USPS temporary change of address explained

Author pictureAuthor picture
Author picture
Written by
Author picture
Edited by

Where are you moving to?

rows of po boxes at the postal office

There’s a ton to keep in mind when you move, but one task you should be sure not to overlook is updating your address with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).

When you relocate for periods under one year, you can temporarily change your address to forward your mail while you’re gone. Then your mail will forward to your original address after that time.

Key insights

Temporary change of address requests should be made when you’re relocating for a period of 15 days to one year.

Jump to insight

Address change requests can be made online or in person.

Jump to insight

Some types of mail aren’t included in the forwarding service; these need to be addressed separately.

Jump to insight

Temporary vs. permanent change of address

The main difference between a temporary and permanent address change request is the amount of time you plan to be away. A temporary change of address (COA) request (also called seasonal forwarding) is for moves of 15 to 364 days, ideal for when you’re away for less than a year (e.g., extended travel or going to school). If you’re moving away for one year or longer, you have to submit a permanent COA request.

How to file a temporary change of address

You have two options for filing a temporary COA: You can do it online or in person. It takes seven to 10 business days for mail forwarding to begin, so it’s a good idea to place your request at least two weeks before you plan on moving.

Steps for filing an online COA

  1. On your device, navigate to the USPS Change of Address page.
  2. Choose whether your request is for an individual, family or business, and then enter your name, email address and mobile phone number.
  3. Verify your identity by entering a one-time passcode that’s sent to your mobile device, as well as paying a $1.10 identity verification fee that confirms that the billing address on your credit or debit card matches your current or newly requested address.
  4. The next prompt will ask: “Are you planning on returning to your old address in six months or less?” Click “yes” to proceed with the temporary hold. (After the initial six-month period has passed, you can renew your request to reach the 364-day limit, so you’ll still choose “yes” even if you know you’ll be gone longer than six months.)
  5. Pick the date you want your mail forwarding to begin. You can predate this up to 30 days, but you cannot choose a date more than three months after the day you submit your request.

Steps for filing a COA in person

If you’re unable to verify your identity online or you’re requesting a COA for a minor or deceased person, the process must be done at a physical USPS branch.

  1. Go to any post office location and request a COA from a retail clerk.
  2. Verify your identity with an unexpired driver's license or state-issued ID card where the address matches either your current address or the new address where you’re relocating. You can also provide a Uniformed Services Identification Card or a U.S. passport, but these require a secondary form of identification that confirms your address. This can be:
    • Lease or mortgage statement
    • Voter registration card
    • Vehicle registration
    • Auto or home insurance policy
  3. Fill out a Change of Address Order (Form 3575) found in the Mover’s Guide packet that you can pick up at your local post office. You have the option to send the COA request later through the mail, but it will not be processed until you verify your identity.

Once your request is received, the Postal Service will send a Move Validation Letter (MVL) to your current address. Within five days prior to the forwarding start date, you’ll receive a Welcome Kit with a Customer Notification Letter (CNL) to your new address.

If you made the request online, you’ll also receive an email confirmation. These letters contain your confirmation code, which you can use to update your information, cancel or extend the request online.

Make sure to update your driver’s license

You may want to update your driver's license after you relocate, but this depends on how long you plan to be away and the state laws where you’re moving. If you’re moving within the same state, you probably don’t need to change anything, especially if you know you’ll be returning to your permanent address.

However, if you move to a different state, you may need to obtain a new license. Deadlines for getting a new driver's license vary from 10 days for states like California and Ohio to up to 60 days for states like Georgia and Nebraska. Check with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in your state to make sure you know the local regulations.

» COMPARE: Best moving companies

Mail forwarding

Mail forwarding, which accompanies a temporary change of address, lets customers have their mail either temporarily or permanently sent to a different address. However, this forwarding service doesn’t include all types of mail.

For some mail, you’ll have to change your address with the sender if you want to receive it at your new address. Periodicals and catalogs will only be forwarded for 60 days, and packages sent through carriers like UPS, FedEx or Amazon are not included in this service.

Any mail sent the following ways will be forwarded for up to 12 months:

  • First-Class Mail
  • USPS Ground Advantage
  • Priority Mail
  • Priority Mail Express service
  • Library Mail
  • Bound Printed Matter
  • Media Mail

Alternatives to temporary address changes

There are other options that may be better suited to your specific needs and duration of travel, each with its own advantages and considerations:

  • Mail hold: If you don’t need your mail while you’re gone, you can request a hold until you return. However, mail can only be held for up to 30 days, so anything longer than this should be temporarily forwarded.
  • Premium forwarding service: With Residential Premium Forwarding Service (PFS), a service offered by USPS, your mail is collected each week and then delivered to your new address in bulk. There is a one-time PFS fee of $24.10 for online enrollment or $26.20 for in-person enrollment as of publishing. Additionally, you’ll have to pay $26.20 each week your mail is forwarded.
  • Third-party companies: There are some third-party companies that charge customers (often a fee of $40.00 or more) to submit a COA on their behalf, but they’re no longer accepted by the Postal Service due to enhanced security measures in place. This means you should only request a COA through the USPS official website.

What if you’re traveling overseas?

If you’re temporarily relocating to an international locale and want your mail forwarded, the request must be made in person. You’ll follow the same process of filling out COA Form 3575 and completing your identity verification while at the post office.

If you’ve already moved out of the country and would now like your mail forwarded, you can only do this by designating someone in the states to submit the request for you, which requires an authorization letter.

Where are you moving to?


Should I do a temporary change of address or a mail hold?

If you’ll be away from your permanent residence for less than 30 days and you don’t need your mail during this time, you can request the post office hold it until you return. If you’ll be gone longer than 30 days, you should use the temporary COA request.

Can I change my address temporarily by going online?

Yes. Most people can request a temporary address change online through USPS. However, if you’re relocating out of the country, this request must be made in person at a physical post office branch.

What happens when my mail forward ends? (extension options)

If you return to your original address for at least 45 days after a temporary COA is in place, the timeline resets and you can submit a new request for another 364 days. If you find yourself away from home for over a year, you’ll have to request a permanent address change to continue the forwarding service.

Did you find this article helpful? |
Share this article