How to Maintain a US Address while Living Abroad

How to Maintain a US Address while Living Abroad

I’ve been living overseas for 3 years now. One thing I know is that life still happens in the US which requires mail to be shipped or other reasons to have an address. Lucky enough it’s pretty simple to maintain a US address while living abroad.

The easiest option for a functional US address while living abroad is to use a virtual mailbox service that can be activated online. This service scans, holds or forwards your mail at the cost of a few dollars per month. Other services via UPS or USPS will require your physical presence to activate a mailbox service.

Right now, I personally use a virtual mailbox, a traditional services via the likes of UPS/USPS, and I’ve rented a room in a house too. There are reasons why I do it.

Top 4 Ways to Keep a US Address Mailing Address

As you know, I use three different ways to have an address based in the US. Each have different functions as well.

I would suggest you only use one of these services for precautionary reasons. However, if your case fits the same bill as mine, then why not add additional services.

1. Virtual Mailbox Service

Virtual mailboxes give you the option to hold, scan or forward all your US mail. A forwarding service can be handy if you run an online business.

There are several US companies with virtual mailbox services: Earth Class Mail, Traveling Mailbox, Anytime Mailbox and iPostal1. These services generally include email alerts when new documents arrive with regards to private details such as income tax filings or other sensitive information. And don’t be surprised if the occasional junk mail comes through.

This is the offers the most convenience to keep a US address if you’re living overseas already. You won’t have to be physically present to rent these mailbox services. The sign up can be done completely online.

I use this for an email marketing campaign I run on the side which requires the use of an address.

There is a monthly fee of $10 to $20 per month to keep these mailbox services though.

2. Traditional Mail Service via UPS/USPS

The local post office usually has an option to provide you a US mailing address. You’ve seen PO Box services and the like. You can also get a real address without PO Box in the address description.

This can be a cheaper option especially if you have a mail relay service in the US. But, it also has its downfalls which includes scanning or forwarding your US global mail.

The option to scan your mail is available, but the flexibility of forwarding may not be as simple as filling out an online form.

Ideally this mailbox is good if you rarely have immediately actionable mail parcels delivered.

Plus, if you need your mailing address to be in your particular city, this is a good option.

3. Renting a Room Inside of a House

The last time I left the USA, I had to store my car and a lot of personal items. Plus I needed a physical address based in a particular US city.

I’ve realized that sometimes it’s just as costly to rent a parking spot at an airport than it is to rent a room in a house.

So that’s what I did. I found a landlord on Craigslist and rented out his room. This has been probably the best decision I’ve had while living in a physical location not in the US. At least I have a place to come back to and not have to pay AirBnB or hotel costs.

And I’m also able to store everything else.

The cost of a room can vary depending in your city. But in this city I was in of roughly 600,000 people, the room cost me $400 per month. It was worth it, as I also store a server I keep online there. Plus my car.

I was lucky as this is not a permanent address on a long term lease. It’s month to month, and I can choose to go as I please.

4. Permanent Address Options

You can always use a permanent address to receive mail. Why not consider a friend, or a family member to get all your mail. There’s innately a better trust relationship with them to get sensitive data like your Federal Tax Return, tax bill, official documents etc.

If you have a house, you can put that as your permanent resident on your expat tax return and still figure out additional income tax deduction based on the city.

That above paragraph may not be for everyone. But in case you don’t know, there are tax exclusion benefits if you’re moving overseas for an extended time. To live abroad in a foreign country has tax benefits if you work for a US based company.

What is a Forwarding Service?

A forwarding service is a type of address management product that enables people who are moving or traveling abroad to have their mail forwarded to them wherever they are or to another specified address. Most traditional forwarders offer both domestic and global mail forwarding.

There are two types of services available for utilizing this service:

1. The company offers you an actual street address for your use. You can use this address to rent a PO Box at the post office or other mailbox company’s location.

2. The company provides you a virtual street address for your use. All your mail will be scanned and forwarded to you via email, fax, text messages, or a secure website. This is a much more convenient option as you don’t have to worry about picking up your mail or having it forwarded.

Both of these services are pretty expensive if you’re only using them for a few weeks, but the more time you spend abroad, the more economical they become. (About $20 USD per month)

This is one of the most important things expats need to consider before they move overseas. Placing an order for a mail forwarding service, both virtual and physical, will allow you to receive your mail wherever you are in the world.

If not, then it’s up to you to find other options such as renting a house or apartment. However, this can be very costly and inconvenient if you’re only staying overseas temporarily.

What is a Virtual Mailbox?

A Virtual Mailbox is an arrangement by which the customer has a mailbox assigned to them, but it is not at the location of the mailbox company. Instead, all mail addressed to this virtual address is forwarded either to another address (usually the client’s home address) or held for pick-up at one of thousands of secure locations that are part of the network throughout North America.

Virtual mailing address arrangements are available in two types:

1) Non-PO Box: Mail is forwarded to a street address or P.O. box

2) PO Box: This service provides the customer with a physical mailbox at a secure location, but all mail addressed to that virtual address is not held there for pick up. Instead, it is forwarded to a street address or P.O. box as described above.

Related Questions

Do I need to keep a US address while living abroad?

In most cases, yes. If you’re working for a US company overseas, then they will usually pay to have your mail forwarded by a forwarder or virtual mailbox service. If not, then you should stick with a friend or family member who has an address within the US that you can use as your primary address.

What happens if I cancel my mail forwarding service or virtual mailbox?

In most cases, if you cancel a mail forwarding service before the end of the term, you will be charged a cancellation fee. Some companies may also offer you a partial refund to prorate your cancellation if you have not used the full term of the subscription. With a virtual mailbox arrangement, there is generally no fee to cancel the service early.

What do I need for mail forwarding?

You will need to sign up with a company that provides this type of service. Once your order is confirmed, you will be provided with an address (either street or PO box) where your mail can be sent. This address will remain active for however long you want the service.

How do I prepare my mail before I leave?

To ensure that all future correspondences (e.g., bills, statements) are properly delivered to your new address overseas, it is highly recommended that you take care of all correspondence prior to relocating. If the organization sending you mail requires a signature upon delivery, it is necessary that you provide the sender with your new contact information, whether it be via email or by forwarding them a self-addressed envelope to use for future correspondences.

What are the steps once I have received my mail?

Once you receive your mail, simply remember to save all receipts for any shipments sent to you as proof of delivery to your new address.

Jess Archives

Writer. Traveler. Technologist. Follow my IG @jess.archives

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