Address Verification

International Postal Address Standards/Formats

By 27 March 2024May 23rd, 2024No Comments
international postal address format

International Postal Address Standards/Formats

Sending international postal mail is always a headache, especially for businesses. It is because companies have to send out international mails in far greater numbers than personal mail sent by individuals. In comparison, sending personal postal letters to our friends and family is relatively easy.

Personal letters or postal mail pieces are limited to one or two postcards, and that too during Christmas and New Year. Furthermore, there are no monetary consequences if the personal letters arrive a little late, and whoever receives the letter will not mind it either.

But, business communication is serious, and late mail delivery could lead to complications, which will inevitably lead to consequences. To avoid these consequences, you should ensure that you have the correct format for postcode for your mailers. It is likely that you are reading this because you don’t want to face such consequences.

Another noticeable concern for businesses sending international business letters is that they might need to send them to different countries. As you can guess, the postal format in other countries can vary. So today, we will help you understand the international address format and their specialties.

How do we intend to do that?

By comprehensively explaining the unique nature of addresses in every major country on earth. This way, you won’t have to repeatedly search online to find a suitable international address format for your business mails.

Why Is It Important To Use The Correct International Address Format?

We have repeatedly said that it is crucial for business mailers to have the correct international address format. However, we have not yet mentioned why it is critical to have a valid foreign address format.

The need for having proper international address formats is to ensure that mail is delivered on time. Without the correct foreign address format, there is a chance that your mailer might go undelivered.

Although unlikely, it is still possible for your postal mail to go undelivered due to the incorrect international address format. However, undeliverable postal mail is the worst-case scenario in this situation. It is more likely that your mailer gets significantly delayed due to some minor or major errors in the foreign address format.

USPS Requirements for The International Address Format

There are a few things we need to clarify before we can discuss the requirements of an international address format. First of all, you should know that the United States Postal Service or USPS can not verify if an international address is valid or not.

Therefore, you need to verify the address with the recipient or use a third-party address verification tool. In addition to this, you can check whether the formatting and postal code are correct via the Universal Postal Union website. However, this data may not be available for all countries.

What USPS Recommends When Writing International Addresses

The USPS has a general guideline that you can follow on how to write international addresses. Of course, there is no guarantee that the foreign address format obtained through these guidelines is accurate. However, it can still help you minimize errors. So, let’s take a look at the guidelines from USPS for writing international address formats.

  • Use all uppercase letters for international addresses.
  • The international address format should not have more than five lines.
  • You should write the address in ink or type it.
  • Never use a pencil to write the address as they are unacceptable.

What we have listed above are just some general guidelines for writing international addresses. There are several other requirements that you must satisfy before you can send direct mail to international addresses via USPS, and they are:

Use Addressee’s Full Legal Name

When writing an international address format, you should use the addressee’s full legal name on the mail piece. In other words, use the name of the addressee that corresponds with their government-issued ID. The full name of the addressee should include their first name, middle initial (if applicable), and their last name.

For example:
Peter Raynold

Use Roman Letters and Arabic Numerals

Another requirement when writing international addresses for postal mail is to use Roman letters and Arabic numerals. Additionally, you should also make it a point to place the address lengthwise on one side of the mail piece.

Use Interline Translation for Specified Characters

When you write foreign addresses in a different language you must provide interline translations in English. The translation includes the full name of the recipient along with their complete postal addresses on the envelope.

Some major languages or characters for which you need to provide the English translation include the following:

  • Russian
  • Greek
  • Hebrew
  • Cyrillic
  • Japanese
  • Chinese or Mandarin

If you don’t know the English translation, you should use Roman characters (printed or script) for the foreign language words.

Writing the Country Name on The Address

When writing the address for an international mail, you must mention the complete country name on the last line of the address block. In other words, ever use abbreviations of a country name in a foreign address format. It is best to use uppercase letters for writing the country name too.

Writing Foreign Postal Codes

Most people or businesses that send international mailers are often concerned about where and how to write the postal code. The postal code is perhaps the most crucial part of the international address format.

You must place the foreign postal code on the line above the country name. However, some countries prefer the postal code to be positioned right after the addressee’s name. Similarly, some countries like the postal code to precede the city/town name.

