USPS First-Class International

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March 17, 2024

When the United States Postal Service (USPS) was first established in 1775, with Benjamin Franklin at the helm serving as the first Postmaster General, its primary objective was to provide Americans with a reliable and affordable mail service.

In its over a century-long existence, USPS has accomplished that goal. Today, it handles around 23 million packages daily and delivers to over 164 million residential and commercial addresses through its vast nationwide network of about 33,000 facilities.

Unfortunately, most people associate USPS with domestic shipping. While this sentiment is true, as the Postal Service’s primary focus is serving the American population, it also processes and delivers around 44% of the world’s mail.

In short, the U.S. Postal Service has a significant global presence. This overseas reach is made possible through the various international mail delivery options you can benefit from if you require cross-border shipping.

This article will break down USPS international shipping, focusing on the USPS First-Class Package International Service, one of the Postal Service’s most dependable and affordable ways for sending packages abroad.

Are you curious about what other international mailing services USPS has to offer? Talk to a Postal Service representative at your local post office. Sift through the over 33,000 USPS facilities to find the nearest ones in your area with FindPostOffice.org.

What Is USPS First-Class Package International Service?

When it comes to international shipping, affordability and reliability are paramount. The U.S. Postal Service, commonly called USPS, offers a solution known as First-Class Package International Service (FCPIS).

This mailing option is ideal for sending lightweight parcels and documents weighing up to 4lbs or 64oz and valued at up to $400 to over 180 countries worldwide.

First-Class Package International Service Pricing

Whether you’re an individual shipper or a business owner, First-Class Package International Service is an economical delivery choice. While prices vary depending on the destination country price group, package weight, and parcel dimensions, postage rates start at $15.75 as of September 2023.

Country price groups refer to the shipping rates the U.S. Postal Service assigns each country. This system allows USPS to quickly determine the postage costs for international shipments and influences how much these shipments cost to send via FCPIS.

How to Use First-Class Package International Service

Unlike USPS’ other international mailing solutions, which may require special packaging, using FCPIS is straightforward. Just prepare your mailpiece, address it properly, and either hand it over to a postal worker, drop it off at a USPS mailbox, or have USPS pick it up at your home or office- that’s it!

  Here’s a step-by-step guide to sending international packages:

  • Prepare your mailpiece: Pack your items carefully in an appropriately sized box or envelope. If you’re using your own box, the maximum dimensions are 24” in length and 36” in combined length, height, and thickness.

USPS offers free shipping supplies, eliminating the hassle of finding a container that meets FCPIS guidelines. Additionally, you’ll want to use sufficient cushioning to prevent damage to fragile items during shipping.

  • Weigh and measure: Your international package’s weight significantly influences the shipping cost. Therefore, you must weigh your parcel accurately, especially considering that FCPIS only allows up to 4lbs.

Consider buying a postal scale, which you can buy from the Postal Service or at a local office supply store.

  • Calculate postage: Use USPS’s online postage calculator to determine your shipment’s postage price. Conversely, you can visit your local post office and ask a Postal Service representative for assistance.

Use FindPostOffice.org’s locator tool to find USPS facilities in your area quickly.

  • Complete customs forms: When sending international shipments, you must complete customs forms. These forms detail your package’s contents and their value.

Customs forms are available at post offices via PS 2976-R or the Click-N-Ship service, which lets you print forms and shipping labels.

  • Affix shipping label: Stick the shipping label to your package once the postage cost and customs forms are ready. Ensure that the delivery and return addresses are accurate and legible.

Moreover, you must write in English. If you must use a different language, include an English translation after each line.

  • Send your international package: Lastly, it’s time to send your mailpiece on its way. You can take your prepared package to the nearest post office, drop it off at a blue USPS collection box, or schedule a free pickup.

Benefits of Choosing USPS First-Class Package International Shipping

The U.S. Postal Service’s First-Class Package International Service offers several advantages, making it a compelling choice for international shipments. These upsides include:

  • Affordability: Compared to Priority Mail International, another USPS international shipping option, FCPIS is more cost-effective for packages under 4lbs. The starting price for the former is, as of September 2023, $30.35. In contrast, FCPIS postage begins at $15.75.
  • USPS Delivery Confirmation International: With FCPIS, you’ll receive delivery confirmation for your package, providing proof of delivery or attempted delivery and peace of mind that it has reached its intended destination.
  • Extra services eligibility: You can include additional convenience and security to USPS’ First-Class Package International Services. These add-ons include a certificate of mailing, Registered Mail with insurance coverage, return receipt, and pick-up on demand.

Who Is USPS First-Class Package International Best Suited for?

