What to Do About Mail as an Expat

Explore the best solutions for how to organize and receive your mail while you’re traveling or working abroad. 

Moving across the seas and going on a grand adventure sounds thrilling…until you start looking at the nitty-gritty logistics.

As an expat, one of the most complex parts of living abroad is having to figure out what the heck to do with your mail. If you neglect urgent letters or paperwork, the consequences could be dire. 

Not to worry! Here are the best ways to tackle the tricky mail troubles of living abroad as an expat.  

What to Do About Mail as an Expat

Have your mail sent abroad.

You don’t have to complicate anything if you have the funds! Asking the USPS to forward all of your mail abroad gets extremely pricey, but essentially gives you the exact same experience as living at home. All you’ll have to do is head over to the USPS forwarding website or visit your local Post Office—local on American soil, that is. Once you’ve registered, you’ll receive a welcome kit with all of the details you’ll need to set up your mailbox away from home. 

That said, the USPS isn’t a great long-term solution to mail forwarding. It’s simply not what they’re designed to do. In fact, the longest you can use USPS mail forwarding (whether local or abroad) is 18 months. After that, you’ll either need to switch to a permanent mailing address or find a different service. 

Ask your friends and family to be your mailbox.

If you’re looking for a much cheaper alternative to international USPS forwarding, you can always ask a friend or family member if you can temporarily reroute mail to their address. Depending on how long you’ll be abroad, you can also ask someone to pick up your mail at your US address, but that’s normally not a very efficient solution for an expat.  

With your loved one’s permission, follow the same process on the USPS website as listed above. You’ll simply list their address instead of your new international home. After that, your loved ones can keep track of any important letters and let you know if anything needs your immediate attention. But be careful—even loved ones may not know precisely what “important” mail actually means for you. Losing track of an urgent bill could be costly.

It’s worth noting, however, that while cheap, this solution is rarely the safest option. Even if your friends and family can be trusted, mail thieves cannot. Standard mailbox robberies are rapidly on the rise. If you’re taking a look at this mail solution, just be sure you don’t need added security for any sensitive documents. 

Halt your mail service.

Yes, stopping your mail service isn’t necessarily a solution for dealing with your mail while abroad. However, if you need to leave the country on short notice, temporarily halting your mail can give you a grace period and alleviate some stress. The USPS will happily halt your mail for up to 30 days—even if you send in your request a mere 24 hours beforehand. 

To stop your mail in its tracks, simply fill out the request form on the USPS hold mail service page. Keep in mind that in order to submit your form, you will need to create a USPS account and verify your identity with a valid government ID.   

Go Digital.

  1. No matter where in the world you go, the digital age comes with numerous perks. One of those is online statements! You may have noticed on many of your accounts that you now have the option to “go paperless.” If you choose that option, all of your interaction with that particular company—including your bank—becomes fully digital and fully accessible from anywhere in the world.

    If you’re headed out of the States for a lengthy period of time, converting your accounts to paperless goes a long way towards decreasing your excess mail.  

    IMPORTANT NOTE: While most account-based mail can go digital these days, certain pieces of mail will always require a physical delivery address for security reasons. Those pieces include:

    • IRS notices: The IRS only communicates via physical mail—this is also a good fact to note to avoid tax scams! The IRS will never call you or email you. Trust us. 
    • New debit or credit cards: Even if you’re using Apple Pay or a related payment method, all new cards must first be delivered and activated physically. This one is crucial to account for if you’re living abroad. 
    • Jury duty summons: As an expat, you remain an American citizen. That means you retain the right to vote via absentee ballot…and you remain available for jury duty. Unless you unregister to vote, you are still eligible to serve on a jury in your home state. Granted, you’re likely to be excused once they learn you’re living thousands of miles away, but it’s best to avoid the headache. 
    • Government IDs: You can register for a new ID or passport online, but unfortunately you can only receive one at a physical address.  

Use a virtual mailbox and mail forwarding service.

Of course, the easiest solution to expat mail services is a virtual mailbox or mail forwarding service like Traveling Mailbox. With Traveling Mailbox, your mail always moves with you—whether across the street or across the world! 

With our virtual mailbox services, you’ll maintain a unique physical US mailing address for all mail and packages, no matter where in the world your life takes you. No address changes, no headaches. We’ll send you a virtual scan of all mail that we receive, then shred, forward, or open based on your instructions through our online portal. We also sort your mail for you and deposit checks on your behalf. You shouldn’t have to wait for your money to travel 8,000 miles when we can take it straight to the bank. 

Try Traveling Mailbox today and travel with ease. We love being your mail’s home away from home.