How to Prepare, Address and Send International Mail from the United States

 
usps-prepare-address-send-international-mail-from-usa.jpg

Are you mailing prohibited items? Do you know what items have restrictions? Do you know how to correctly address international mail? I thought I knew. My father thought he knew too. Don't make the same mistakes.

We're responsible for obeying the laws and regulations governing domestic and international mail, but we're also obligated to comply with country-specific mailing conditions. Your cards and letters don't have to be lost in the mail. Packages don't have to be returned. Presents don't have to be incinerated. 

In this post, I'm going to show you how to prepare, address and send international mail from the United States.

Read Domestic and International Restrictions

usps-prepare-address-send-international-mail-from-usa-1.jpg

The United States Postal Service (USPS) considers meat to be perishable matter that can be sent at the mailer’s risk. With that in mind, my father once spent a Sunday afternoon preparing homemade smoked sausage. The next day, he packed it with ice packs (dry ice is a prohibited international item), marked the box PERISHABLE, wrote the shipping label, customs declaration form and finally handed the package to a postal employee. "It's for my son in Japan," he said.

"You can't use that box."

While my father had read the USPS' domestic and international shipping restrictions regarding meat, he hadn't read about alcoholic beverages. Not only are beer, wine and liquor prohibited from being sent through the mail, but boxes with alcoholic beverage labels are also prohibited unless the logos and labels are removed.

My father transferred the smoked sausage into a free USPS box and gave it to the postal employee again. The employee affixed the postage and placed the package into an outgoing bin behind his desk. "It'll arrive in a few days," he said.

I never received the package.

Visit USPS for more information on international shipping restrictions

Read the Country-Specific Restrictions

usps-prepare-address-send-international-mail-from-usa-2.jpg

About a week later, I received a letter from Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, stating that my father's homemade smoked sausage was scheduled to be incinerated. Meat products sent to Japan are prohibited unless accompanied by an inspection certificate issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As international mailers, not only must we be aware of domestic and international mailing restrictions, but we also need to know the mailing conditions of the destination country. 

The USPS provides a database of Individual Country Listings (ICLs) that outlines prohibitions, restrictions, postage prices, extra services and more. Before you send anything internationally – read the mailing conditions of the destination.

Visit USPS' International Mail Manual for more information

Write the Recipient's Full Legal Name

Once you've read the domestic, international and country-specific restrictions – and understand what you can and cannot mail – you're ready to address your mail.

  • Left justify and legibly print (pen or permanent marker) or type (sans serif type) the delivery address on the same side of postcards, envelopes and packages that'll bear the postage. Use a minimum of 6-point type and avoid narrow type and script fonts.
  • The right half of the address side of the postcard, envelope or package is reserved for the delivery address, postage, labels and postal notations.
  • Use uppercase letters.
  • Omit punctuation, such as commas and periods.
  • Mail cannot be addressed to a person in one country “in care of” a person in another country.
  • Mail cannot be addressed to Boxholder or Householder.

Option A (see image)
Write the recipient's full legal name in uppercase roman letters - first name, middle initial (if applicable) and last name. The legal name should correspond to the recipient's government-issued identification.

MR TOMOHIRO SATO

Option B (see image)
If writing the recipient's full legal name in Russian, Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, Cyrillic, Japanese or Chinese – write an interline English translation in uppercase letters.

If the English translation is unknown, the foreign language words must appear in roman letters, such as romaji for Japanese and pinyin for Chinese.

左藤 智大 様
MR TOMOHIRO SATO

    Need help with address formatting? Read How to Address Mail – Postcards, Envelopes & Packages (United States).

    Write the Complete Address

    Special characters should be omitted, such as the at symbol (@) and ampersand (&). However, characters that are commonly used in the destination country's system of addressing are accepted, such as the hyphens in Japanese addresses or the hyphens in postal codes.

    Use USPS-approved street suffix abbreviations as well as approved secondary unit designators for apartments, suites, floors, etc.

    Option A (see image)
    Write the recipient's complete address, lengthwise in uppercase roman letters and Arabic numerals.

    1-2-3 HIGASHI SHIMBASHI

    Option B (see image)
    If writing the recipient's complete address in Russian, Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, Cyrillic, Japanese or Chinese – write an interline English translation in uppercase letters.

    If the English translation is unknown, the foreign language words must appear in roman letters, such as romaji for Japanese and pinyin for Chinese.

    1-2-3 東新橋
    1-2-3 HIGASHI SHIMBASHI

      Visit USPS for a complete list of approved street suffix abbreviations as well as approved secondary unit designators for apartments, suites, floors, etc.
       



      Write the City, Administrative Division & Postal Code

      For Canada, include 2 spaces between the province's abbreviation and the postal code.

