a year. In this case, you must submit a temporary COA request instead.
Before you file a COA request, plan how you want to receive your mail. Mail forwarding can begin within three business days of your submitted request. However, USPS recommends giving yourself an allowance of up to two weeks.
Once you’re ready to request a COA, visit the USPS website or your local post office and file your request there.
What Is Mail Forwarding and How Does It Work?
Mail forwarding is when letters or packages that are addressed and sent to your former or inactive address get passed along or forwarded to your current address.
If you are relocating temporarily, mail forwarding allows you to receive mail without putting your mail service on hold, especially when you expect urgent correspondence.
If you move to a new address permanently, forwarding can be more practical than contacting everyone likely to send you mail.
What Mail Is Forwarded
USPS can forward the following types of mail to your new address:
- First-Class Mail and Periodicals: Forwarded for free
- First-Class Package, Priority Mail, and Priority Mail Express: Forwarded for free.
- Media Mail and USPS Retail Ground: Forwarded for a fee for shipping from your local post office to your temporary address
Unfortunately, USPS does not have forwarding services for USPS Marketing Mail.
How Long Does USPS Forward Mail?
Standard mail forwarding typically lasts for 12 months. However, through Extended Mail Forwarding, USPS can continue forwarding mail to your new address beyond this period.
You can add this extension when you first submit a change of address request or when you edit your request later.
USPS will also notify you via email when your mail forwarding period has one month left.
Does USPS Ever Allow for a Mail Forwarding Extension Beyond a Year?
If you opt to extend mail forwarding, USPS allows extension beyond the standard period for 6, 12, or 18 more months.
How Long Does It Take for USPS to Begin Forwarding Mail?
As mentioned earlier, mail forwarding can start between three days to two weeks after submitting your request. If you request on a Monday, forwarding will likely begin as early as Thursday or two weeks later.
To request mail forwarding, do the following steps:
- Visit the USPS Change of Address page on the official USPS website.
- Choose whether you’re applying as an individual, family, or business, and complete the form.
- Verify your identity through a verification code or link sent by USPS on your mobile phone. You can also complete the in-person identity verification process by visiting a post office and bringing an acceptable photo I.D.
- Pay the $1.10 identity verification fee.
Ways to Forward Your Mail
The most inexpensive way to set up mail forwarding in the U.S. is to visit the USPS website or go straight to your local post office.
Setting up your mail forwarding or change of address service through the post office is free. But if you choose the online route to set up mail forwarding, USPS will charge a small fee for identity validation.
How to Change Your Address at the Post Office
If you choose to make a COA request at the post office, follow these steps:
- Visit your local post office and bring an acceptable photo I.D.
- Ask for a free Mover’s Guide packet.
- Complete P.S. Form 3575 inside the packet and give the form to the retail associate. They will verify your identity using your photo I.D. and process your COA request.
How to Change Your Address With Other Government Agencies
USPS isn’t the only agency that can facilitate your change of address. You can also approach the following federal and state services to change your address:
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
- Social Security Administration (SSA)
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- State motor vehicle services
- State and local election offices
How to Change or Cancel Your Request
Suppose you need to modify or cancel your COA request online. You must know your new address’ ZIP code and have the confirmation code you received when you initially placed the COA request.
Afterward, you can do the following steps:
- Go to the USPS website’s COA modification page at ManageMyMove.USPS.com.
- Enter your new address’ ZIP code and confirmation code in the corresponding fields.
- Click “Submit.”
- Start editing the various fields on the COA form based on your modification or cancellation needs.
How Much Does USPS Mail Forwarding Cost?
As of July 2023, USPS mail forwarding charges a $1.10 identity validation fee for the COA request.
However, you can also access Premium Forwarding Services (PFS) for more flexibility and control. For residential customers, the following fees apply:
- Non-refundable enrollment fees
- $23.40 if enrolling online
- $25.45 if registering at the post office
- Weekly fees
- $25.45 per service week, whether you enroll online or in person
Pros and Cons of Mail Forwarding
If you’re moving to a different address, mail forwarding can provide the following benefits:
- Mail forwarding helps simplify your to-do list before moving.
- Mail forwarding ensures you won’t miss important information.
- Mail forwarding provides free or inexpensive address change with USPS.
- Mail forwarding helps protect your security when you use a private service.
Despite these advantages, mail forwarding also has the following cons:
- The service lasts six months only for standard USPS mail forwarding.
- Mail forwarding requires you to appear in person to request a USPS COA for international moves.
- Mail forwarding provides private post-redirection services that can be expensive.
- It costs a minimum of $19.95 to extend mail forwarding for an additional six months.
Want a Weekly Round-Up of Your Mail? You Can Sign Up for Premium Mail Forwarding
The USPS PFS options offer residential and business customers more control and flexibility over where and when they receive mail.
If you need weekly delivery to your new residential address, choose Premium Forwarding Service Residential, which ships via Priority Mail. Meanwhile, Premium Forwarding Service Commercial lets you select your delivery frequency if you have a business or commercial address.
Extended Mail Forwarding
Suppose you change your address and request standard mail forwarding for 12 months, but unforeseen circumstances require you to stay longer. In this case, you can pay to extend mail forwarding for up to a maximum of 18 more months.
