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USPS Tracking: “Forward Expired” – What Does it Mean?

You’ve posted a mail item using USPS and received a “Forward Expired” tracking update.

What does this mean exactly? Will the item still be delivered and is there anything you need to do?

Let’s take a look…

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Summary: USPS Forward Expired

The ”Forward expired” tracking alert means that the recipient has not lived at the destination address for over a year. This means that USPS will no longer forward mail to the recipient’s new address. The forwarding service has expired and USPS will automatically return the mail item to the sender. 

USPS Tracking: “Forward Expired” – Guide

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This is a relatively self-explanatory status alert and in most cases, the sender will not have to take any action.

When a person moves from one address to a new one, they can set up mail forwarding with USPS at the same time as notifying the postal service of the change.

However, forwarding mail to a new address only lasts for up to one year.

When this time frame is up, any mail sent to the recipient at the old address will eventually trigger the “Forward Expired” alert while on route. 

This can be frustrating of course, however, the onus is on the person that changed addresses to make the new address known to would-be senders. (USPS cannot be expected to forward mail definitely, after all.)

What to do After Receiving the “Forward Expired” Alert?

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Example tracking alert when “Forward Expired” is triggered

The good news is, in most cases, USPS will simply return the mail item to the sender once the “Forward Expired” alert is triggered.

It may take a few steps in the delivery chain for this to happen, unfortunately.

However, once the USPS system is aware that the mail item is headed to a recipient who no longer lives at the destination address (and that forwarding has indeed expired), delivery will be halted and the item returned to its origin.

This will be confirmed with a simple “Return to Sender” USPS tracking update.

Tracking Stuck on “Forward Expired”

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If after several business days the tracking does not move on from “Forward Expired” and there is no indication that it is being returned to you, you should contact USPS.

It could be that the mail item is being held at a facility or post office close to the destination address, awaiting further instruction.

By contacting USPS you will be able to ascertain the current location of the item and confirm that it should be returned to the sender.

Where is the Mail Item When You Receive the “Forward Expired” Alert?


Where in the shipment journey the “Forward Expired” alert is triggered actually varies.

Sometimes the shipment can reach the local post office at the destination address before the USPS system is aware of the situation and halts delivery.

Other times, it can happen earlier on the shipment journey, with the name and address being flagged as expired as soon as the mail item enters the delivery network.

After receiving the update you can do a little inspection work and simply look at the alert that preceded “Forward Expired”.

This will give you some idea of how far the item has traveled so far.

Final Words

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Overall, the “Forward Expired” tracking alert from USPS is something a sender will receive after the forwarding period of a specific address has expired.

It can be frustrating, however, the item will be returned to you.

The next step after this would be to contact the recipient via other means to find out the new address and send it there instead.

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