What Mail Cannot Be Forwarded

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March 10, 2024

Many people move from one location to another and change addresses from time to time. In 2022 alone, the United States Postal Service (USPS) handled 33.2 million address changes.

From this figure, you can imagine USPS’ challenges when forwarding mail to the new address. One of these challenges is handling mail that cannot be forwarded.

What are the types of mail that USPS does not forward? How do you request a change of mailing address? Can you forward your mail if you have a post office box (P.O. box)?

This article digs deep into USPS mail forwarding and discusses the pros and cons of this service. This article also explains how quickly you can start forwarding mail and how to modify or cancel your change-of-address request.

If you want to visit a postal facility to request mail forwarding, use FindPostOffice.org’s search tool to find a post office near you. Read more about mail forwarding and other shipping services on FindPostOffice.org’s blog page.

How to Forward Your USPS Mail: A Deeper-Than-Usual Manual

Heavy traffic and adverse weather conditions may slow down or delay your mail delivery. However, moving to a new location may prevent you from receiving new mail if you do not forward deliveries to your new address.

The following sections discuss the basics of mail forwarding and what mailpieces can and cannot be forwarded.

Be Warned: Not Everything Is Forwarded

USPS can forward some mail types, such as First-Class Mail and Priority Mail, only if the sender does not make requests preventing those types of mail from getting forwarded.

Some unforwarded mail are likely ones you might not miss, such as bulk mail and advertisements that will otherwise fill your mailbox. Forwarding is one way to help you get rid of those pieces.

Items That Are Not Forwarded

Not all mail types are forwarded. Some of these types are as follows:

  • Magazines and 2nd-class mail
  • Mail not addressed to you
  • Other non-First-Class items, such as nonprofit mail, bulk mail, and presorted standard mail
  • Mail with a “Change service requested” status
  • Mail items with a “Return service requested” or “Do not forward” status unless they come with a temporary change of address request

Finally, a Manual

One of the challenges of understanding mail forwarding is finding a comprehensive guide about this service, from requesting to canceling and everything in between. This article covers relevant topics to help you make informed decisions when forwarding mail.

The Basics

Mail forwarding involves redirecting mail from your old address to the new one. Whether you are moving temporarily or permanently, USPS offers an appropriate forwarding solution to address your needs.

You can use mail forwarding services by paying a $1.10 identity verification fee (as of October 2023) when you request an address change online or at a post office. You may find this fee affordable compared to other services, some of which hide hefty service fees of $20 or higher.

What Mail Is Forwarded

You can forward the following items using these mail service types:

  • USPS First-Class Mail and periodicals, such as magazines and newsletters
  • Priority Mail Express, USPS Ground Advantage, and Priority Mail items
  • Media Mail items

Mail Forwarding: A Complete Guide and How to Do It

Whether you want to relocate permanently or set up a temporary residence in another location, learning about mail forwarding should be one of your tasks. 

You can pick between free and paid options, depending on what solution best fits your needs. Having a comprehensive mail forwarding guide can help you navigate through the process smoothly. This article discusses the different forwarding options and how to change your address.

Mail Forwarding: The Basics

If you are moving or want to forward your mail for the first time, you need must have a fundamental understanding of this service. The following sections discuss these basic mail-forwarding concepts.

Is USPS Address Change Free?

Address change through USPS is not free but will only cost you $1.10 when requesting through the USPS website. Beware of scammers who may charge around $40 or more for this task.

Getting Started

The mail forwarding start date is usually within three business days of submitting your request. However, USPS recommends you prepare at least two weeks before the service begins. 

Once the service starts, forwarded mail should come to your new address piece by piece.

What Is Mail Forwarding?

In mail forwarding, letters or packages sent to your inactive or old address will be passed along to your present address.

Suppose you are temporarily relocating. You can use mail forwarding instead of placing your mail delivery on hold, especially when you have urgent mail you do not want to miss.

If you are permanently moving, mail forwarding can be easier than contacting everyone likely to send mail to you.

Moving or Relocating

When moving to a new location, submit a permanent change of address request to USPS. The courier will reroute your mail to your new address.

Suppose you want to relocate to a different place for 15 days up to 1 year. You may have plans to go to school or temporarily stay with friends or family. In this case, request a temporary change of address.

Finding and Filling the Change-of-Address Form

If you want to use USPS’ change-of-address service, visit your local post office and ask for the change-of-address (COA) form or mover’s guide.

