What Does USPS Forward Expired Mean? Understanding Mail Forwarding and How it Expires

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The United States Postal Service (USPS) offers a convenient mail forwarding service that allows you to have your mail forwarded to a new address if you move. However, this service only lasts for a limited time – generally 18 months. After that, the forwarding expires. So what exactly does “USPS forward expired” mean?

When your USPS mail forwarding expires, it means the Postal Service will no longer automatically send your mail from your old address to your new address. Any mail delivered to your previous address will be returned to the sender once the forwarding period has ended.

In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about USPS mail forwarding, how long it lasts, what happens when it expires, and what you need to do to make sure your mail continues to reach you.

An Overview of USPS Mail Forwarding and How Long it Lasts

The USPS mail forwarding service enables you to have your mail automatically redirected from your old address to your new address. This prevents you from missing important letters and packages when you move.

Here’s a quick rundown of how it works:

  • You submit a change of address to the USPS when you move
  • The Postal Service stores your new address in their national database
  • For the next 18 months, any mail sent to your previous address will be automatically forwarded to your current address
  • You don’t have to do anything extra for this service – it happens automatically

The forwarding period lasts for 18 months in most cases. The 18 month clock starts ticking from the day you submit your official change of address to the Postal Service.

However, you may be able to extend the forwarding time if you are moving for military service or for school. These groups can qualify for 12 additional months of mail forwarding.

What Happens When USPS Forwarding Expires?

Once the time limit for forwarding ends, the USPS will stop sending your mail to your new address. Instead, any mail delivered to your old address will be marked with a yellow sticker stating “Temporarily Away” or “Forwarding Order Expired.” The item will then be returned to the sender.

So if you forget to update your address with a company or person, they will get their mail back with this yellow sticker on it. The return to sender happens because the Postal Service’s system is aware that the forwarding time has elapsed. At that point, it will simply return any mail rather than attempting delivery to an address that is flagged as expired.

This means you risk missing important letters, bills, packages and more if senders don’t have your new address on file when the forwarding expires.

Why Does the Mail Forwarding Period Eventually Expire?

The USPS mail forwarding service is intended to be temporary – just long enough to allow you time to get settled in your new home and update your address wherever needed. It is not meant to forward your mail indefinitely.

Here are some of the reasons why the Postal Service limits mail forwarding to 18 months:

  • To prevent fraudulent forwarding – Without an expiration date, the system could be abused by people submitting fake forwarding requests.
  • To encourage address updating – The 18 month deadline prompts you to get your address changed with banks, subscription services, etc so your mail goes straight to the right place.
  • To support accurate mail delivery – Mail forwarding strains the USPS delivery network. Ending forwarding reduces complexity.
  • To align with address timelines – Most people who move change their address within 18 months. Limiting forwarding aligns with real-world relocation timelines.

So in summary, the forwarding expiration allows the Postal Service to balance convenience for customers with accuracy and efficiency for mail delivery.

What Should You Do When Your Mail Forwarding Expires?

To avoid the hassle and confusion of having your mail returned, be sure to take action before your 18 month forwarding period concludes. Here are some tips:

  • Update your address – Alert all important contacts, services, businesses, etc about your new address before the deadline. This ensures your mail goes directly to the right place.
  • Check status updates – Keep an eye out for USPS notifications about your forwarding expiration date. This can come via email or mail.
  • Confirm after moving – About one week after moving in, verify that your mail has started being forwarded. Look for that yellow sticker on forwarded mail.
  • Submit a new request – If you need to extend forwarding, submit a new change of address form to the USPS. This restarts the 18 month countdown.
  • Have mail held at Post Office – As a temporary fix, you can have your mail held at your local Post Office for pickup.

Staying on top of your forwarding status and expiry date is crucial to avoid having your mail go astray.

Can You Still Get Mail Forwarded After it Expires?

If your mail forwarding has already expired, don’t panic. You still have a few options to get your mail properly delivered:

  • Resubmit change of address – The easiest option is to complete a new change of address form with the USPS. This will reactivate forwarding to your current address.
  • Contact sender – Get in touch with the sender and provide your new address. They can update their records and resend whatever was returned.
  • Temporary holding – You can have your local Post Office hold your mail for a certain period for pickup. This buys you time to notify senders.
  • Parcel Intercept – If a critical package is arriving, you may be able to intercept the delivery and reroute it to your new address.
  • PO Box – As a last resort, you can rent a PO box and have all your mail sent there until you get things sorted out.

While it’s a hassle if your forwarding lapses, there are still options to get your mail where it needs to go. Be persistent and proactive in contacting the Postal Service, your local post office, and any senders to reroute everything properly.

Common Questions About USPS Forward Expired Mail

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about what happens when USPS mail forwarding expires:

What does it mean if mail says “Temporarily Away”?

This is the yellow sticker that gets applied when your forwarding order has expired. It alerts the sender that the person is no longer at that address.

Does mail get forwarded forever?

No, USPS forwarding orders expire after 18 months in most cases. This time limit prompts people to officially update their address.

Can you extend the forwarding time?

Yes, by filling out a new change of address form. Military personnel and students are also eligible for longer forwarding periods.

What happens if someone keeps sending mail to my old address?

Once forwarding expires, any mail sent to your previous address will be returned to the sender rather than forwarded.

How do I notify people and businesses about my new address?

When forwarding expires, you’ll need to manually contact any sender and provide them with your updated contact information.

What if I never submitted a forwarding order?

Without a forwarding order on file, mail sent to your old address will not be redirected. It will be returned to sender once you move.

Can I have mail forwarded to a PO Box?

Yes, you can submit a change of address to forward mail from a street address to a PO Box. The same 18 month forwarding limit applies.

Key Takeaways on USPS Forward Expired

Here are some of the main things to keep in mind about USPS mail forwarding expiration:

  • Forwarding orders end after 18 months in most cases
  • Once expired, mail will be returned to sender rather than forwarded
  • Remember to update your contacts with new address before expiry
  • You can restart forwarding by submitting a new COA form
  • Have a plan to reroute mail if forwarding lapses unintentionally
  • Act quickly if expiration sticker says mail is “Temporarily Away”
  • Don’t rely on indefinite USPS forwarding – update your info!

Knowing when your mail forwarding will expire and planning ahead is crucial to preventing disruption. Be proactive in sharing your new address before the deadline so that important mail continues to reach your mailbox!

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