How To Forward Mail | [Complete] Guide + Detailed Steps

How will the post office know to begin delivering your mail to your new address if you move to a new house? What happens to all the mail that goes to your old address? Thankfully, you can have a mail forwarding rule placed on your old address so that any mail addressed to you there will be automatically forwarded to your new address. It might sound like this would be complicated to set up, but it is quite easy to have your local post office forward your mail. Keep reading as we give you everything you need to know about mail forwarding, including how to do it, how much it costs, and how long it remains in effect.


How To Forward USPS Mail Online

The United States Postal Service has expanded its online capabilities in recent years. Setting up mail forwarding is just one of the many things you can accomplish online now. First, it helps to have a good understanding of exactly what qualifies for forwarding. Nearly all of your regular mail will be forwarded at no charge. This includes regular first-class mail as well as premium services like Priority Mail, Priority Mail Express, and first-class package service. USPS Ground and Media Mail are also forwarded, but you will be responsible for paying the shipping costs from your local post office to your new address. USPS Marketing mail materials are not forwarded.

So, how do you set up mail forwarding online? First, head over to the USPS Change of Address website. Next, you will need to indicate whether your forwarding address will be temporary or permanent. Many people set up temporary forwarding when they are out of town for extended periods of time. However, permanent forwarding would be for those who completely move to a new address. Next, you will be required to pay the identity verification fee and complete the change of address form online. This provides the postal service with your personal information such as your name, current address, and forwarding address. Finally, you will receive a confirmation code, and your mail will get routed to your new address in as few as three business days. However, it is best to allow two weeks for the forwarding to begin.


How To Forward Mail At The Post Office

Many people might not want to enter their personal information online through the website. Luckily, you can still head down to your local post office to set up a mail forwarding service as well. The process for setting up forwarding at the post office is extremely easy. Here is all you need to do.

First, find your local post office. More than likely, you already know where it is. Head down to this location and ask the postal worker for a free Mover’s Guide packet. This packet will contain lots of useful information about moving services, and it even has some coupons inside that you might find helpful. The most important thing in the packet, however, is the PS form 3575. This is the change of address form that you must complete to have your mail forwarded. Simply complete the form and return it to the post office worker. You will be required to show a photo ID, like a driver’s license, to verify your identity, and your mail will get forwarded in a few days.


Types Of Mail Forwarding

Believe it or not, there are different mail forwarding services available, depending on your specific needs. Whether you need all your mail forwarded temporarily or you permanently moved, the USPS has a service that should fit your needs. Here are the different options available.


— Change Of Address

This is the most common type of mail forwarding. This particular service can be used on either a temporary or permanent basis. When you are relocating to a new address, your mail will be sent piece by piece to your new address. Your change of address request can be valid for as few as 15 days or as long as a year. You should select this service if you are changing your address and want to forward all mail to your new home or long-term vacation spot.


— Premium Forwarding Service Residential

This USPS mail forwarding option is similar to the basic change of address option, but a few distinct differences exist. First, there is an enrollment fee to start this service. In addition, PO box customers are not eligible to enroll in this service. It can be used for anywhere from two weeks up to one year. When you use this service, your mail is sent to you each week via Priority Mail Express. In addition to the enrollment fee, you must also pay a weekly fee for this service to continue using it.


— Premium Forwarding Service Commercial

The commercial option is for business customers who receive mail at multiple locations. The locations could be at different PO boxes or multiple street addresses. In fact, your business might receive mail at different locations all across the country. You can sign up for this service to have the post office collect and package all your mail together and forward it to a single address. This service includes USPS tracking for your forwarded mail, and you can have packages up to 70 pounds forwarded to you. There is a fee for this service, and the start date can be as quick as a couple of days.


— Premium Forwarding Service Local

Do you have a PO box for your business, but you don’t want to head down to the post office to pick up your mail every day? In that case, Premium Forwarding Service Local is for you! This service works for both business and residential customers. The post office will collect the mail that is delivered to your PO box and forward it to your physical address. You should know, however, that this service does come with a fee. There is an enrollment fee plus a fee for each package of mail that is sent to you.


