How Long Is Mail Forwarded Without a Change of Address?

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Without an official change of address on file with the United States Postal Service, your mail will not be forwarded. The postal service relies on you to provide forwarding information so that your mail can be sent to your new address. Filing a change-of-address card with the Postal Service is quick, easy and free. You can avoid lines at your local post office by filing your change of address online for a small fee.

The Change-of-Address Card

The change-of-address card is a simple form. All that's required is your last and first names, old address, new address, effective date and your signature. Change-of-address cards are available for free in the lobby of your local post office. Simply fill out the card, and hand it to an available retail associate at the service counter, or drop it in the mail. No postage is required.

Online Address Change

You can enter your change-of-address information through the United States Postal Service website. The interactive document has dialogue boxes for all or your information. After completing the online application, your credit or debit card will be billed $1 and an email confirmation will be sent to the email address you provide.

Confidentiality

Your personal information that you provide to the postal service is confidential. To safeguard your forwarding information from unauthorized use, letter carriers no longer maintain records of forwarding information for patrons on their routes. Since 2007, cards have been sent to the Central Forward Unit, where information is entered into the forward system. After a forward is put into the system, a blank label with the old address is generated and sent to the former letter carrier alerting him of the resident's move.

Subsequent labels will have the person's name and new address on them. The new address information is associated with the first four letters of the person's last name and the last three numbers of the old address. After the forward information in put into the forward system, any mail sent to the Central Forward Unit goes through an ocular character reader. The reader views the name and address on the mail and that information brings up the forwarding address, which is printed on a label and placed on the piece of mail.

Put Your Mail on Hold

When you file your change of address with the postal service, there is often a delay between the effective date of your forward and the day that the letter carrier for your old address receives the label notifying her of your forward. To prevent delivery of mail to your old address, you can put your mail on hold at your old address until the forward is received by the letter carrier. Mail can be held no longer than 30 days, so put in your forward and hold cards a week to 10 days before you move.

If You Do Not Receive Your Mail

Call your old post office and ask to speak with the letter carrier for your old address. Ask the carrier if he has received your forward order and whether he is sending your mail to the Central Forward Unit. If he has not received your forward, you may have to complete another forward card. If the forward has been sent through the system and your mail is still not going to your new address, an error may have occurred when your information was entered into the forward system. Have a supervisor or clerk view your forwarding information to confirm that it is entered correctly.

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