Although the USPS First-Class Package International Service is an economical option when sending lightweight mailpieces overseas, using it has drawbacks. The most glaring disadvantage is that it isn’t the fastest international shipping service.

FCPIS packages generally take up to 12 to 20 business days to arrive. Unfortunately, USPS doesn’t offer guarantees for this specific mailing solution. In other words, delivery times can vary significantly.

In contrast, while more expensive, USPS’ Global Express Guaranteed service provides next- to three-day shipping to over 180 countries, including Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, and Great Britain.

Another downside is the maximum weight limit of 4lbs, restricting what items and how much you can send. On the other hand, USPS Priority Mail International allows you to ship packages up to 70lbs.

With this information in mind, who is FCPIS most suited for? If you’re looking for a cost-effective solution to ship a gift to a loved one abroad or a business looking to expand its reach to overseas markets but don’t mind the wait times, then FCPIS may be for you.

Consult a Postal Service representative if you’re looking for an international letter or package delivery option tailored to your specific mailing needs. Visit FindPostOffice.org to find your area’s nearest post office locations.

Mailing Restrictions and Prohibitions

The U.S. Postal Service prohibits you from mailing specific items through its First-Class Package International Service and other international package delivery solutions. These prohibitions include cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, and hazardous materials (HAZMAT).

For a comprehensive list of restricted and prohibited mail items, visit the USPS website at USPS.com. You can also consult a Postal Service representative at your local post office. Use FindPostOffice.org’s locator tool to find your area’s USPS facilities.

Shipping to a Military Post Office

While FCPIS allows you to send lightweight mailpieces to international addresses at an affordable rate, it isn’t intended for U.S. military or diplomatic post offices in other countries.

Therefore, when shipping to American military bases or embassies in foreign countries, you must use USPS’ domestic services, such as Ground Advantage, Priority Mail, and Priority Mail Express. Fortunately, this system allows you to benefit from domestic postage pricing.

It’s worth noting, however, that you’re still subject to the destination country’s restrictions. You must also fill out customs forms when sending items other than letters and postcards.

For Businesses

If you want to expand your business’ international reach, USPS offers cost-efficient export and import solutions, from free global shipping software to various lightweight and bulk shipping services.

What Is the Weight Limit for First-Class Package International?

The weight for packages sent through the First-Class Package International Service must not exceed 4lbs or 64oz. So, if you’re sending large envelopes weighing 1lb or 15.994oz, use First-Class Mail International instead of FCPIS.

If your mailpiece weighs more than the four-pound maximum or under one pound, you must use other USPS international shipping services, such as Priority Mail International or USPS First-Class Mail International.

How Long Does First-Class Package Take?

The delivery time for First-Class Package International Service varies depending on the destination country. However, shipments typically arrive between 12 and 20 business days.

Where Can I Drop Off My Package?

As mentioned, you have several options regarding where you can send your overseas-bound package. You can drop off your prepared package at your nearest post office or a USPS collection box or ask USPS to pick up your mailpiece from your home or office.

International Mail and Shipping Services

While the First-Class Package International Service is a noteworthy option for sending lightweight items across international borders, USPS offers various other services that may suit you better, depending on your needs and preferences.

Compare International Mail Services

Here’s a quick overview of the U.S. Postal Service’s international shipping options:

ServiceDelivery SpeedStarting Price
Global Express Guaranteed (GXG)1-3 business days$71.10
Priority Mail Express International3-5 business days$54.75
Priority Mail International6-10 business days$30.35
First-Class Package International ServiceVaries by destination$15.75
First-Class Mail InternationalVaries by destination$3.00
Airmail M-BagsVaries by destination$55.00

Note that the rates mentioned are based on USPS’ September 2023 pricing.

Fastest Delivery Speed

Among the various international shipping services USPS offers, its Global Express Guaranteed option is the fastest. It guarantees next-day delivery to countries like Canada and up to three days for others, or you get your money back.

That said, USPS’ Priority Mail Express International isn’t a slouch, offering three- to five-business-day shipping. Like GXG, it also has a money-back guarantee for some destinations.

Affordable Options

Combining speed and affordability, Priority Mail International is suitable for packages that must reach their destination within a reasonable time frame without breaking the bank. It provides six- to 10-day delivery and flat rate options.

First-Class Package International Service is also worth considering if you want an economical mail delivery solution providing competitive pricing for all country price groups, starting at $15.75 as of September 2023.

Best for Documents or Printed Materials Only

Although the First-Class Mail International service is USPS’ most affordable international shipping choice, it’s best suited for mailing documents. It allows you to use Global Forever stamps, whose value is always tied to the service’s 1oz postage rate, simplifying sending postcards, letters, and large envelopes.

