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Decoding Mail Delivery: What Does Forwarded Mean USPS?

Seeing ‘forwarded’ on your USPS tracking update signals that your mail is going to an alternate address, often prompted by either a change request or an addressing error. We’ll guide you through the USPS forwarded meaning, its common causes, and what to do about it.

Key Takeaways

  • The USPS ‘forwarded’ status on a tracking update indicates that a package has been redirected to a different address, often due to a change of address or a mistake in the original address details.
  • USPS offers mail forwarding services including a free basic service for up to 12 months and a premium service (PFS-Residential) with additional benefits such as weekly Priority Mail shipments for temporary relocations.
  • To resolve issues with forwarded USPS packages, recipients or senders should contact USPS or open a lost package case, and explore alternative mail forwarding solutions like virtual mailbox services for additional features.

How Does USPS Mail Forwarding Work?

You might come across the term ‘forwarded’ when checking your USPS tracking status. Here’s what you need to know to understand the USPS forwarded meaning :

  • This implies that the shipment is being redirected to a different address than initially indicated.
  • A package is typically marked as ‘forwarded’ due to reasons such as a permanent or temporary change of address, or a mail forwarding service request, indicating that the intended recipient has moved or otherwise adjusted their delivery location.
  • This redirection can be a result of a planned change or an unexpected twist.
  • Whether you’re a sender wondering why your package was forwarded or a recipient curious about why your package is taking a detour, understanding USPS mail forwarding can help make sense of these situations.

We’ll review the USPS forwarded meaning and explain what occurs when a USPS package is forwarded:

  • The Basics of USPS Mail Forwarding
    • USPS mail forwarding is a service that allows customers to have their mail sent to an alternate address, and it’s commonly used when moving or if there isn’t a permanent address available.
    • Using a national address database for move detection, this service includes a barcode system to forward packages and eligible mail such as Priority Mail and First-Class Mail.
    • Initiating the mail forwarding process is quite simple. Customers can complete a Change of Address form online with a small verification fee, or at their local post office for no cost.
    • After the initial setup, USPS will forward mail at no cost for up to 12 months. Customers may need to renew the service after this period.
  • When Your USPS Package Gets Forwarded
    • A package is forwarded to the new address after a recent change of address has been processed.
    • A USPS package’s tracking status displaying ‘forwarded’ signifies the USPS package forwarded due to a change of address request or an error in the original address details.
    • When an incorrect address is the cause of forwarding, this may result in an extended delivery time.
    • Packages that can’t be delivered due to incorrect addressing may be sent to the USPS Mail Recovery Center if the correct address can’t be determined, or the package remains unclaimed.
    • When a package is accidentally forwarded to the wrong address, the sender or recipient should contact the post office to address the issue.
    • For insured packages that have been incorrectly forwarded, the sender might have the option to resend the package without incurring additional product costs, though the sender would be responsible for the shipping charges.

Navigating a Change of Address with USPS

A change of address with USPS can be initiated by:

  1. Filling out a form either online at USPS.com or at local Post Office locations.
  2. Providing the current and new address.
  3. Specifying the start and end date for forwarding.
  4. Filling out the required forms on the USPS portal for a temporary change.
  5. Providing a valid mobile phone number for online submissions, as USPS has implemented additional identity verification methods for securing the Change of Address process.

Once the Change of Address form is completed online, the USPS system instantaneously notifies the postal service of the change.

Next, we’ll examine the different types of address changes and the premium services offered by USPS:

  • Temporary vs. Permanent Change of Address
    • The United States Postal Service (USPS) differentiates Change-of-Address services into two categories:
      • Temporary, for those anticipating return to their old address within six months.
      • Permanent, for individuals moving to a new location indefinitely with no expected return to the old address.
    • Temporary Change-of-Address requests can be initiated for a period as short as 15 days and can initially last for up to six months.
      • If needed, this six-month duration can be extended for an extra six months, permitting a total temporary forwarding duration of up to one year.
    • A permanent Change-of-Address doesn’t have an extension option, as it communicates an indefinite move without the intention of returning to the previous address.
  • Premium Forwarding Services  (PFS) Offered by USPS
    • Premium Forwarding Service Residential (PFS-Residential) allows customers to have all their mail, including First-Class Mail and other mail types, sent to a temporary location for reasons such as vacation, college, or seasonal relocation.
    • This service offers all mail forwarding, including priority mail services, for a minimum duration of two weeks up to a maximum of one year, providing flexibility for both short-term and extended absences from the primary address.
    • Subscribers to PFS-Residential receive the following benefits:
      • Forwarded mail once a week via a Priority Mail package.
      • Timely and consolidated delivery.
      • Fixed weekly rate.
      • Additional one-time enrollment fee.
      • Secure and private forwarding of mail.
    • Please note that PFS-Residential is intended for domestic addresses and is not applicable to APO/FPO/DPO addresses or certain ZIP Codes.

How to Track a USPS Forwarded Package

Tracking a USPS forwarded package is as easy as using the unique tracking number provided at the time of shipment. The USPS tracking system will update the tracking information of a forwarded package to reflect its new destination, enabling continuous monitoring using the same tracking number.

Let’s examine how to utilize the USPS website for tracking:

  • Using the USPS Website for Tracking
    • The USPS tracking portal can be accessed by visiting https://tools.usps.com/go/TrackConfirmAction_input, where customers can input their tracking number.
    • The USPS tracking website provides updates such as:
      • ‘In Transit’
      • ‘Out for Delivery’
      • ‘Delivered’
      • ‘Available for Pickup’
    • These updates inform users of their package’s current status.
    • The USPS website also provides options for customers to receive notifications about delivery status changes, including out for delivery alerts or delays.
    • A package’s tracking number does not change even if the package has been marked as forwarded.
    • Tracking numbers can be retrieved through the USPS website or by contacting the sender, and the free Informed Delivery service allows customers to digitally preview their mail and manage their packages efficiently.