So here, the best bet for businesses is to use an address validation API like PostGrid to validate their international addresses. However, PostGrid doesn’t stop with just address validation, there is a lot more you can avail of by using this uniquely designed tool. It also standardizes the addresses and fills in the postal codes if the existing one is incorrect or incomplete.

Price of Sending International Postal Mails From the US

Unlike what you might think, the USPS does not keep a record of Foreign Postal Codes. Similarly, the USPS does not track other specific information, such as the postage price for mail pieces sent from other countries.

So, if you were hoping to get some help from the USPS for determining international postal codes, you should think again. However, the postal service can determine the postage rate for sending an international mailer using just the country name.

It is better that you contact the destination country to find their postal code information. But, businesses can’t just go ahead and call up their international customers just to check their postal code. Imagine getting a call in the middle of the night or a meeting because someone wants to check your postal code.

Such experiences with your brand could potentially jeopardize your relationship with the customers. No matter how you look at it, your best option is to use an address validation API. It is easy, convenient, and doesn’t require you to bother your customer for trivial matters like a postal code check.

Also Read: International Address Verification System

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USPS Return Address Requirements for International Mails

The first thing you need to know about return addresses on international mails is that the USPS highly recommends them. As far as USPS is concerned, every international mail poses a potential security concern.

The main reason why a return address is so crucial for international mail is security concerns. However, the USPS has not made it mandatory to include return addresses for every international mail piece. But the following two types of mailers are “required” to provide a return address.

Customs Forms are important documents used by foreign customs authorities to clear mail for entry into their country and, when appropriate, to assess duty and taxes. When you mail a package to another country, the contents and value of an item must be declared on the customs form.

Mail pieces Bearing Customs Form

Customs forms are essential documents that are used by the various customs authorities around the world. They clear the mail for entry into their country. When sending a package to another country its contents and its value must be declared in the customs form.

Bulk Mailings

Businesses often use bulk mailings because it enables them to get discounts on their direct mail campaigns. However, it can add up to a significant amount in the long run. Now, at least some of you are wondering what or when you can classify your mailings as bulk mailings.

Well, to put it short, any IPA (International Priority Airmail) or ISAL (International Surface Air Lift) mailings are bulk mailings according to the USPS. You can also pay for the mailing with an advanced deposit account and present it to the USPS for acceptance. Therefore, the USPS classifies such mailings as bulk mailings.

How Many Return Addresses Can You Include and Where to Place it?

You may think of including more than one return address to ensure that you don’t miss the return mail. However, you should never do that because according to the USPS  you should only have a single return address on your international mailers.

Having more than one return address can make it more difficult to sort for the USPS’s system. Therefore, even the single return address you provide must in no way lead to any confusion. To avoid such confusion, you must place the return address without affecting the clarity of the destination address.

The return address should not interfere with the application of service labels and notations such as postmarks. Apart from this, you must ensure that the return address has all the required details filled in, including:

  • The sender’s full legal name
  • The complete return address
  • Use only Roman letters and Arabic numerals

Additionally, you should also know that the return address should not include any initials. However, there is an exception if you have adopted a trading name.

Also Read: Best Address Verification Services

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The sequence of Information in General International Address Format

Indeed, the international address format may not be the same for every country. However, USPS does provide you with a sequence of information for you to use when writing the destination address. Take a look at the table below to understand how you can write the destination address per USPS’s recommendation.

Line 1: Addressee’s Full Legal Name Use uppercase letters to write the addressee’s name. It is usually the standard format for almost every country to have the recipient’s name first in the address format.
Line 2: Street Address/Post Office Box Number The second line of the address format includes the street address of the recipient. Sometimes the recipient may have a PO Box address. In that case, you should write the PO Box number instead of the street address.
Line 3: City/Town/Other Principal Subdivision The third line of the international address format may contain the city, town, or other principal subdivision in which the address is. These main subdivisions could be provinces, states, counties, etc. However, the postal code may precede the city/town name in some countries, and you should keep that in mind.
Line 4: Country Name The last line of the international address format almost always contains the country name. Here also you should ensure that you use the uppercase letters.

International Postal Address Standards For Major Countries

As we said before, different countries may have different preferences for the address format they use. Although businesses may target customers all around the globe, the majority of clients for American companies come from a group of countries.

