How to Use Certified Mail

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Certified mail through the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is an extra service that allows people to know that their letter or package has arrived at its destination. A piece of mail that is sent using certified mail must be signed for when it is delivered. The signature is then kept on file as part of the certified mail service. Certified mail is available to U.S. addresses, as well as military addresses (APO and FPO). Mail sent through the United Nations post office in New York City is also eligible for certified mail.

Things You'll Need

  • Certified mail form
  • Fees
  • Post office mailbox

Pick up a certified mail form number 3800 at your local post office. The certified mail form has a bar code on it, green stripes on the top and side, and is a little bigger in size than a credit card. If you have several pieces of mail to send certified, take the forms home with you and bring them back completed when you are ready to mail.

Write the recipient's U.S. address legibly on the certified mail form in ink. A post office employee will fill out the rest of the form, affix it to the letter and scan the bar code.

Pay extra fees for the certified mail service in addition to the regular cost of mailing your item. Certified mail is available for letters and parcels that are being sent either first class or through priority mail. Your local post office will have a pricing chart available for extra services, including certified mail.

Leave your certified mail with a postal worker to be mailed, or drop it in a mailbox at the post office.

Keep the receipt that you are given upon mailing your item. The receipt is stamped with the date of mailing and serves as proof of mailing. There is a 20-digit number on your receipt as well that can be used for tracking purposes.

Enter the tracking number into the online tracker at the USPS website to determine if or when your certified mail has been delivered (see Resources).

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