If you’re panicking because you don’t know how to manage your mail while you’re traveling for a long time or expatriating—stop.
I can help you figure out how to deal with mail as an expat or whatever scenario you’ve found yourself in.
While exploring this guide, you’ll learn the several mediums that you can utilize to deal with your mail while you’re abroad. Moreover, you’ll understand why you should still worry about handling physical mail and how to prepare yourself for handling mail while overseas.
Your 3 Options for Handling Mail as an Expat
Unfortunately, you don’t have too many options for handling mail as an expatriate. However, the available options are secure enough to ensure that you have peace of mind and protect your data.
1. Virtual Mailbox Providers
These providers give you a physical mailing address that you can use to receive mailing items, including packages, letters, and other documents. From there, the providers will scan the exterior of the mailing item and send you the photo digitally.
Afterward, you can determine whether you want them to take a picture of the mailing item’s contents, forward the package to your overseas home, store your mail, or dispose of it.
Virtual mailbox providers will usually offer secure shredding when it comes to mail disposal—some charge extra for this perk.
Speaking of security, the mail is sent to a secure facility or a Commercial Mail Receiving Agency (CRMA). Usually, these receivers will have safeguards in place to protect your mail from thieves. For instance, they’ll install security cameras and alarm systems.
To use virtual mailbox services, you will need to pay a subscription fee plus additional fees for particular features and services. However, depending on what remote address provider you choose, some offer amazing prices.
2. Forward Mail to a Family or Friend
If you don’t have money to spend on a remote mailbox service and are close to your family or friends, you may want to consider this option. You can list your mailing address and forward your mail to your relative or friend’s address and have them take a picture of your mail when they receive it.
From there, you can determine whether you want them to recycle your mail or if you should have them scan it. Keep in mind that this is one of the least secure ways to handle your mail. Because you don’t have a secure facility to store your mail nor a means to protect your documents from mail theft.
3. Have It Sent Abroad
If you don’t want to pay for a subscription or have people you care about dig through your personal information, you can pay a steep cost to have USPS forward your mail abroad.
Why Do I Still Need to Worry About Snail Mail?
Most entities and services allow you to receive digital versions of your paperwork or by email. However, the following are letters that you will always receive in the mail for security reasons:
- Jury duty summons: unless you unregister yourself from voting—in the US—then you will continue to receive jury duty summons potentially
- IRS notices: the IRS will only send notices by snail mail
- Receiving debit or credit cards: if you register for a new account or need a new card, you’ll need to receive these cards
- Driver’s license: while you can opt for only updating your information online, you’ll need an address if you want to receive a new copy of your license
While doing everything online is fantastic, it’s hard to verify particular services. For instance, the IRS will only send physical letters, not emails. They use these operation procedures to ensure people don’t fall for phishing scams.
7 Step Process To Handle Mail Overseas
Now that you understand the various methods available to handle mail and why it’s important, it’s time for you to set up receiving mail abroad. If you’re already overseas, don’t worry. You can still perform these steps online.
1. Use E-statements When Possible
Inspect the websites of every service that you use and see whether they offer electronic invoicing or e-statements. When choosing this over receiving paper documents, you’ll receive your statements monthly via email or the entity’s mail portal.
If you want to manage these documents, I recommend downloading the statements and invoices as PDFs and storing them on a cloud storage service. Regarding services that I recommend, both Google Drive and Dropbox are excellent storage backup options.
2. Determine How You Want To Handle Your Mail
Review the means of handling mail as an expatriate that I mentioned. If you have the extra money, I recommend using a virtual mailbox. They’ll do all of the heavy lifting for you regarding handling mail.
3. Figure Out How You’ll Receive Forwarded Mail and Packages
Each country and housing community has different ways to receive packages. For instance, some areas allow you to hold mail at a post office, while others provide mail services at convenience stores.
4. Set up Mail Forwarding
Whether you’re temporarily or permanently relocating, you’ll need to forward your mail. Otherwise, the postal service will have no idea of where to ship your mailing items.
To forward your mail, you’ll want to fill out the USPS 1583 Form (PDF), which authorizes the virtual mailbox provider to collect your mail. Keep in mind that you’ll need a notary to notarize the form before sending it. Fortunately, you can find an online notary to do everything for you. Moreover, some virtual address services will pay for the online notary fees for you.
Also, keep in mind that you’ll need to supplement a couple forms of identification when filling out this form.
Once all that’s finished, you’ll need to change your mailing address with every website you have an account with. Also, you’ll need to change your address with USPS. You can either do this online or get a Mover’s Guide packet and fill out PS Form 3575.
Ensure you submit your mail forwarding request at least a couple of weeks before you move. USPS will start forwarding your mail within a few business days of submitting your request.
5. Monitor Your Accounts
Whenever you forward mail, keep an eye on your documents if the provider offers tracking. Anything can happen to your documents while they’re traveling overseas.
Is Your Current System Suitable for Your Needs?
You need to be careful when handling your mail, especially if you’re overseas. Fortunately, there are several ways to manage your mail, whether they’re free or paid. However, whatever method you choose is up to you.