Nuts and Bolts: You’ve got mail-the merits of a virtual address


Remote management of your account:Some forwarders require a signature to change delivery method, frequency, etc, which can be impossible if you’re in another country. Make sure that you can manage your account via e-mail or from their website.Assignment of a street address:Many correspondents will not ship to a post office box, so be sure that your forwarder provides a street address.Screening of junk mail: Not every forwarder will throw away junk mail, and this can be important: you won’t want to pay for ads from the local car dealer to be shipped to you around the world.Automatic debiting of your credit card: As with the account options, you don’t want to have to sign a voucher for your annual fees or forwarding expenses.

A choice of forwarding delivery options: Sometimes I want the mail to come fast, and am willing to pay for express delivery-such as when I’m awaiting replacement of an expired credit card. At other times, I’d rather save money and let it come when it may. A good forwarder will allow you to choose between delivery options on each mailing, rather than be stuck with the same method every time.

Remember: Having mail sent directly to your overseas address is the easiest way to get it. But if you need a virtual address, it’s nice to send off a single e-mail and have all your correspondence follow you wherever you travel.

One of the trickier aspects of moving abroad is something basic that we normally take for granted back home: getting the mail. That is, the hardcopy mail.

Some people move overseas and simply file a change of address with each of their correspondents, so all of their mail comes directly to their new home abroad. If you can do this, it’s the simplest, easiest, and least expensive of all the solutions: Once you file all the changes of address, there’s nothing more to do.

But many expatriates will have one or more issues preventing the implementation of this solution alone:

1.) Frequent moves: If you won’t be in one location for a long period of time, you may not want to file a change of address with everyone, only to have to change it again in a few months. This applies not only to expats moving onward, but also to those visiting a vacation home and then returning a few months later.
2.) Unreliable mail systems: Many countries have a mail system that can’t be counted on. In some cases, businesses will not even send mail there. (For example, Citibank will not mail bank statements or credit cards to Ecuador.)
3.) You need to maintain a U.S. address: Some airlines will not allow you to use an e-ticket unless you have a U.S. or Canadian address; many vendors will not allow an online purchase unless your credit card has a U.S. billing address; and, if you’re buying software, there are times when you can’t get the full U.S. version unless you’re a U.S. resident. Each of these can cause the expat inconvenience.

The answer? A virtual address.

A virtual address is a street address that you maintain back home, in order to keep up a “presence” in your home country. Most people do this by means of a mail-forwarding service that allows your correspondents to send mail to the service, after which the service forwards it to you. This can resolve all of the problems mentioned above.

If you move frequently, all you need to do is give your “virtual” address to your correspondents, and have them use that instead of your actual address. When mail arrives, the forwarder can send it to you wherever you are in the world. If your foreign mail system is unreliable, have your forwarder send mail via DHL or FedEx, which I’ve found to be reliable anywhere. With at least one credit card billed to your virtual address, you will appear to be a U.S. resident to online vendors, software suppliers, and airlines. IL