Canada, the UK, and Australia are among the primary recipients of direct mail from businesses from the US. We have provided below examples of foreign address formats for sending direct mail to these countries.

How To Write International Address For Sending Mail to Canada

A significant portion of all international mail from the US is sent to Canada. The proximity of Canada, both in terms of location and relations, makes it easy to send direct mails from the US to Canada. USPS even goes so far as to offer twice the weight limit for international mailers using a Global Forever stamp.

Example of International Address Format For Canada

When writing a direct mail addressed to Canada, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. Go through the points listed below to understand what you should and shouldn’t do when writing a Canadian address.

  • Use English or French: Make sure that any Canadian Address you write on the mailer has the complete Canadian address written in English or French.
  • Space Between Province Abbreviation & Postal Code: As seen in the example above, you need to ensure space between the province abbreviation (AB) and postal code (T2P 3Z3).
  • Precaution Measure: You may place a card containing the names and addresses of the sender and recipient inside the parcel.
  • Poste Restante: It is French for “general delivery.” Your mailer must contain “Poste Restante” along with the addressee’s name for general deliveries.

Where Can You Get More Information on Canadian Postal Issues?

There are several ways you can get more information regarding Canadian postal Issues. First, you can call Canada Post’s number for general information, which is 1-416-979-3033. Also, using the Canada Post website that you can access for solving any issues related to the Canadian Post.

Canadian Customs Regulations And Address Standards

Canadian  Customs is the country’s Border Services Agency. Recently the Canadian Customs reaffirmed that a complete sender, and addressee information is required for all imported mail items. So, if you send a postal mail to Canada without a full sender and receiver address, it will automatically become undeliverable.

Furthermore, the address should be standardized, or you face the same risks of not providing the addresses. The standard format of the address should use Roman letters and Arabic numerals or French. If you fail to do so, it can result in the return of your postal mail.

Hence, you must have a complete and legitimate customs declaration along with the required documentation. If you are feeling unsure about the direct mail that you want to send to Canada, you can reach out to the Canadian Border Services Agency at:

1-800-461-9999 Within Canada
1-204-983-3500 Outside Canada

How To Write International Address For Sending Mail to The UK (United Kingdom)

The UK or the United Kingdom consists of different countries, including:

  • England
  • Scotland
  • Wales
  • Northern Ireland

However, the official postal service provider for the whole of the UK is the Royal Mail. And so, it is the Royal Mail that decides the standard format for the addresses within the United Kingdom.

For example, Royal Mail specifies that you need to leave at least the bottom 5/8 inch of an envelope or postcard blank.

Why? You may ask. This space is for the Royal Mail’s reading and sorting machines to print the barcodes for the mailers.

Example of International Address Format For The UK
MK19 6EA

Much like the ZIP codes in the US, every house /business in the UK also has a unique postal code. The Royal Mail can efficiently and quickly deliver mail that has a postal address containing the UK postcode. The following elements are the ones you need to have in a UK address to ensure fast and accurate delivery.

  • Addressee Name: The first element you should include in the direct mail address you send to a UK address is the addressee’s name. However, the addressee’s name may not be applicable everywhere. For example, you can address the manager of a company with “The Manager.”
  • Company/Organisation: The next address element you should include is the company or organization’s name. However, this element is also not applicable everywhere. Unless you are not sending a business mail to a business address, you can ignore this element.
  • Building Name: Building name is necessary for the address, and you must include it in your international mail. Not including the building number can lead to the return of your mail piece. However, you can also use the building/house number of the building instead of the name.
  • Building Number And Name Of The Thoroughfare: The building number is an essential part of the address. The mail service can use the building number to make the delivery even if the building name is not provided in the address. Additionally, the address should also contain the thoroughfare’s name. (Note: A thoroughfare is a primary passage or way that goes through regularly trafficked areas and is used as a transit route)
  • Locality Name: You need not have the locality name in the address unless a similar road name exists within the vicinity of the Post Town area. The locality name helps you rectify any confusion. It ensures that there are no unnecessary delays in delivering your direct mail.
  • Post Town: Your direct mail must specify the post town you want to send the mail to. You should also note that the post town in the international address format must use uppercase letters. Take a safer approach by using uppercase for the complete address.
  • Postcode: The postcode in the UK is what the ZIP code is for the US. Postcodes are an unavoidable part of the international address format. Hence you should ensure its accuracy. You can even make use of a postcode validation tool to make sure you have the correct code.

