Mail forwarding is a service offered by post offices and other mail service providers to redirect mail meant for one location to another location. Also known as virtual post office box services of hybrid mail, the services are normally provided for a given period of time. In UK, British Royal Mail has its own mail forwarding service called Mail Redirection and is available for a maximum of two years. In US, it is First Class Mail that enables redirection for a period of one year. Usually it is used by people when they change addresses, though it is not exclusive with them itself.
However, the services as provided by postal authorities are somewhat different from that provided by private mail forwarding services. There are additional services provided by private services and needs like mail scanning services, selection of international and domestic deliver options and online mailbox management that are not provided by government services.
Private services were also in vogue before standardization of delivery and payment of international mail by the Universal Postal Union.
Effective from 1st October, 2007, local private mail forwarding services could be asked to register with the Council in London. It was made mandatory to get identity evidence by registered services from their customers and also to keep copies of document with them. They are also required to keep with them all records concerning the name and address/registered office and addresses of customers that receive the mail.
In United States, the postal services are provided by United States Postal Service, which is an independent federal agency. This includes mail forwarding to the public. To get the service through private forwarder, it is necessary to obtain form 1583.
Private forwarding companies also offer private mail forwarding services, but this is done usually online. These private services are mostly involved in monthly services, to new users, an address is assigned by company to receive their US mail as well as packages. It is mostly the people that are moving overseas like Expats, retirees, long term travellers, and international shoppers who make online shopping for US products.
The first mail forwarding company OPAS, was established in 1990 that provided international shoppers services. As this overseas shipping is not provided by many online retailers, and there are border restrictions that affect the services of package delivery to their selected countries, people living overseas need to have a US address to receive their products that are sent to their local address, and from their they receive at their overseas address.