Then, fill out the form correctly and drop it off in the mail. You don’t have to pay for shipping to accomplish this task.

How Does USPS Mail Forwarding Work?

As mentioned earlier, mail forwarding involves redirecting your mail to your new address once you move. 

When you submit the forward request, the courier enters this into an address database so that when a shipper sends a letter or package to your old address, your move to the new place gets detected at the origin.

Your Mail Forwarding Options

You can specify what mail forwarding service you need depending on whether you are permanently or temporarily moving. The following sections discuss these options.

Permanent Mail Forwarding

When you request permanent mail forwarding, it does not mean the courier will permanently forward your mail. Instead, this service indicates that you have moved permanently. 

USPS will forward your mailpieces for one year after the request.

The National Change of Address Database

Whenever you use permanent mail forwarding, the address change gets reported to the National Change of Address (NCOA) database. This information remains for 48 months and gets shared with anyone with your previous address and willing to pay for this information.

USPS Change of Address for Temporary Moves

Sometimes, you will have to move to a different location for a specific period, such as several months to a few years. In such cases, consider making a temporary COA request to help forward mail to your new place.

Temporary Forwarding: Limits and Benefits

Temporary forwarding requires you to forward mail for at least 14 days because the courier needs time to set up your forwarded mail in the system. Otherwise, your forwarded mail may arrive at your new temporary address after you have left it.

One benefit of temporary forwarding is that you can use this service for up to one year, which is helpful if you are relocating for that long.

You Can Also Forward Mail With the USPS Premium Forwarding Service

USPS offers the Premium Forwarding Service Residential (PFS-Residential) service, which lets your local post office pack and forward your mail weekly via Priority Mail.

As of October 2023, the PFS-Residential enrollment fees are $23.40 online and $25.45 at the post office. Other costs include a $25.45 weekly fee whether you registered online or in person.

How Premium Forwarding Works

The PFS-Residential service works by forwarding the following mail items:

ServiceExpected arrival time
Registered Mail and Priority Mail ExpressRerouted immediately
Priority MailRerouted immediately or sent weekly, whichever is faster
USPS First-Class Mail, marketing notices, and periodicalsForwarded weekly
USPS Ground Advantage, First-Class Mail (large), and Media MailForwarded automatically for free

Enroll for Premium Forwarding Online

If you want to enroll for PFS online, follow these steps:

  • Plan ahead by canceling other forwarding or COA requests and allowing 7 to 10 days to receive the initial Priority Mail delivery.
  • Go to the PFS-Residential page on the USPS website.
  • Log in to or create your free USPS.com account.
  • Fill out the form.

After these steps, you should see the total for the forwarding period, but USPS will only charge you the weekly fee.

Enroll in Person at the Post Office

To enroll in PFS-Residential in person, visit the post office where your P.O. box is located and bring two acceptable forms of I.D., which are as follows:

  • Primary I.D. with a clear photo
  • Secondary I.D. with the forwarding address as proof of residence

Address Change USPS: What to Know About Forwarding Mail

Changing your address through USPS can be challenging, especially when doing so for the first time. The following sections can guide you through this process, whether you choose to change your address online or in person.

How to Change Your Address Online

To change your address on the USPS website, follow these steps:

  • Go to the USPS website’s change-of-address page.
  • Choose “individual,” “family,” or “business” in the presented options and complete the form.
  • Verify your identity by opting in to receive a verification link or code on your mobile phone.
  • Pay the $1.10 identity verification fee. Your credit card’s billing address must match your old or new address.
  • If the online verification succeeds, you will receive a USPS email containing a confirmation code for modifying or canceling your request.
  • If you cannot verify your identity online, you should receive an email with instructions and a barcode. Bring the email and an acceptable photo I.D. to a local post office.

How to Change Your Address at the Post Office

If you want to go to the post office to change your address, follow these steps:

  • Bring an acceptable photo I.D. and other required documents when you visit your local post office.
  • Ask for a free Mover’s Guide packet.
  • Fill out P.S. Form 3575 (Mail Forwarding COA form) inside the packet and hand the form to the retail associate. After verifying your identity, the associate will process your COA request.

Other Places to Change Your Address

Aside from relying on USPS mail forwarding to manage your mail when you move, consider contacting other services, such as financial institutions, utilities, and government bodies like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or your licensing agency, so that they can forward mail to your new address.

Mail forwarding should serve as a backup when moving but should not replace notifying important providers yourself.

