The U.S. Postal Service offers a wide variety of services to make it
easier for you when you move or when you receive and send packages.
Prices vary greatly depending on the sending methods used.
Before you leave home, give your correct mailing address in the
United States to family and friends who will be writing to you. If
you do not know the address of your American residence before you
leave home, have letters sent in care of your international student
adviser. Inform people of your permanent address as soon as you can.
Be sure to include the "zip code." A zip code is a five-digit number
identifying the postal zone in which the address lies. Some private
citizens, businesses, and organizations use more precise, nine-digit
zip codes. For example, the zip code for the U.S. immigration
service district office in Helena, Montana, is 59626-0036.
Whenever you change addresses while you are in the United States,
you should go to the nearest post office and fill out the following:
- Immigration Service Address Report: Each time you change
your address, report your new address to the U.S. Immigration
service on form AR-11 within 10 days from the date you move.
Also report all changes of address to your international student
- Change of Address Card: The post office has change of
address cards for the forwarding of your mail if you move. The
post office will forward (send) to your new address all mail
addressed to your old address and will continue this service for
12 months after the date the change of address card is filed.
This service is free.
Telephone numbers of post offices are listed in the blue pages of
the telephone directory under "United States Government — U.S.
Postal Service." Some city directories also list local post offices
under a separate number for "Information" or "Customer Service."
Every city has a main post office, and larger cities have several
full-service branch post offices and small, minimum-service
substations, as well. Substations often are located in drugstores or
other places of business. Many universities also have substations or
other small, minimum-service post offices on campus. These
facilities sell stamps and provide basic services like mailing
packages to addresses in the United States. Although you cannot send
a registered letter or mail packages to foreign countries from these
small substations, you can go to a full-service post office or
branch office off-campus to do these things. Regular post office
hours are usually from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through
Friday, and 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon on Saturday. Substations have
the same hours as the business in which they are located. Most post
offices deliver mail once a day, except on Sundays and federal
Most post offices have small combination lock boxes that can be
rented to receive your mail. There is a nominal charge for rental,
which varies from city to city. To apply for a post office box
(usually called a "P.O. Box"), go to the nearest regular post
office; bring with you some piece of identification that has your
address on it, such as a state driver's license. If there are no
post office boxes available, your name will be put on a waiting
list. When you are assigned a post office box, you will be given the
combination of the lock. Mail can then be sent to you at the post
office where your PO box is located. Be sure to tell correspondents
to address letters to your name, PO Box number, station (if needed),
city, state, and zip code. Mail is delivered to post office boxes as
it is sorted. Post office lobbies (where boxes are located) usually
are open 24 hours a day, every day of the week; however, some
lobbies are closed on Sundays. If you rent a PO box, you will be
given complete information by the post office where the box is
Postal rates for mailing letters and packages change occasionally
and changes are well advertised. Rate sheets can be obtained from
local post offices, or you can access the U.S. Postal Service's
rates calculator web page at https://postcalc.usps.gov/. There are a
number of options and types of services available.
Delivery by air usually is recommended for
mail going across the country and outside the United States. Letters
and postcards to overseas addresses can be sent by surface mail for
less, but it takes much longer (for example, six to eight weeks to
Europe), and the cost difference is so small that airmail is always
These are special, prestamped letter
sheets that fold for addressing and mailing. They are made
especially for correspondence to other countries. They are
inexpensive and convenient.
This service ensures that the
recipient receives your letter; it requires that you pay an extra
fee. If you want a return card signed by the recipient as proof that
it has been received, there is an additional charge. It is a good
idea to send applications and other important papers to U.S.
addresses by certified mail. Certified mail cannot be sent abroad.
This service is the most secure
means of delivering valuable mail both in the United States and
abroad. You receive proof of mailing, and the handling of the
registered material is closely controlled from the point of mailing
to the point of delivery. The cost varies with the value of the
article being sent. For an additional fee, a return receipt can be
obtained, showing proof of delivery. Insurance may be purchased for
up to $25,000 coverage against loss or damage. Registered mail
service is available to most foreign countries.
You can send books in the United States
and to most countries at a reduced rate as long as the package
contains only books.
This is an even cheaper way to
send a large number of books. The books are put into a large canvas
mailbag and the bag is tagged and sent.
There are size and weight limitations for sending packages through
the U.S. mail. Ask at the post office about rates and regulations.
Use boxes or padded mailing envelopes for packing, and seal them
well with a good packing tape. Do not wrap packages in paper and do
not tie them with twine.
If you wish to send packages to foreign countries, fill out customs
forms that the postal clerk will give to you. Be prepared to list
the contents and to give the value of each item. If the package
weighs less than two pounds (0.9 kilos), ask about a special,
cheaper "small package" airmail rate.
Many private or commercial firms offer normal or express mailing
services through a variety of delivery options. Usually these firms
will prepare packages for mailing for an additional fee. Prices and
services offered vary greatly, so it is worth doing a bit of
research before choosing one firm over another.
Money orders (a safe way to send money through the mail) can be
purchased at the post office. There is a small fee, depending on the
value of the money order.
For more information on the postal service in the United States,
consult the U.S. Postal Service's Web site at https://www.usps.gov.