What Are Other Available USPS Forwarding Options?
Aside from requesting a temporary COA for USPS mail forwarding services, you can also choose from the following forwarding options:
Permanent Change of Address
A permanent COA order provides piece-by-piece forwarding for First-Class Mail for 12 months and Periodicals for 60 days.
However, a permanent COA does not provide forwarding for USPS Marketing Mail or Package Services Mail.
Upon approval, USPS will provide your new address to business mailers upon request.
Premium Forwarding Service Residential Service (PFS-Residential Service)
PFS-Residential is a temporary forwarding service that allows you to receive weekly mail shipments at your residence via Priority Mail for a fee. USPS allows you to extend this service for up to a year.
USPS offers PFS-Residential as an additional option to the free permanent or temporary COA option.
You can start PFS-Residential by visiting your local post office and placing a request at the retail counter. You can also request PFS-Residential through an online application on the official USPS website.
If you have questions about completing your PFS-Residential transaction online, call the Internet Customer Care Center at 1-800-344-7779.
Related Mail Services
Changing your mailing address isn’t your only option if you need to hold or redirect your mail. The following sections discuss other related mail services that can function as alternatives to mail forwarding.
USPS Hold Mail Service
If you are away from your current address for 30 days or less, consider using USPS Hold Mail. This service lets your local post office hold all your mail until you return.
Once you return, your mail carrier will resume regular mail delivery to your address. Alternatively, you can pick up your mail at the post office.
Stop or Forward Mail for the Deceased
If you have a recently passed loved one, you can manage their mail by redirecting it to another address. You can also remove your deceased loved ones from advertising lists.
Find ZIP Codes and Post Offices
Determining your local post office’s location and your area’s ZIP code can help you specify the correct address when requesting a COA for mail forwarding. The sections below explain how you can find your area’s ZIP code and post office.
The USPS website has a tool to look up ZIP codes in the U.S. This tool lets you search for ZIP codes by address, city, or state.
You can locate USPS locations like post offices, collection boxes, and self-service kiosks through the USPS website.
If you have difficulty accessing the USPS page, you can visit FindPostOffice.org and use its online post office locator to find a post office near you.
File Your Complaint With the U.S. Postal Service
There are times when you encounter an issue with your mail, such as a lost or damaged item or poor customer service. You can file a complaint about your mail service through the following ways:
- Use USPS’s “Email Us” form to file your complaint online. Select the reason for the complaint, such as delivery issues and complaints about USPS facilities or employees.
- Call the USPS Customer Service at 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777)
- Visit your local post office and speak with the station manager.
If USPS cannot resolve your complaint, you can do any of the following:
- Contact your USPS district consumer affairs office by mail or phone to discuss your complaint.
- Write your complaint and address it to this address:
United States Postal Service
Office of the Consumer Advocate
475 L’ Enfant Plaza SW
Washington, D.C. 20260-0004
- Email the USPS consumer advocate office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to File a Complaint About a Post Office
Contact the USPS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to file a complaint about fraud, theft, or waste at a USPS facility or by a USPS employee. You can do so through the following actions:
- File a complaint online on the official OIG website
- Call 1-888-USPS-OIG (1-888-877-7644)
Check out the other articles on the FindPostOffice.org website for more information about other USPS services and other topics related to mail and shipping.
- Can mail be forwarded temporarily?
Yes, you can forward mail temporarily for a minimum of 15 days and a maximum of 364 days. Mail forwarding will stop on your COA request’s listed end date.
- What mail cannot be forwarded?
USPS cannot forward Marketing Mail. The only mail classes you can forward are USPS First-Class Mail, First-Class Package, Priority Mail, Priority Mail Express, Media Mail, and Retail Ground.
- How long does mail forwarding last?
Standard mail forwarding lasts 12 months, but you can extend this period for an additional 6, 12, or 18 months.
- What happens when mail forwarding ends?
Once your mail forwarding period ends, USPS returns any mail sent to your address to the sender for six months. The Postal Service will also include on the mail a label containing your new address.
- What if I don’t notify USPS of my address change?
Suppose your mail accumulates in your mailbox or Post Office (P.O.) Box. The mail carrier can collect that mail and bring it to your local post office.
The post office will automatically hold that mail for 10 days. Afterward, USPS can return the mail to the sender or discard it.
- How do I set up a new P.O. Box?
You can set up or rent a USPS P.O. box by following these steps:
- Apply online: Reserve and pay for a P.O. box at a post office near you.
- Pick up your keys: Bring your completed application and two valid I.D.s to the post office where your box is to claim your keys.
- Get your mail conveniently: Flexible hours let you check your P.O. box on your schedule.
- Who else should I notify when moving to a new address?
You can notify the following agencies about your change of address aside from the USPS:
- Social Security
- Banks and credit card companies
- Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
- Election offices
- 33.2 M address changes
- Change of Address – The Basics
- Standard Forward Mail & Change of Address
- Address Changes
- Update contact information
- How to Change Your Address
- State motor vehicle services
- State and local election offices
- Premium Forwarding Services
- Extended Mail Forwarding
- Mail Forwarding Options
- Look Up a ZIP Code™
- File a U.S. Postal Service complaint
- PO Boxes