Which Form Should You Use When Doing a USPS Change of Address?

USPS provides several COA forms for mail forwarding, depending on your situation. These forms include the following:

  • Individual address change form: Use this form to change one person’s address.
  • Family address change form: Fill out this form if your family is moving.
  • Business address change form: Complete this form if your business is changing address.

Changing Your Address With the IRS

The IRS is among the essential entities you must notify when changing addresses. You will have to fill out the following forms depending on your needs:

  • Form 8822 (for individuals)
  • Form 8822-B (for businesses)

Are These USPS Address Change Forms Available Online?

You can find address change forms on the Postal Service’s website at USPS.com. Select whether an individual, family, or business is moving and fill out your contact information and addresses on the page.

New Address Notification

Some institutions require you to comply with their address notification guidelines. For example, some universities that handle mail forwarding require students to notify senders of any address change, especially when moving out of the campus during breaks.

Extended Mail Forwarding

While standard mail forwarding can last up to 12 months, you can pay to extend it for another 6, 12, or 18 months.

To purchase the extended mail forwarding service, add the extension when submitting your COA request or when editing that request later.

Mail Forwarding to a New P.O. Box

If you will move soon but still need to know where to go, you can open a P.O. box and start forwarding your mail to it immediately.

To open a P.O. box, search for one that suits your needs, set up the box in person or online, and fill out the COA form.

A Side Word About Hold Mail Requests

Suppose you are moving away for a short period. You can request USPS to hold your mailpieces instead of temporarily forwarding them to your alternative address.

The USPS Hold Mail service instructs your local post office to hold your mail safely for up to 30 days or until you return.

If You Have a Post Office Box

If you have a P.O. box, you do not need a Hold Mail request. Your mail will remain in the box until you visit the post office to pick up your item.

However, this option assumes your P.O. box is large enough to contain your mail while you are away. If not, consider getting a larger box or place a hold mail request.

Pros and Cons of Mail Forwarding

Although mail forwarding comes with several benefits, it also has limitations. Consider these pros and cons before requesting mail forwarding with the courier.

Pros

The advantages of mail forwarding are as follows:

  • Simplify your to-do list before moving.
  • Ensure you don’t miss essential information.
  • Get free or inexpensive rates through USPS.
  • Protect your security via a private service.

Cons

On the other hand, mail forwarding has the following disadvantages:

  • Standard USPS mail forwarding is only good for six months. 
  • Extended mail forwarding costs at least $19.95.
  • Private post-redirection services are expensive.
  • USPS COA requests for international moves must be in-person.

USPS Mail Forwarding Is Not Working: Why Is This?

Despite the benefits of USPS mail forwarding, it can be frustrating when this service does not work. Some reasons for this situation are discussed in the sections below.

Typo in the Address

If the address you specify in your COA form is incorrect, USPS mail forwarding may not work. Therefore, ensure all information you enter is 100% accurate before you submit your form.

Vacation Replacement: Ever Heard of That?

Another reason your mail forwarding does not work is that your regular post office staff is on vacation. While this situation is unlikely to happen, this case has been known to happen.

Mail Reversal

Suppose you purchase something from an online store after your mail forwarding service has started, but the item has not arrived. In this case, mail reversal may have occurred.

Mail reversal is when a merchant, company, or post office sends your letter or package to your old address instead of the new one.

You Are Waiting for Items That Are Not Forwarded

As mentioned earlier, only First-Class Mail, Priority Mail, Ground Advantage, Media Mail, and Priority Mail items are eligible for mail forwarding. If your mailpiece does not fall under any of these mail classes, it will likely not get forwarded.

What to Do When Mail Forwarding Isn’t Working

If you are experiencing difficulties with mail forwarding, consider talking to a United States Postal Inspector. Call 1-877-876-2455 if you decide to speak with a postal inspector.

USPS Change of Address Forms You Have to Get In Person

Although changing your address can be convenient when done online, some circumstances may require you to complete the forms in person at the post office.

These circumstances include the following:

  • You or your family is moving out of the country.
  • You, your family, or your business is changing address to a P.O. box.
  • You or your family is moving from a business address to a residential one or vice versa.
  • You’re leaving a business.
  • Your old or new address is a commercial mail receiving agency (CMRA). 

CMRA is a private business accepting USPS mail on behalf of third parties.

How Quickly Can You Start Mail Forwarding With USPS?

