If you are an ex-pat, traveler, or digital nomad you know that there are many benefits of living a lifestyle abroad.
However, one issue that does need to be taken care of is managing your physical mail while you are based away from home.
For many years, options included a PO Box number or having your mail forwarded to the address of a family member so that they could manage it for you. Both of these have their problems.
The good news is, in recent years virtual mailbox services have made managing your mail while abroad significantly easier and stress-free.
In this guide, we will look at exactly what a mailbox service is, the features they provide for expats, travelers, and digital nomads, and how you can signup for one.
So if you are ready, let’s jump to it.
What Is a Virtual Mailbox?
Essentially, a virtual mailbox allows you to choose a physical mailing address provided by the mailbox service (classed as a certified mail receiving agent (CMRA)) and have your mail delivered there instead of your home address.
The CMRA will then scan the mail package upon arrival and make that scan available to you via their online platform and phone app (if they provide the latter).
For expats, travelers, and digital nomads, it means they have access to their mail wherever they may be based in the world.
As long as they have an internet connection, users can view these digital scans online and select what action should take place.
The CMRA will store, forward, or shred the mail based upon the user’s request.
Virtual Mailbox or P.O. Box?
The main benefit of virtual mailboxes over a PO Box is that you do not need to send anyone to the physical address to retrieve your mail. The CMRA will handle all of this for you.
You also may face issues with a PO Box when it comes to signing for packages or receiving restricted-delivery mail. For instance, UPS will not send such mail to a PO Box address.
If you opt for a PO Box address you will still need someone to take care of managing your mail, whereas a virtual mailbox will do all of this as part of the service.
However, on an annual basis, PO Box rental is cheaper than a virtual mailbox service.
Virtual Mailbox Benefits for Expats, travelers and Digital Nomads
There are a lot of reasons expats, travelers, and digital nomads are using virtual mailboxes in 2021. The benefits are quite evident.
Let’s take a look.
1. Maintain a Physical U.S. Street Address wherever you might be based
Maintaining a permanent physical address in the U.S. is often a necessity for expats, travelers and digital nomads.
Your relocation abroad is not necessarily permanent and you will still need a US address for important administrative tasks such as your taxes, voting, driver’s license renewal, and other issues.
In fact, with a virtual mailbox, you could even choose an address within a state where income tax rules are beneficial to you in light of your relocation. It provides a level of flexibility that can certainly be leveraged positively.
2. Be aware of important mail such as government letters, checks, and parcels as soon as they arrive
A virtual mailbox service means you are immediately notified once mail arrives. This helps you keep on top of important letters from the government or the bank.
Invoices and bills can also be taken care of without items getting lost and payments becoming overdue.
This is especially relevant to remote workers or digital nomads that may still be running aspects of their business from their home country.
The same applies to checks and parcels that may arrive. You are in a position to take action as soon as they are received.
Essentially, virtual mailboxes keep you aware of all your important correspondence while you live abroad.
3. Manage all of your Mail Online
The ability to manage all of your incoming mail online has to be the greatest benefit for expats, travelers, and digital nomads.
There are not many places in the world where you cannot get an internet connection in 2021.
As long as you can connect, you can see and manage your mail from the convenience of your cell phone.
By viewing your mail online, you have the instant ability to store, forward, and even shred your correspondence remotely.
This is a major advantage while living away from home.
4. No longer need to rely on family and friends
It is not really fair to ask friends or family to manage your mail for you.
It is inconvenient for them to regularly be visiting your home address, PO Box, or receiving mail on your behalf.
Not to mention the fact you might ask them to forward, store or shred the mail for you. This is time-consuming.
It doesn’t take long for such requests to feel awkward.
A virtual mailbox for expats, travelers, and digital nomads puts a stop to all that. Once you have signed up for a service you can select your address, and know that the CMRA will professionally manage all of the above on your behalf.
5. Your mail is safe and secure
Importantly, your mail is safe and secure with a virtual mailbox service. Strict security protocols on how the mail is handled in electronic form are a big priority for most of today’s services.
Employees are often subjected to background checks (in order to handle sensitive customer information), and areas, where mail is handled, have security measures in place.
Essentially, when you pay your monthly rates for a virtual mailbox service, you know that all of your important mail and correspondence is being securely looked after.
6. Access digital versions of your mail in the cloud
A great benefit for all virtual mailbox users is the fact you can access digitally scanned images of your mail at any time from within the cloud.
If you are a digital nomad or remote worker and need access to invoices or letters from clients etc, these will all be there, and easy to search for too.
7. Have checks deposited on your behalf
If you still receive checks in your home country, it is very easy to have the virtual mailbox deposit those checks on your behalf. Most locations offer this service and while setting up the process with mailbox providers does vary, it is a simple feature to use.
8. Forward your important mail to wherever you may be residing
Finally, all virtual mailbox services will forward your mail to wherever you may be based in the world.
This will allow you to receive packages, mail, and anything else you have requested to be forwarded to your address outside of your home country.
- Related Content: Mail Forwarding Services: Ultimate Guide 2022
How to Set up a Virtual Mailbox
Although the signup procedure varies from service to service, setting up a virtual mailbox is straightforward and can be done completely remotely.
This also means that if you are an ex-pat, traveler, or digital nomad that has already relocated abroad, it is still possible to set up a mailbox service from where you reside.
Essentially, after choosing a service, the provider will ask you to select your virtual address and will also ask you to send them a completed USPS Form 1583.
This is essential as it authorizes a virtual mailbox to receive mail on your behalf.
However, it is also the most difficult part of the process in that it requires a notary signature and two forms of I.D.
The good news is that there is a number of services that offer this online.
You can also use either the U.S. or non-U.S. notary seal for your form, should you choose to have it signed in your country of residence instead.
It is also possible to use a lawyer or bank official to notarize the form if a public notary is not available.
Acceptable forms of I.D. for Form 1583 include:
- Valid driver’s license
- Corporate or work I.D.
- Student I.D.
- Green card
- Lease or mortgage agreement
- Voter registration card
- Vehicle registration card
- Insurance policy (home, health, or vehicle)
Once you have provided the completed form, signed and notarized along with your two forms of I.D, your virtual mailbox service will be live.
You can then start having your mail sent to the virtual address you have chosen, and begin enjoying the convenience of managing your mail remotely around the world.
For advice on what are the best virtual mailbox services currently available, head here.