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International Addressing Guidelines (Updated)

International Addressing Guidelines (Updated)

Looking for improved international mail delivery? Maybe you should start with the delivery address. International addresses follow a specific format which is dictated by recommendations from the country of origin and from the destination country. And although each country has their own specific addressing requirements, there are some universal standards that should be followed when addressing a foreign mail piece.

The first thing to remember is that the name of the destination country must always:

  • Be printed as the last line of the address
  • Be in all capital letters
  • Be in the language of the dispatching country

The next item to consider is the “postal code”. Like a US zip code, a foreign postal code is an essential element of an international address. Currently there are more than 116 countries that use postal codes as a part of their addressing requirements. The tricky thing about postal codes is that their format varies widely around the world. From an alpha numeric format of 6 characters with a space between the 3rd and 4th (ANA NAN) used in Canada, to Australia which uses 4 digits to the United Kingdom which uses 6 different alpha numeric formats. Yes, it can be hard to keep it all straight!

We see numerous postal codes that have been corrupted due to the field being set as a “Zip + 4”, or the field not being large enough to contain a code over 5 digits. Just like here in the US where a bad or missing zip code may impede delivery, a missing or corrupted international postal code can have the same effect – especially in countries where the postal technology is still developing.

One of the best resources for information on formatting international addresses is the Universal Postal Union. There you can find country specific addressing requirements and formats as well as links to member postal organizations. Another great source for foreign address knowledge is “Frank’s Compulsive Guide to Postal Addresses”.

There are companies out there that provide international address hygiene and standardization. They can correct address format and spelling, identify undeliverable or uncorrectable addresses and often add missing address elements and postal codes.

And we’re here if you need us! We’d be happy to take a look at your address file prior to addressing and offer assistance and guidance. We can help identify addresses that are missing elements, addresses that are insufficient and can even “clean up” formatting issues. That way you’re not wasting time and money prepping mail pieces that aren’t going anywhere. So, if you’re concerned about improved international mail delivery, start with the most important part of an international mail piece – the delivery address.

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