USPS Change of Address and Name (Mail Forwarding Guide)

Surprised woman holding envelope

If you're changing your name because of marriage, divorce, or other means, it's important that your mail gets delivered in both your old name and new name without delay.

But how do you guarantee this happens? Two questions:

  1. Are you moving?
  2. Have you already moved?

If you've answered yes to either question, then you should submit a change of address (COA) with the United States Postal Service (USPS). You could even schedule the start date.

Whether you answered yes or no, two questions remain:

  1. Have you changed your name?
  2. Do you plan to change your name?

Answering yes to either leads to more questions:

  1. What happens if you move?
  2. What happens if you don't move?
  3. Will you receive mail in your new name?
  4. Will you continue getting mail in your old name?

Three key credentials need updating when changing your name:

  1. Social security card
  2. Driver's license or REAL ID
  3. U.S. passport (assuming you have one)

Most people understand this. But what happens to your mail? There's no USPS ID card. So will your name change affect the delivery of your mail? It's somewhat vague.

We'd love to give you a blunt yes or no answer. Reinforcing a reasonable assumption or dispelling a myth. But the genuine answer is nuanced—it depends.

Let's clarify the answer now…

Do you have to change your name with the post office?

Changing your name alone doesn't impact mail delivery. But mixing name change with an address change demands action to avert failed deliveries.

1. Your address is staying the same

You don't have to change your name with the post office if your address isn't changing. You will continue receiving mail in your old and new name.

There's nothing for you to do. You don't have to alert senders. You don't have to notify the post office. Your mail will continue arriving without interruption.

The USPS ignores the recipient name by default when delivering mail unless there's a change of address on file. Otherwise, mail forwarding procedures takes place.

2. Your address is changing

If you're moving, you need to tell the USPS by filing out a change of address form. You should document your name change when filling out this paperwork.

File a separate change of address for each name. For example, if your name change is because of marriage, file a request in your maiden name and married name.

Woman filling out multiple USPS Mover's Guide forms on wooden table
Filling out multiple Mover's Guide packets for each name permutation.

While cumbersome, multiple filings help avoid undeliverable return to senders.

This point is worth repeating…

To receive forwarded mail in your current and prior names—maiden name, married name, divorced name, etc—you must submit a separate change of address for each name.

You can file a change of address for nicknames and abbreviations too; it's not just for legal names. For instance, if your name is Isabel, you can file for Izzy, Bella, etc.

If you hyphenate your name, consider completing three packets for your maiden name, hyphenated name, and spouse's name solo (as a precaution).

Filing a change of name and address

You may submit a change of address online, by mail, or at a post office.

Caution: If you're moving to an international address, register your change of address in person at a U.S. post office. You can't do it on the Internet or by mail.

1. Filing online

Completing your change of address online at moversguide.usps.com requires an:

  1. Email address
  2. Debit or credit card
    • Excludes prepaid cards
    • Used to verify your identity
    • Accepts Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express

You'll receive a "confirmation code" via email. This code (along with your new address zip code) allows you to review, edit, cancel, or extend your change of address request.

They'll charge your debit or credit card a nonrefundable $1.10 identity validation fee per request. So if you need mail forwarded for two names, you'll pay $1.10 twice.

2. Filing by mail or at a post office

Changing your address offline by mail or at a local post office is similar:

  1. Get one or more Mover's Guide packets from a post office.
  2. Complete the inner PS Form 3575 with black or blue ink.
  3. Hand it to a postal clerk or mail it (no postage necessary).
USPS Mover's Guide packet atop notebook
USPS Change-of-Address Mover's Guide packet.

The free paper Mover's Guide doesn't require a fee, credit card, or email address. The form doesn't even offer a space for email. There's no ID verification either.

You may secure Mover's Guide packets at any post office. (No ID required.) They're not often kept in the lobby, so ask the postal clerk for one or more copies.

You can't download the Mover's Guide or PS Form 3575; visit the post office instead.

3. What to expect after filing your change of address

A Move Validation Letter (MVL) will arrive at your old address quick. It confirms your order was successful. It has instructions to dispute the change too.

Example USPS Change-of-Address Move Validation Letter
Example USPS Change-of-Address Move Validation Letter

A Customer Notification Letter (CNL) or Welcome Kit will arrive at your new address a week before forwarding begins. Use the confirmation code within to change or cancel your order.

You can apply online to get your confirmation code faster via email. You'll still get the code from the postal mailed Welcome Kit.

Options when filing a change of address

Next, we'll explain your options when pursuing a change of name and address.

1. Filing status

You can file a change of address as either a:

  • Family
  • Individual

2. Filing as a family

You should file one change of address as an "entire family" if every household member:

  • Has the same last name
  • Has not or will not change their name (red flag!)
  • Is moving to the same new address

The "head of the household" should file using their full name and signature.

Smiling family wearing We've Moved t-shirts

Yet the family route only allows one filing. This won't work if you've changed your surname. You must file as an individual to accommodate your old, current, and new name.

3. Filing as an individual

Reasons to file as an individual:

  • You live alone
  • Some household members aren't moving
  • Some household members have different surnames
  • You have more than one last name that needs forwarding

4. New address

You can set your new mailing address to a:

5. Start forwarding date

You can schedule the start forwarding date 30 days in the past or up to three months in the future. Yes, it can be retroactive.

You'll start receiving mail at your new address 7 to 10 postal business days (every day except Sunday and federal holidays) after your start date or filing date (whichever comes last).

6. End forwarding date

Mail forwarding duration can be:

  • Temporary—15 days to six months, extendable to one year
  • Permanent—one year, extendable up to 18 additional months

The end forwarding date is offset against the start date. For example, a permanent forwarding start date scheduled three months from today will end 15 months from today.

You must set a specific stop date for temporary forwarding. You can use an online date calculator to figure out the duration or calculate a date range.

7. Extended mail forwarding

You may lengthen temporary forwarding beyond the max first six months to a full year. (Well, technically, 364 days is the true upper limit.)

On August 1, 2020, the USPS began a three-year test that offers the option to extend permanent forwarding beyond the original 12 months. It costs:

  • $19.95 for six months
  • $29.95 for 12 months
  • $39.95 for 18 months

That's a maximum of 30 months—year one plus 18 extra months. You may choose extended mail forwarding during initial sign-up or before forwarding expires.

When customers submit a Change of Address request, we have some promotional language that encourages them to take advantage of Extended Mail Forwarding

Tiffany Jesse, USPS Product Implementation Manager

The extension period can't exceed 18 months. If you select six or 12 months starting off, you may only renew in further six-month increments.

FYI, most people choose the six-month extension.

Opting for extended mail forwarding provides a safety net to capture annual mailings that might get missed, such as insurance papers and renewal notices.

What about FedEx, UPS, and DHL?

FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliver to the address, not the name on your package. Your name change won't affect such delivery services.

Conclusion

If you're planning to change your name and address, update your address with the U.S. Postal Service so that you can continue receiving mail in your old and new name.

By following our simple tips, you can avoid delivery problems and make sure that you receive your mail fast and without issue. Fending off dreaded return to sender debacles.

We've helped thousands change their names, both before and after marriage.

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