Mail forwarding is not instantaneous, and it can take around 7 to 10 business days for USPS to make the changes to forward your mail to your new address. To be safe, submit your forwarding request two weeks before you need the mail to begin forwarding.

Do You Get a Confirmation That Your Request Was Received?

When changing your address with USPS, you will receive a move validation letter confirming the completion of the mail forwarding request process.

After submitting your completed COA form, the post office will process it and automatically send the move validation letter to your home.

What Should You Do if You Haven’t Gotten Your Mail Like You Were Supposed to?

Suppose you submitted your mail forwarding request two weeks ago, but the post office is still not forwarding your mail.

When this situation happens, visit your local post office and inform the staff about your case. Bring a valid photo identification (I.D.) to prove your identity when visiting the post office.

How to Cancel or Update a USPS Address Change

Suppose you need to update or cancel your USPS address change because you are canceling your relocation. You can modify your forwarding address by visiting the USPS website’s address change page.

Enter your ZIP code and USPS address change confirmation number in the appropriate fields on the page. You can find the confirmation number on the letter the post office sent to your new residence.

After the courier verifies your information, you can start making any of the following changes:

  • Cancel the address change request.
  • Modify your mail forwarding service’s start or end dates.
  • Edit your telephone number or email address.
  • Make the temporary move into a permanent address change.
  • Change the family move request to a single move.

Watch Out for Address Change USPS Moving Scams

An address change scam happens when a scammer obtains your full legal name and address. The scammer submits a residency modification form via mail to the post office, resulting in your mail getting forwarded to their residence instead of yours.

Upon receiving your mail, the scammer can access your sensitive documents, including banking and credit card information.

One way to stop this scam from happening is to have the post office send a change-of-address confirmation to your known address.

More Moving Advice Worth Reviewing

Moving can be a significant challenge when buying, selling, or renting a home. Aside from setting up your mail forwarding service with USPS, other essential considerations are as follows:

  • Renting a moving truck
  • Decluttering by donating furniture
  • Getting a storage unit
  • Tipping a mover

Make Sure Your Mail Goes Where You Go

When requesting mail forwarding, always inform the post office of the addresses you are relocating to and moving from. 

USPS does not have a nationwide network alerting the carrier when you relocate. The only way for the Postal Service to know about the change is for you to notify USPS.

FAQs

  1. How long does mail forwarding last?

USPS can forward mail, including letters and packages, to your new address on a COA form for six months. However, you can extend mail forwarding for a fee.

  1. Can I do a change of address ahead of my move?

You can submit your COA form before your move because doing so gives USPS enough time to make the necessary changes to forward your mail. Proper planning allows mail forwarding to proceed smoothly.

  1. What happens when mail forwarding ends?

After your USPS mail forwarding service ends, the courier will return your mail to the sender with any of the following notes:

  1. Which USPS mail forwarding form can I use?

The mail forwarding form you will use depends on your needs:

  • If you are the only person moving, use the individual COA form to request mail forwarding.
  • If you need to forward your family’s mail to the new address, complete the family COA form.
  • If you move your business address, use the business COA form.
  1. When will the USPS mail forwarding begin?

Mail forwarding should start within three business days after you submit the request.

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

During the application process, you can indicate the date you want USPS to start forwarding mail to your new address. Expect to receive your mail at this address on the move date or a few days after the specified start date.

  1. How do I know if my USPS mail forwarding request was successful?

After filling out and submitting your mail forwarding request, the post office will mail a validation letter to your new address. USPS will process your COA form before sending a customer notification letter to your updated address.

If you submit your request online, USPS will send a COA confirmation with your confirmation code to your inbox.

  1. What should I do if I fail to receive my mail?

If the 14-day window lapses before receiving your mail at your new address, visit the post office and notify them of the situation. Bring your I.D. and confirmation code as a reference when visiting your local post office.

  1. How much does USPS mail forwarding cost?

USPS can forward your First-Class Mail free of charge using the standard COA form. However, filling out the form online requires paying a $1.10 fee for identification purposes.

  1. Can USPS allow mail forwarding extensions?

Standard mail forwarding lasts for 12 months. However, you can extend your USPS mail forwarding for another 6, 12, or 18 months by paying a small fee.

  1. Which mail can be forwarded for free?

USPS can forward First-Class Mail, Priority Mail Express, Ground Advantage, and Priority Mail items for free. However, forwarding Media Mail items requires you to pay the cost to ship from the post office to your new address.

