Post offices and other mail service providers typically offer a mail forwarding service, commonly known as hybrid mail or virtual post office box services, to redirect mail destined for one location to another – usually for a given period. In the case of the United States Postal Service's First Class Mail it is generally for a period of one year. British Royal Mail provides a service called Mail Redirection, enabling redirection for up to two years. Customers of such a service usually, but not exclusively, use mail-forwarding when they change addresses.
The mail forwarding service offered by postal authorities should be distinguished from private mail forwarding services. Private mail forwarding services tend to offer additional services and needs that might not be provided by governmental services, such as mail scanning services, online mailbox management and a selection of domestic and international delivery options.
Since 1 October 2007, Councils in London are able to require local private mail forwarding services to register with them. Registered services have to obtain evidence of identity from their customers and retain copies of these documents. They also have to keep records of the customer's name and address/registered office and addresses to which mail is sent.
United States Postal Service (USPS) is an independent federal agency that provides postal services, such as mail forwarding, to the public. When availing mail forwarding via using a private forwarder, USPS form 1583 is required.
Private mail forwarding services are offered too by private forwarding companies, but usually online. Private forwarding companies mostly offer monthly services fees with it. When new users apply for the service, the company will assign them an address where they can receive their US mail and packages. This type of services are mostly availed by people moving outside the US, such as Expats, long term travelers or retirees and international shoppers who wish to shop online for US products. The first mail forwarding company established expressly to service international shoppers was OPAS, founded in 1990. Since many online retailers do not ship overseas and border restrictions affect the delivery of their packages to their designated countries, people living outside the US need a US address to get products delivered to a local address, from which they can ship to themselves. Forwarding companies usually alert their costumers when their ordered packages are available. The customer usually has the option to inform the mail forwarding company on how, when and where to ship their package.
- Trading Standards UK, Accommodation Addresses
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- "A Customer's Guide to Mailing". United States Postal Service. Archived from the original on January 27, 2012. Retrieved January 27, 2012.
- "USA Package Forwarding since 1990".