      CAMBRIDGE ON  N3C 4J7

      Option A (see image)
      Write the city, administrative division (state, province, prefecture, etc.) and postal code (ZIP Code) in uppercase roman letters and Arabic numerals.

      MINATO KU TOKYO 105-7123

      Option B (see image)
      If writing the recipient's city, administrative division and postal code (ZIP Code) in Russian, Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, Cyrillic, Japanese or Chinese – write an interline English translation in uppercase letters.

      If the English translation is unknown, the foreign language words must appear in roman letters, such as romaji for Japanese and pinyin for Chinese.

      港区 東京 105-7123
      MINATO KU TOKYO 105-7123

        Visit USPS for a complete list of 2-letter approved abbreviations for Canadian Provinces

        Write the Country

        The country should always be written on the last line. While the USA is a commonly accepted abbreviation, other country names should be written in full. Do not write the country's postal code (ZIP Code) on the last line of the address and do not underline the country. If possible, keep the delivery address to a maximum of 5 lines. Of course, interline translations will have more lines, though.

        Option A (see image)
        Write the country in uppercase roman letters on the last line.

        JAPAN

        Option B (see image)
        If writing the recipient's country in Russian, Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, Cyrillic, Japanese or Chinese – write an interline English translation in uppercase letters

        If the English translation is unknown, the foreign language words must appear in roman letters, such as romaji for Japanese and pinyin for Chinese.

        日本
        JAPAN

        Visit USPS for more information on international addresses

          Write the Return Address

          The return address informs the USPS and foreign post offices where the mail should be returned if it cannot be delivered. Use uppercase roman letters and Arabic numerals.

          Read How to Address Mail – Postcards, Envelopes & Packages (United States) for the USPS preferences for addressing US mail.

          1. Write your full legal name
          2. Write your complete address
          3. Write your city, state and ZIP Code or ZIP+4. Use 2 spaces between the state and ZIP Code
          4. Write "USA" on the last line

          Visit USPS for a complete list of 2-letter approved abbreviations for states, territories and military "states."

          Choose a USPS Service

          Insufficient postage could result in additional postage fees, delivery delays or mail being returned. Affix the correct postage amount in the upper right corner.

          The USPS provides a convenient postage price calculator on their website for calculating the postage price of post cards, envelopes, boxes and other shapes and sizes.

          First-Class Mail International
          First-Class Mail International® starts at $1.15 for a Global Forever® Stamp (see image). The USPS will stamp AIRMAIL/PAR AVION or use Post Office Label 19-A on the address side of postcards, letters and large envelopes (flats) in order to help separate national and international mail. A bordered airmail envelope with the AIR MAIL endorsement is also acceptable.

          First-Class Mail International®

          • From $1.15
          • Delivery Time Varies by Destination

          Priority Mail International®

          • From $23.95
          • 6-10 Business Days

          Priority Mail Express International®

          • From $40.95
          • 3-5 Business Days

          Global Express Guaranteed®

          • From $62.00
          • 1-3 Business Days

          First-Class Package International Service®

          • From $9.50
          • Delivery Time Varies by Destination

          Airmail M-Bags™

          • From $46.20
          • Delivery Time Varies by Destination

          Send Your Mail

          usps-prepare-address-send-international-mail-from-usa-18.jpg

          The USPS ships mail to more than 180 countries. That journey begins by following one of these steps:

          Packages

          • Use durable packaging to prevent deterioration, breakage or injury while in transport.
          • If necessary, mark packages FRAGILE or PERISHABLE.
          • If reusing a box, ensure all previous addresses are blacked out or covered up.
          • If using a beer, wine or liquor box, ensure logos and labels are blacked out or covered up.
          • Visit USPS for free shipping supplies

          Customs Declaration Forms and Shipping Labels

          • First-Class Mail International® and Priority Mail International Flat Rate™do not require customs forms.
          • Customs forms are available at the USPS (no additional charge).
          • To save time, improve legibility and reduce reading errors, use electronically generated USPS customs form and shipping labels (no additional charge).
          • To complete a customs form, you need the recipient's address, contents' value and weight, package's total weight and value as well as a shipping service
          • Ensure your address on the customs form matches the return address on your mail.

          Visit USPS to learn more about customs forms

          The Emergency Manager Workbook

          Be able to communicate effectively in emergencies. Know how to prepare and what to do. Maximize preparedness. Minimize risk. Get ahead, before you’re behind!

          Wrap Up

          You just learned how to prepare, address and send international mail from the United States. Whether you're sending postcards, birthday cards, packages or something else, follow these 9 steps to save time, money and ensure your mail is deliverable.

          Where do you often send international mail? Have you ever had any items lost, returned or incinerated?

          The post How to Prepare, Address and Send International Mail from the United States first appeared on the Culture Gaps Blog by Jeff Shibasaki.