Tips to Maintaining a US Address as an Expat

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Theo
Travel Writer

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Ways to maintain a US mailing and residence address while abroad include virtual mailboxes, private mailboxes, and using someone you know’s address. Keep reading to learn the pros and cons of each method.

As an expat of 5 years, I’ve had to find ways to deal with my mail. Whether for receiving jury duty summons or tax stuff. That’s why I made this guide to help you figure out your mailing solution while abroad.


Summary

  • Americans abroad need a US address for tax purposes.
  • Using a family member’s address is the best way to maintain a US address.
  • Virtual mailboxes are a great, but costly alternative to keeping a US address.

Why Maintaining a US Address is Essential for Expats

The following sections will cover a bunch of reasons why you’ll need a mailing address in the States. Even if you have citizenship in a different country.


1. Tax Purposes & Filing Requirements

As an American expat, you must file a US tax return, regardless of where you live [1]. Maintaining a US address plays a crucial role in ensuring your tax compliance.

Here’s why:

  • IRS correspondence: Receive notices from the IRS.
  • State taxes: Some states require filing a state tax return; a US address helps with that process.
  • Tax professionals: Engaging a tax professional to handle your taxes? A US address makes communication easier.

Don’t overlook the importance of a US address for tax-related matters–it could save you headaches.


2. Access to US Financial Services & Credit Cards

A US address isn’t only crucial for tax purposes but also for accessing US financial services and credit cards.

Here’s how it benefits you:

  • Account openings: Many banks require a US address to open an account or apply for a credit card.
  • Credit score: Helps keep your credit score intact, making it easier to secure loans & credit cards.
  • Online shopping: Shop online with ease, as some retailers don’t ship to international addresses.

Without having a US address, I wouldn’t have been able to maintain my United States-based bank accounts.

Having a US address as an expat simplifies your financial life and keeps you connected to the US market.


3. Maintaining Residency Status

Keeping a US address is vital for maintaining residency status in certain states. 

Here’s why it matters:

  • Residency for tax purposes: Some states require you to maintain residency for tax purposes; having a US address fulfills that requirement.
  • Access to benefits: Residents often enjoy state-specific benefits, such as in-state tuition rates or social services.
  • Voting rights: Maintaining residency in a state ensures your right to vote in local & federal elections.

By retaining a US address, you’ll stay connected to your home state and continue to enjoy the perks of residency.


4. Receiving Mail & Packages

Having a US address as an expat ensures you stay connected and receive essential mail and packages.

Here’s how it helps:

  • Important documents: Receive time-sensitive documents like bank statements, insurance policies, & legal correspondence.
  • Packages: Order products from US-based retailers that don’t ship internationally.
  • Simplify forwarding: Forward mail items to your overseas location.

Maintaining a US address keeps you in the loop while living abroad, ensuring you get all the important mail and the convenience of online shopping.


5. Voting in Elections

Stay politically engaged and exercise your right to vote.

Here’s how a US address plays a part:

  • Voter registration: Register to vote using your US address, ensuring you’re eligible for federal & state elections.
  • Absentee ballots: Request & receive absentee ballots, allowing you to vote from abroad.
  • State & local elections: Participate in state & local elections.

Don’t let your expat status keep you from voting.

Now that you know the benefits, let’s find some solutions for you to maintain an address.


Solutions for Maintaining a US Address as an Expat

The following sections will cover ways you could keep your US address while abroad. I’ll cover what it is, pros and cons, any potential legal implications, and popular service providers.

Let’s go.


Establishing a Virtual Mailbox

A virtual mailbox is a digital service that provides a physical mailing address and manages your mail remotely. They scan your mail, so you can access it online from anywhere in the world.

Aside from the next option I’ll cover, virtual mailboxes are the best paid way to get a mailing address. Some virtual mailboxes also offer registered agents. Meaning, if you’re a freelancer like me, and need someone in the States to receive your business mail, they’ll come in handy.

What Is a Virtual Mailbox?

vector image of mail going into a cellphone

7 Virtual Mailbox Benefits

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How Do Virtual Mailbox Work?

how do virtual mailboxes work

Pros & Cons

    Pros

    • Convenience: Access your mail online without needing to visit a physical location.
    • Mail forwarding: Have your mail forwarded to your international address as needed.
    • Mail management: Virtual mailboxes often offer additional services like mail sorting, shredding, & package handling.

    Cons

    • Cost: Monthly or annual fees are typically higher than renting a private mailbox.
    • Limited physical access: You won’t be able to access your mail in person.
    • Trust: You’re entrusting your mail to a third-party provider, which could raise privacy concerns.

Top Virtual Mailbox Providers & Their Features

Here are some of the best virtual mailbox providers available:

ProviderStarting Price *Best For
Anytime Mailbox$5.99–$39.99+/mo.Receiving many mailing items
PostScan Mail$15–30/mo.Customer service & U.S. digital nomads
Earth Class Mail$19–$229/mo.Mail security
VirtualPostMail$20–$90/mo.Address verification
US Global Mail$9.95–$29.95/mo.Secure facility (in 2 states)
Physical Address$7.98–$26.98/mo.Free registered agent
Virtual home address providers compared.

* These prices don’t include sales tax or other fees.


