How Do Virtual Mailbox Work?

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Some virtual address providers offer hundreds of addresses around the globe. But how do they obtain these addresses?

How does a virtual mailbox work in general?

I’d imagine you want to know where your mail goes and who handles your mail.


Virtual mailbox services use either third-party CMRA providers or their own facilities to receive mailing items on your behalf. However, there’s a lot more to learn about how these services work.

Two Ways Virtual Mailboxes Handle Your Mail and Offer Addresses

Virtual mailbox providers receive your mailing items in two different ways. One way gives you access to guaranteed security, while the other gives you more flexibility with addresses. However, after reading this section, you’ll better understand which is better for your applications.

Their Facilities

With this option, virtual address providers will only offer one address. However, it’s the safest route you can go unless the service states how secure each Commercial mail Receiving Agency location is.

These facilities will usually have security apparatuses installed, such as security cameras, key card scanners, and other security measures. Moreover, these are the only locations where your mail will go.

I recommend this option if you’re concerned about security and don’t care about having an address in a specific city.

Commercial Mail Receiving Agency

While the virtual mailbox services are technically a Commercial Mail Receiving Agency (CMRA), I’m referring to smaller businesses these services employ to offer more options for customers. These are third-party providers.

Anyway, a CMRA is a type of private business that’ll accept your mail on behalf of third-party services. Many virtual mailbox services will outsource their addresses to these providers to offer more addresses to customers.

You’ll Want To Understand How To Become a Commercial Mail Receiving Agency

To understand where your mail comes from, you’ll want to know how one becomes a CMRA. That way, you can understand what sort of qualifications they have to surpass to manage your mail.

To become a Commercial Mail Receiving Agency, they’ll have to:

  1. Fill out PS Form 1583—you will have to also fill out the same form when you register for a virtual mailbox service
  2. Provide two types of identification
  3. Send documents to a local Postal Service

5 Steps as to How Virtual Mailbox Services Work

Now that you have a better understanding of where remote mailbox services receive your mail, it’s time to cover the process when you sign up for a service and how the services deal with your mail.

1. Choose Your Address (If Applicable)

First off, you’ll create your account, select your address, and input your payment methods. Some providers will only offer one address, which is generally the most secure. Conversely, other services will allow you to choose an address from their CMRAs around the globe.

2. Fill Out a Form to Forward Your Mail

As mentioned earlier, before you can set up mail forwarding, first, you’ll need to send a notarized PS Form 1583 to your virtual mailbox provider. Afterward, you’ll need to pick up a Mover’s Packet and fill out form 3575 or change your mailing address online.

3. They Receive Your Mail

The Commercial Mail Receiving Agency will receive your mailing item and take a picture of the item’s envelope or package. Afterward, they’ll store the envelope, package, or document.

4. The Agency or Facility Will Scan Your Mail

From there, they’ll upload the picture to their cloud storage solution that’s attached to your account and notify you of your package. Then, you can check the mailing label to determine what you want to do with your parcel at your convenience.

5. Decide What You Want To Do With the Mail

From here, you will decide whether you want the facility to scan to the following:

  • Scan the contents of your mailing item
  • Securely shred your mail
  • Store your snail mail for a later date
  • Forward your mail to a mailbox near you—keep in mind that you can forward mail to international addresses

Some services offer “tags” that enable you to attach an action to a piece of mail from a certain provider. For instance, you could tag mail sent by the IRS and always have the CMRA forward the mail to your address instead of taking a picture and storing it.

6. If You Forwarded Your Mail, Receive Your Mail In-person

That’s the process of how a virtual mailbox works. If the virtual mail service offers mail tracking, utilize it and ensure your mailing items reach your destination.

Not Too Complex. What Do You Think?

Virtual mailboxes aren’t magic, but they either receive mail at their facilities or are owned by other third-party providers.

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