But if you’re shipping high-volume printed material, USPS’ Airmail M-Bags may be the go-to choice. This service lets you send newspapers, magazines, books, and marketing matters up to 66lbs, with prices starting at $55.

Global Express Guaranteed

If speed is of the essence and you need guaranteed overnight international delivery, Global Express Guaranteed is your top choice. This service provides reliable delivery to select international destinations.

Priority Mail Express International

Priority Mail Express International offers fast international shipping with a money-back guarantee. It’s an excellent option for urgent shipments that must reach their destination quickly and reliably.

Priority Mail International

For a balance between speed and affordability, consider Priority Mail International. This service is suitable for packages that must reach their destination promptly without the urgency of overnight delivery.

First-Class Mail International

As discussed earlier, First-Class Mail International is perfect for lightweight parcels and documents. It combines affordability and reliable service.

Airmail M-Bags

Airmail M-Bags is a specialized service for sending large quantities of printed material. However, you must meet specific size and customs requirements to use this service.

Send Large Amounts of Printed Material

With Airmal M-Bags, you can ship newspapers, magazines, books, journals, sheet music, catalogs, directories, commercial advertising, and promotional materials.

Weight, Size, and Shape Requirements

Unlike First-Class Package International Service, Airmail M-Bags don’t have a minimum weight requirement. However, mailpieces weighing under 11lbs will incur the 11-pound postage rate, which starts at $55, as of September 2023.

It’s also worth noting that some countries may have specific guidelines and restrictions regarding Airmail M-Bag weight, size, and shape. For more information, visit your local post office. Find your area’s most convenient USPS facilities with FindPostOffice.org.

Customs Forms

When mailing Airmail M-Bags, you must include a customs form. Doing so ensures your compliance with the destination country’s customs regulations. Visit USPS’ customs form page to create one.

Returns and Refunds

The U.S. Postal Service offers returns and refunds for international shipments. However, this reimbursement only applies if you meet specific conditions, such as if USPS didn’t render its full service for First-Class Package International Service.

With Airmail M-Bags, you may be able to receive a refund if you overpaid your postage. For additional information on international USPS refunds, visit the USPS website at USPS.com.

Alternatively, you can talk to a Postal Service representative at your local post office. Use FindPostOffice.org’s post office locator tool to find your area’s nearest and most convenient facilities quickly.

Military Mail

Fortunately, the U.S. Postal Service will continue delivering to military and diplomatic addresses regardless of the destination country’s service operations. However, there are exceptions. Check USPS’ international service alerts page to stay up-to-date.

Affordable International Mailing

If your mail items don’t meet the minimum weight requirements of First-Class Package International Service, don’t worry. Enter First-Class Mail International (FCMI), the U.S. Postal Service’s most affordable way to send letters and flats overseas.

Features and Pricing

Like the FCPIS, First-Class Mail International ships to over 180 countries, including Australia, Canada, and Great Britain. However, this specific USPS mailing solution is explicitly designed for letters and postcards weighing up to 3.5oz and flats up to 15.994oz or under 1lb.

Stamp Prices for Letters and Postcards

When sending letters and postcards internationally, you can use Global Forever stamps to pay the postage costs. The coverage value of a Global Forever stamp is $1.50 as of September 2023. This rate is equal to an FCMI 1oz letter. This postage stamp also covers the cost of sending a postcard.

Weight, Size, and Shape Requirements

For letters, the maximum weight to be eligible for FCMI is 3.5oz. On the other hand, the letter size limit is 6 ⅛” high by 11 ½” long and ¼” thick. If your letter exceeds these restrictions, it will fall under the “Flats” category.

For flats, the weight limit is 15.994oz, while the dimensions must be under 12” high by 15” long, and ¾” thick. If you go over the maximum weight and size guidelines for large envelopes, USPS will charge you package rates.

Additional Charges for Larger Mailpieces and Envelopes

The U.S. Postal Service also considers the shape of the items you send through its First-Class Mail International service. Envelopes that aren’t uniformly thick or are irregularly shaped will incur a nonmachinable surcharge of $0.40.

Customs Forms

Like its other USPS international shipping counterparts, First-Class Mail International may require you to fill out a customs form, particularly if you’re mailing items other than letters or postcards.

To create one or request assistance, visit the USPS customs form page or your local post office. Use FindPostOffice.org’s USPS facility finder tool to locate your area’s most convenient locations.

Additional Information

Here are some additional details to remember when using USPS’ First-Class Mail International service for your international correspondence:

Shipping to a Military and Diplomatic Post Office

One of the many benefits of sending letters and parcels via First-Class Mail International is that domestic postage rates apply when you ship to an Army or Air Force Post Office (APO), Fleet Post Office (FPO), and Diplomatic Post Office (DPO).