  1. Does USPS mail forwarding include packages?

USPS can forward First-Class Mail packages with standard permanent or temporary mail forwarding at no added cost.

  1. What will happen if I do not submit a USPS mail forwarding request?

If you do not submit a mail forwarding request when moving, the post office will store your mail for up to 10 days. Afterward, USPS will return the piece of mail to the sender or discard it if the Postal Service cannot return the mail.

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

Other entities you should notify aside from USPS when changing your address are as follows:

  • IRS
  • Banks and credit card companies
  • Social Security Administration
  • Election office
  • Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
  1. How long will it take for the post office to change my address?

A USPS COA request usually takes 7 to 10 business days after submitting your form. You can receive your mail promptly if you do your mail forwarding in advance.

  1. Can I do a temporary USPS address change?

You can request a temporary change of address, allowing USPS to forward your mail to your new address for 15 days to one year. To do so, fill out the temporary COA form.

  1. Can I do an address change with USPS to a post office box?

USPS allows you to change your address to a P.O. box. After opening a P.O. box account, fill out the appropriate COA form to forward your mail to this box.

  1. Does the post office notify mail senders of my new address?

The post office will usually not notify anyone about your address change when you file a COA form.

In other words, you should be the one to notify your senders, including utility companies, financial institutions, and government agencies, so that they can forward mail to your new address.

  1. When should I change my address with the post office when moving?

If you want prompt delivery to your new home, complete your USPS mail forwarding request at least two weeks before moving.

  1. Does USPS share my address with anyone?

The post office will not share your location with anyone. Based on the Privacy Act, USPS’ policy includes the following:

  • Not selling or renting your personal information to outside parties.
  • Not marketing products or services to you without consent.
  • Not using web analysis tools to identify you without your express permission.
  1. How do I stop mail from going to an address temporarily?

A mail hold can help stop mail when you take a vacation or go somewhere for a short period. To use this service, register at the post office 30 days before your temporary stay or vacation.

  1. Can I change my address with the IRS online?

You can notify the IRS of your residence change online in limited circumstances only. For example, when your refund check is returned to the IRS, you can only modify your address on the “Where’s My Refund” page on the agency’s website.

  1. Will the post office forward my IRS check?

Not all post offices can deliver government-issued checks. Therefore, it is possible for USPS to not forward your check even after notifying the post office of your move. Instead, inform the IRS of your residence change.

  1. Can someone’s mail that comes to my house be forwarded?

You cannot forward mail mistakenly delivered to your address. If the mail was for a previous resident, you can write “Not at this address” on the item and return it through your outgoing mail.

  1. Can I fill out a change of address for the previous owner if I continue to get their mail?

You cannot fill out a COA form for the previous resident, as doing so is illegal. Unless you are their parent, guardian, or executor, they must complete the COA form instead.

  1. What is address standardization?

Address standardization is the formatting of an address to match the format approved by the country’s postal authority.

  1. Does mail forwarding forward everything?

As mentioned earlier, USPS mail forwarding can only forward First-Class Mail, Media Mail, Priority Mail, Ground Advantage, and Priority Mail Express items. Other mailpieces, such as those sent through USPS Marketing Mail, are not forwarded.

  1. Why would mail be unable to forward?

The post office may be unable to forward your mail due to several reasons, such as the following:

  • The address has a typo error.
  • The mail is reverse forwarded (sent back to your old address).
  • The item you are waiting for is a mailpiece that USPS cannot forward.
  1. Does the USPS address change work for UPS?

USPS does not forward non-USPS items. If you have United Parcel Service (UPS) or Federal Express (FedEx) deliveries, you must change your address for each service. If not, these companies will continue delivering to the existing address.

References

  1. SIZE AND SCOPE
    https://facts.usps.com/size-and-scope/
  2. Standard Forward Mail & Change of Address
    https://www.usps.com/manage/forward.htm
  3. How to change your address
    https://www.usa.gov/change-address
  4. Premium Forwarding Services
    https://www.usps.com/manage/forward-premium.htm
  5. Forwarding Mail
    https://www.limestone.edu/mail-center/forwarding-mail
  6. USPS Hold Mail Service
    https://www.usps.com/manage/hold-mail.htm
  7. Make Sure Your Mail Goes Where You Go!
    https://about.usps.com/news/state-releases/fl/2009/fl_2009_0204.htm
  8. Full privacy policy
    https://about.usps.com/who/legal/privacy-policy/full-privacy-policy.htm