— Virtual Office Forwarding

Virtual address forwarding is not something that is managed by the postal service. However, you need to inform the postal service that an agent will handle your mail for you by completing the proper forms. When you sign up for a virtual address, the service provider will collect your mail at the office location and forward that mail to you at your requested mailing address. In addition, they might also offer other services like the ability to forward emails with images of your mail and forward messages from a phone answering service. This is a great option for business owners who want to keep their personal addresses confidential while saving money on physical office space.


Cost Of Mail Forwarding

A basic permanent or temporary change of address is not expensive. If done in person at the post office, this will cost you nothing. However, if you choose to do it online, then you will have to pay $1.05 by credit card or debit card as an identity verification fee. This allows the post office to ensure that someone else is not forwarding your mail without your consent. Once established, there are no additional fees for this service.

All of the premium forwarding services come with a higher enrollment fee as well as usage fees. For example, premium forwarding service residential costs $21.90 to enroll ($20.10 if done online). Once enrolled, you will need to pay a weekly fee of $21.90 to have your packages of mail forwarded to you. The other premium services are quite similar. There is about a $20 enrollment fee with each of them and approximately $20 fees for forwarding mail. If your mail is forwarded each week, then this can quickly add up to a large bill. Unless one of these services is absolutely necessary, you might consider another option for getting your mail delivered to you.


How Long Does Mail Forwarding Last?

It depends on the type of service that you have requested. A standard, permanent change of address is valid for six months. If you need it to last longer, then you can extend that for another six months. In total, you can have your mail forwarded for up to a year with a permanent change of address. If you only need a temporary change of address, you can also have it in effect for up to a year. The minimum amount of time that you may request is 15 days. If you are at a different address for less than 15 days, you should ask that the post office hold your mail until you return.

Premium services are nearly identical when it comes to the length of time they can stay in effect. In most cases, these services must be in effect for at least two weeks. Similarly, many of them can last no more than a year. The exceptions are premium forwarding service commercial and premium forwarding service local. These two services can remain in effect for as long as you are willing to pay the fee. You might choose to have your PO box mail items forwarded to a physical address for multiple years. This is not a problem as long as you continue to pay the ongoing fee associated with that service.


Forwarding Mail To Another Person

First, you should know that you cannot forward another person’s mail without their consent if they still live at your address. If the person has moved, then there are a few options that you have. If you know their new address, then you can reroute the mail to their new address. Simply write “Moved” along with their new address on the letter and drop it back into the mailbox. The mail carrier should pick it up and route it to the person at their new address.

If you do not know the person’s address, then you can write “Not At This Address” on the envelope or package. Again, drop it back into the mailbox for pickup by the mail carrier. They may attempt to contact the sender to obtain a new address. If they are unable to do so, then the mail will be returned to the sender. It will then be up to the person who sent the item to contact the recipient and obtain their new address.


The Bottom Line

Moving can be stressful, but forwarding your mail to your new address does not have to be. Simply complete the change of address form online or in person at the post office, get your confirmation number, and your mail will be routed to your new address within a matter of days. You will also receive a welcome kit at your new address containing useful information like updating your voter registration, how to notify the IRS of your new address, and coupons that you are likely to find useful during your move.


Frequently Asked Questions


What is the best way to forward mail?

Many people wonder, “How do I change my address and forward my mail?” The easiest way is to simply complete a change of address form with the United States Postal Service. You can do this whether your move is temporary or permanent. There is no charge for this service, other than a small fee of about $1 to verify your identity when done online. Your mail will be forwarded to your new address piece by piece as it is received at your old address.


Do I need to notify the post office to forward mail?

Yes, you should complete a change of address form with the post office notifying them to forward your mail to a new address. This form can be completed either in person at your local post office or online through Your mail should start getting forwarded within just a few days, and the forwarding rule can remain in effect for up to 1 year.


Is it possible to forward mail for someone who has passed away?

Yes, the post office has rules for managing the mail of the deceased. If you need to forward a single piece of mail, then you can cross out the address and write “Forward to” along with the new address on the envelope. If you wish to forward all of the deceased person’s mail to a new address, you can complete a change of address form. The post office will need to verify that you are the executor or administrator of the estate before processing the change of address form.


Is it free to forward mail?

It is free to complete a basic change of address form in person at the post office. If you complete the form online, then a fee of $1.05 will apply. There is no fee to keep the service active for up to one year. If you opt for one of the premium forwarding services offered by USPS, then there will be a fee. Some are as much as $20 per week, while others are charged based on the volume of mail that you receive.

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