Special Cases in the UK Addresses

There are some exceptional cases or oddities associated with the addresses in the UK. Although none of the peculiar cases is of any significant consequence, it is still worth knowing them. So, listed below are some of the odd things you should remember when addressing a mailer to the UK.

  • The Royal Mail prefers its mail pieces to have the return address on the back of the envelope.
  •  If the address includes a locality line, then you should write it between the street address and the city/town name.
  • The postal addresses you want the Royal Mail to process should not contain full stops or periods.

Related Article: Following the UK Mailing Address Format Correctly

How To Write an International Address For Sending Mail to Australia

Australia Post is the official postal service provider in Australia. It is perfectly okay to use the general address format guidelines from Australia Post to send international mailers from outside Australia. You can find the general addressing guidelines from Australia Post here.

The general addressing guidelines from the Australia Post are for mailers sent within the country. However, you may use the same format to make the mail processing fast once it reaches Australia Post. So, all you have to do is write the country name (AUSTRALIA) as the last line of the address.

Example of International Address Format For Australia

Mr. Michael Scott
119 McLaughlin Road

Although Australia is a relatively giant landmass, it consists of only six states. So, it is easy to keep track of the state abbreviations that you need to use in the direct mailer, even if you process the mailers manually. The table below shows all the state or territory abbreviations in Australia.

State/Territory  Abbreviation
Australian Capital Territory ACT
New South Wales NSW
Northern Territory NT
Queensland QLD
South Australia SA
Tasmania TAS
Victoria VIC
Western Australia WA

Similarly, there are standardized abbreviations for the type of streets, roads, alleys, etc., Some of the popular abbreviations that you might find helpful are on the table below.

Types of Streets/Roads/etc Abbreviation
Arcade ARC
Court CT
Drive DR
Avenue AVE
Highway HWY
Road RD
Square SQ
Street ST

There are even more abbreviations that you can see in an Australian address. As you can guess, manually managing these abbreviations can be a disaster. You would have to check the necessary abbreviation for each postal address, go through the list of acronyms, and then write it down.

Manually carrying out such a process can be highly time-consuming and also prone to errors. Hence, it is always advisable to use an address standardization and validation system like PostGrid. Tools like PostGrid can standardize your addresses which includes adding accurate abbreviations to the address.

Multiple Address Formatting Options

One thing you will notice about Australian addresses is that they have multiple formatting options. The formats may relate to unit number, suite number, or apartment number. For example, let’s say that you are sending a mailer to an apartment address.

Here, you can separate the individual unit or apartment from the building number using a slash. However, it won’t work if you are dealing with an address that belongs to one of the floors in the building. It is worth noting that the House/Property Number in Australia can include a number range.

Also Read: How To Write International Address

Use an Address Validation API For Accurate Foreign Address Format

Your best bet to ensure an accurate international address format for your mailers is to use an address validation API. The thing about address validation APIs like PostGrid is that their applications are not limited to validating addresses.

Systems like PostGrid standardize the addresses before it validates their accuracy. The standardization aligns the postal addresses you have with the addresses on the official address database of the country. It means the postal addresses you push through PostGrid are already in the standard format.

But, you know what is even more remarkable about using a tool like PostGrid? It provides address lookup services for over 245 countries. So, that means you can send direct mails to just about every big and small country in the world without even breaking a sweat.

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International postal address standards can be complex, especially since there is a different format for every country. You can’t possibly keep track of every aspect of the foreign address format of numerous countries manually.

An advanced solution like PostGrid can quickly and easily standardize the address to a standard format. With a tool like PostGrid, you can validate the accuracy of addresses and ensure their deliverability.

PostGrid’s system lets you standardize addresses from more than 245 countries. It essentially means that a tool like PostGrid can get your job done in a matter of seconds. Whereas doing the same manually would require extensive research, time, and personnel.

To top it all off, you can even automate the direct mail process with the help of solutions like PostGrid. So, if you are still choosing the traditional way of sending international mail, you are only holding yourself back with a slow process. Instead, you can choose to optimize and streamline your direct mail process with PostGrid.

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