How to Set Up a Virtual Mailbox: Step-by-Step Guide to Registering for a Virtual Mailbox

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you register for a virtual mailbox:

  • Research: Look for reputable virtual mailbox providers with positive reviews, competitive pricing, & a range of services that meet your needs.
  • Choose your plan: Select the plan that best suits your mail volume & desired features.
  • Provide personal information: Fill out the required personal details, including your full name, email address, & phone number.
  • Verify your identity: Submit a copy of your government-issued ID and, if necessary, complete a notarized USPS Form 1583 to authorize the provider to receive mail on your behalf.
  • Pick your mailing address: Choose an available mailing address from the provider’s list of locations.
  • Payment: Enter your payment information & submit your payment for the chosen plan.
  • Set up mail management preferences: Customize your mail management settings, such as mail forwarding, shredding, & scanning preferences.

Once your virtual mailbox is set up, you’ll receive a unique mailing address that you could use as your US address. You’ll also be able to access and manage your mail online from anywhere in the world.


Using a Family Member or Friend’s Address

One practical approach for expats seeking to maintain a US address involves using a family member’s or friend’s address. This method offers a mix of advantages and disadvantages that you should consider.


Pros & Cons

    Pros

    • Cost-effective: It’s free to use a family member or friend’s address, saving you money on mailbox rental fees.
    • Trustworthy: Your mail is handled by someone you know & trust, providing peace of mind.
    • Ease of forwarding: Your family or friends can forward important mail & packages to your overseas address.

    Cons

    • Reliability: Depending on your family or friend’s organization skills, mail might be misplaced or delayed in forwarding.
    • Privacy concerns: Sensitive mail, such as bank statements & legal documents, will be accessible to the person handling your mail.
    • Legal implications: Some states have specific requirements for residency & using a friend or family’s address might not fulfill those criteria.

Legal Implications

When using a family member or friend’s address as your US address while living abroad, it’s important to be aware of potential legal implications:

  • Residency requirements: Some states have specific residency requirements, & using a friend or family’s address might not fulfill those criteria.
  • Taxes: You could be subject to state income taxes if you’re considered a resident of that state.
  • Vehicle registration: If you own a vehicle, registering it under a family member or friend’s address may lead to complications.

Knowing these legal implications will help you make an informed decision and avoid potential issues down the line.


Renting a Private Mailbox

Renting a private mailbox allows you to maintain a US address. It involves renting a mailbox from a private company, which assigns you a street address.


Pros & Cons

    Pros

    • Privacy: Your mail is securely stored, ensuring confidentiality.
    • Reliability: Mailbox providers are responsible for handling mail, reducing the risk of misplaced or delayed mail.
    • Mail forwarding: Most providers offer mail forwarding services to your international address.

    Cons

    • Cost: Renting a private mailbox comes with monthly or annual fees.
    • Limited physical access: If you need to access your mail in person, it could be inconvenient if you’re not located near the mailbox facility.
    • Business restrictions: Some providers might not accept packages from certain carriers or have size limitations.

Popular Providers & Their Services

Here are some popular(ish) private mailbox services:

ProviderAvg. PriceMail Forwarding?
UPS$10-$50/mo.Yes
PostalAnnexVariesSome locations
Private mailbox service providers compared.

* A million factors will likely go into the actual price of your virtual mailbox. For instance, the city you get your mailbox in.


Tips for Using Your US Address While Living Abroad

You don’t have the most options for getting addresses. But whatever option you choose, you’ll need to know how to optimize it, along with your mail.


1. Forwarding Mail & Packages

Set up a schedule for regular mail forwarding with your virtual mailbox provider or mail forwarding service. Consider consolidating multiple packages into one shipment to save on international shipping costs.

Research your host country’s import restrictions to avoid customs issues, and use package forwarding services if needed. Always track your shipments and update your address with important contacts like banks and credit card companies.

Be mindful of time-sensitive mail, as international shipping may take longer than domestic shipping.


2. Keeping Your Address Updated with Relevant Institutions

Maintaining your US address while living abroad requires diligence in updating your contact information with relevant institutions.

To avoid complications, take the time to notify important organizations of your new address, such as:

  • Banks & credit card companies: So they send bills & statements to the right place.
  • IRS: Ensuring you receive important tax documents.
  • Insurance providers: Keep policies up to date & receive notifications.
  • Subscription services: Avoid service interruptions.
  • Professional organizations: Stay informed about news & updates.

By staying on top of these updates, you’ll keep your life organized and minimize the risk of missing crucial information or deadlines while enjoying your time abroad.

To help further mitigate potential issues, I opted for paperless document deliveries. I recommend you do the same. However, this won’t work for receiving documents from the IRS.


3. Ensuring Privacy & Security

Ensuring privacy and security while using your US address abroad is crucial to protect your personal information.

Here are a few tips to safeguard your data:

  • Opt for a secure mail forwarding service: These services use secure handling procedures & protect your sensitive documents.
  • Monitor your mail: Keep track of expected mail & inquire if something seems missing.
  • Reduce paper mail: Go digital with online bills & statements whenever possible.
  • Request a mail hold during travels: This prevents mail from piling up in your absence.
  • Notify institutions of address changes: Ensure sensitive documents are sent to the correct address.

Follow these precautions and you’ll maintain your privacy and security while living overseas.


FAQs

Keep reading to find frequently asked questions surrounding maintaining a US address abroad.

What Is the Best State Residency for American Expats?

The best state residency for tax purposes for American expats is often one with no state income tax. States like Texas, Florida, and Nevada are popular choices due to their tax-friendly policies.


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About Theo

Theodore began first experienced the wonders of traveling when visiting Vietnam. Afterward, he went crazy and ventured to at least… More about Theo