Common Reasons for Mail Being Forwarded

There are several common reasons for mail being forwarded:

  • A recent change of address with USPS can result in mail forwarded as the system automatically redirects mail to the new location, whether this change is intentional or accidental.
  • Mail can also be forwarded to an incorrect address if there are errors in the address details, such as a wrong digit in the zip code, which can cause packages to be misdirected.

Next, we’ll discuss common address errors and how to rectify them:

  • Address Mistakes and Corrections
    • Common mailing address mistakes that can lead to mail being forwarded include:
      • Incorrect address details.
      • Unclear handwriting on packages.
      • Mistakes in the zip code, especially those that are written incorrectly on envelopes, can result in packages being delivered to an unintended geographic area.
    • Tracking information may display delivery exceptions such as ‘Insufficient Address’ or ‘No Access to Delivery Location’, signaling issues that could necessitate mail forwarding.
      • In such cases, contacting USPS can help you check the delivery status and options for package recovery from the Mail Recovery Center or rerouting back to the sender.

Resolving Issues with Forwarded USPS Packages

If a package is incorrectly forwarded, follow these steps:

  1. Contact USPS to verify the delivery status.
  2. Contact the previous resident to send you the package.
  3. Contact the sender to discuss options including refunding, resending, or opening a lost package case.

Next, we will discuss the procedures to follow in cases of lost packages:

  • Lost Package Case Procedures
    • If a customer’s package has been incorrectly forwarded and is now lost, the first step is to contact the local post office for assistance in retrieving the shipment.
    • Should the package remain lost, both sender and recipient may need to open a lost package case with USPS.
      • Lost package cases are coordinated through the local post office or the sender, particularly if the recipient denies receiving the package or the person who received it doesn’t return it.
    • Packages that can’t be delivered or returned are often sent to the Mail Recovery Center (MRC), where they’re held for a period of time and may be auctioned if unclaimed.
    • If a package is wrongly delivered due to an incorrect address, and the unintended recipient reports it, USPS will attempt a return to the Mail Recovery Center or to the sender.
    • Or, if the correct address is traceable, USPS may directly send it to the rightful recipient.

Alternative Solutions to USPS Mail Forwarding

While USPS provides robust mail forwarding services, there are other alternatives that provide enhanced and convenient features.

Virtual mailbox services offer an advanced, digital alternative to traditional mail handling, providing a streamlined system to manage mail and packages from anywhere. Services like Anytime Mailbox provide:

  • Real business addresses.
  • Same-day mail processing.
  • Secure data encryption.
  • The ability to manage mail remotely, including options like check deposit, shredding, recycling, forwarding, and free registered agent services.

Commercial Mail Receiving Agencies (CMRAs) such as private mail forwarding services offer enhanced privacy and online mail management, including mail scanning and selective forwarding.

These services provide a secure and controlled mail handling experience, useful for digital nomads and businesses.

Making Sure Your Mail Arrives Safely

Ensuring the safe arrival of your mail is a collaborative effort.

  • Double-check and verify addresses before sending packages to avoid errors that may lead to mail being forwarded unnecessarily.
  • To ensure optimal readability by USPS sorting technology, utilize a simple sans serif font like Arial, in all capital letters, and avoid using flashy fonts, punctuation, or cursive writing.
  • Including a confirmation code with your mail can also provide an extra layer of security.
  • Ensure that mailpieces are not overstuffed and are sealed thoroughly to prevent damage during machine sorting, and use appropriately sized envelopes for larger mailings.
  • Verify that you’re using correct postage by staying informed about current USPS postage prices and checking specifications for mail class and weight prior to applying postage.
  • Always include your full return address in the top left corner of the envelope to enable USPS to inform you of any delivery issues such as vacant addresses, recipient moves, or refusals.
  • To minimize the impact on your mail’s arrival time, plan ahead for unavoidable delays in mail delivery, such as those during holidays or in remote locations.


  • This article has provided an in-depth look at USPS mail forwarding, from understanding the ‘forwarded’ status and navigating a change of address, to tracking forwarded packages and resolving issues.
  • Understanding these aspects of mail forwarding can equip you to better handle your USPS mail.
  • Whether you’re moving homes, going on vacation, or dealing with a lost package, the knowledge gained here can guide you through the process, ensuring your mail arrives safely at its intended destination.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What happens when USPS mail is forwarded?

  • Mail forwarding transfers letters and packages from your former address to your current one.
  • When you submit a change of address to USPS, they forward your mail to your new address for 12 months. They’ll also return any mail received from 12 to 18 months to the sender with your new address on it.

How long does it take for a forwarded package to arrive?

  • Forwarded packages can take around 3-12 days to arrive, so it’s best to plan accordingly for the delay. Submitting an early request for mail forwarding can help ensure prompt processing.

Where does forwarded mail go?

  • When you submit a change of address request to USPS, they update their records and begin rerouting mail from your old address to your new one. This includes letters, packages, and other items sent through USPS.

What does it mean if my USPS package was forwarded?

  • If your USPS package shows a “forwarded” status, it means that the package has been sent to a new address. If you didn’t request this change or haven’t received your package, the new address may be incorrect, so be sure to check with USPS asap.

How do I initiate a change of address with USPS?

  • You can initiate a change of address by filling out a form either online at USPS.com or at local Post Office locations.