Priority Mail Express International Notice

If your mailpieces exceed the weight, size, and shape restrictions of FCMI and FCPIS, you may want to consider Priority Mail Express for your shipping needs. It offers speed, reliability, and flat-rate pricing.

Unfortunately, since March 23, 2020, the U.S. Postal Service has temporarily suspended the money-back guarantee when sending parcels to China, France, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Printing First-Class International Postage Online for Small Packages

To streamline sending small packages internationally, consider printing postage labels online using the USPS Click-N-Ship service. Unfortunately, while this service is available for most international shipping options, such as FCPIS and Priority Mail Express International, it’s unavailable for FCMI.

“Why Is My Tracking “Stuck” on the Same Update?”

One of the standout features of USPS mailing solutions is the ability to track your packages from departure to arrival. While you can purchase monitoring capabilities for FCPIS and other international shipping options, destination restrictions can apply.

If an overseas area doesn’t offer the Electronic USPS Delivery Confirmation International service, updates on your mailpiece once it reaches that location may stop, and its tracking information will appear as though it’s stuck.

Customs Processing

One common reason for tracking delays is the destination country’s customs processing. This stage can vary significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Note that updates may take up to 48 hours to reflect on your package’s tracking information.

Other USPS Services

Apart from the services mentioned in this article, USPS has other offerings that can provide increased security and convenience. These additional services include proof of mailing and delivery, tracking, and insurance against loss, damage, or missing contents.

Contact a USPS representative to find out what other extra services can improve your mailing experience. Visit FindPostOffice.org to find your area’s nearest post office.

FAQs

  1. How do you determine business days?

USPS calculates business days based on the standard working days in the destination country. When estimating delivery times for international shipments, you must consider the U.S.’ and the destination country’s business days.

  1. How does USPS First-Class International work?

USPS First-Class International is a cost-effective international shipping service for letters and postcards weighing up to 3.5oz and flats under 15.994oz.

How this Postal Service mailing option works is straightforward. You prepare your mailpiece, apply the appropriate postage, and drop it off at a post office location or USPS collection box or schedule a pickup.

  1. Is there tracking for USPS First-Class International?

USPS Tracking Plus, an add-on feature that extends the duration of tracking data, is available for purchase on First-Class Package International Service. However, you cannot buy this extra service for First-Class Mail International.

  1. How do I track a USPS First-Class International shipment?

Monitoring an international package’s journey involves visiting the USPS website and entering the parcel’s tracking number into the USPS Tracking tool. Doing so lets you see your mailpiece’s status, location, and estimated delivery date.

  1. How do I contact USPS for a shipment?

You can contact USPS customer support for general inquiries at 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777) or 1-800-222-1811 for international USPS Tracking concerns.

Alternatively, visit a post office location. Postal Service representatives can provide customer service and support to assist you with inquiries and concerns about your shipments.

Resolve your international shipment problems by finding your area’s most convenient USPS facilities. Visit FindPostOffice.org and use the post office locator tool.

  1. How long will delivery take for a USPS First-Class International shipment?

The delivery time for USPS First-Class International varies depending on the destination country, customs processing, and other factors. However, the shipping timeframe is generally around 12 to 20 business days.

  1. What can I ship with USPS First-Class International?

USPS First-Class International is suitable for lightweight parcels and documents. However, there are restrictions on prohibited items, so it’s essential to review USPS’ guidelines before shipping.

  1. Does USPS First-Class International require a signature on delivery?

USPS First-Class International typically doesn’t require a signature on delivery. However, you can opt for extra services like delivery confirmation if you wish to receive notification of delivery.

References

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    https://about.usps.com/who/profile/history/
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  3. SIZE AND SCOPE
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  4. First-Class Package International Service
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  5. How to Send a Package: International
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  6. Price List
    https://pe.usps.com/text/dmm300/notice123.htm
  7. First Class Package International Service® (FCPIS
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/First-Class-Package-International-Service
  8. Global Express Guaranteed
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  9. Index of Countries and Localities
    https://pe.usps.com/text/imm/immctry.htm
  10. International Shipping Restrictions, Prohibitions, & HAZMAT
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  12. First Class Package International
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  13. International Business Shipping
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  14. International Mail & Shipping Services
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  15. Priority Mail International
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  16. First-Class Mail International
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  17. Postage Stamps – The Basics
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  18. Request a USPS Refund: International
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  19. Click-N-Ship® – The Basics
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  20. USPS Tracking® – The Basics
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  21. International Insurance & Extra Services
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