The 2022 recommended holiday season mailing dates for Air Force customers assigned to the European theater are:
- USPS Retail Ground
– Nov. 23
- First Class Mail and Priority Mail – Dec. 9
- Priority Mail Express Military Service – Dec. 16
These dates are for mail originating in Europe and destined to locations in the United States. Customers in the United States who mail to European APO/FPO/DPO addresses normally use similar recommended mailing dates.
U.S. Air Forces Europe – Air Forces Africa postal patrons should plan ahead and mail early to ensure letters, cards, and packages arrive to intended U.S. destinations in time for the holidays.
Customers can avoid long lines at the post office when they mail early and can take advantage of using the cheaper, although slower, USPS Retail Ground mail service military post offices offer in Europe.
USPS Retail Ground mail service takes longer to arrive at the end destination and moves via ground once it arrives in the states. Customers who want faster service should consider using priority mail or PMEMS if available. This costs more but these classes of mail get preferred and/or expedited service.
Most mail accepted at military post offices in Europe is flown to the United States on commercial aircraft. Once mail arrives stateside, it’s transported based on the service selected and paid for. Customers should keep in mind, packages transiting through the mail stream are handled numerous times, and therefore proper packaging is very important. The following USPS mailing tips are provided to help ensure packages arrive safely and undamaged:
Choose a box with enough room for cushioning material around the contents. Sturdy paperboard or corrugated fiberboard boxes are best for weights up to 10 pounds. If reusing a box, cover up or mark-out any old labels and markings.
USPS provided boxes
Priority Mail Express and Priority Mailboxes are available at no cost to the customer at the post office for items sent using either of these services.
Place cushioning around your items. Close and gently shake the box to see whether there is enough padding. Place an extra address label with the delivery and return addresses inside the package to ensure it can be delivered in case the outside label becomes damaged or falls off.
Tape the box shut and reinforce the seams with 2-inch-wide tape. Use clear or brown packaging tape, reinforced packing tape, or paper tape.
Liquids (some host country restrictions apply, check with your post office personnel)
Nonflammable, nonhazardous liquids are acceptable to mail, if sealed inside a waterproof container. The outer container with the address label should also be strong and securely sealed. Mailers must mark the outer container of a mail piece containing liquid to indicate the nature of the contents and annotate “this side up” on the package. Packages containing liquids need to be carefully packed to withstand the grueling transportation journey.
The weight of each package cannot exceed 70 pounds. For customers planning to use Priority Mail Express or Priority Mail services for faster delivery, length plus girth (girth is the distance around the thickest part of the package) cannot exceed 108 inches. For USPS Retail Ground, the total girth cannot exceed 130 inches. Packages are also subject to minimum dimensions. No package may be smaller than 5 inches long, 3-1/2 inches high and be at least 0.007 inches thick.
Using a complete and correct address is critical for timely delivery. To find the correct spelling of a city name and state abbreviation or to find a ZIP-Code, visit www.usps.com. Print or type the delivery address parallel to the longest side of the package. Type or print clearly with a pen or permanent marker so that the address is legible from an arm’s length away.
Print or type the address in the upper left corner on the same side of the package as the delivery address.
USPS extra services
Extra services can provide additional protection and peace of mind.
- Adult Signature – Requires the signature of someone 21 years of age or older at the recipient’s address.
- Certificate of Mailing – Provides evidence of mailing.
- Certified Mail – Provides proof of mailing at time of mailing and the date and time of delivery or attempted delivery.
- Insured Mail – Provides coverage against loss or damage up to $5,000. Fee based on value of item.
- USPS Priority Mail service includes up to $100 of insurance with most shipments (restrictions apply)
- USPS Priority Mail Express service includes up to $100 of insurance with most shipments (restriction apply)
- Registered Mail (service not available at all locations) – Provides maximum security. Includes proof of mailing at time of mailing and the date and time of delivery or attempted delivery. Insurance can be added up to $50,000. Fee based on value of item.
- USPS Tracking – Provides the date and time of delivery or attempted delivery. Free with select services.
- Signature Confirmation – Provides the date and time of delivery or attempted delivery and the name of the person who signed for the item. Customers can request a printed copy of the signature.
- Return Receipt – Provides a postcard or electronic notification with the date of delivery and recipient signature.
- Restricted Delivery – Confirms that only a specified person, or authorized agent, will receive a piece of mail.
Customs declaration form
All mail originating outside of the United States is subject to customs examination. Mailers are responsible for accurately completing USPS customs forms when mailing packages containing dutiable goods to the United States. Mailers are also required to certify the information provided is correct and the items do not contain any dangerous article, or articles prohibited by legislation or by postal or customs regulations. The sender’s failure to complete the form properly could delay delivery of the item.
In August 2020, the USPS phased out the green and white customs declaration forms that most patrons were accustomed to when mailing. This change of policy derived from the Global Trade Compliance requirements instituted back in 2015 that resulted in changes to processing and dispatching of all DOD military mail services overseas. To alleviate GTC holds and your package being Return to Sender, customers need to be very descriptive when listing items on the customs form. Below are the typical “vague descriptions” and prohibited non-mailable items identified by U.S. Postal Inspection Service that will trigger GTC holds or RTS action. This list is not all-inclusive:
- Household Goods
- Sporting Goods/Camping Equipment
Prohibited, non-mailable Items:
- Cigarettes; including loose – self-rolling tobacco
- Hand Sanitizer
- Alcoholic Beverages
- Vape Products: All Items
- Chewing Tobacco
Perfume and Cologne are mailable only with Zero alcohol content (must indicate on Customs Form). Items containing alcohol are non-mailable.
Packages or parcels containing pre-owned electronic devices with lithium batteries are mailable. Restricted to USPS Retail ground only and this service is not available at all Military Postal Offices, contact your local installation post office for additional information.
Customers can avoid waiting in line longer at post office finance windows if they complete an online customs declaration form using the USPS website prior to presenting packages for mailing at the APO. In addition, some post offices will make available or offer a separate, expedited mail acceptance window as an incentive for customers who arrive at the post office with online, pre-printed USPS electronic customs declarations forms.
Customers have several options available to them when completing required electronic customs declarations using the USPS.com website:
Option 1: Customers can choose the USPS Click-N-Ship feature to establish an account, complete their customs declaration and pay for their mailing using one of several USPS approved credit cards.
Option 2: Customers can print a customs declaration at home on the USPS website without establishing an account and then pay at the postal finance window when presenting their parcels and packages for mailing.
Option 3: Postal patrons who do not present articles for mailing with an online declaration can still mail their packages using the hard copy PS Form 2976-R, USPS Customs Declaration and Dispatch Note declaration form. However, the accepting finance mail clerk must enter the information from the PS Form 2976-R into the Customs Border Protection Manifest system via the USPS Point of Sale retail terminal with the customer present, as clarifying questions may be required to ensure that PS Form 2976-R contains accurate and complete data to complete the mailing transaction. This will result in longer customer waiting times and longer lines at the post office finance windows.
Contact the local installation postmaster for additional information on customs form requirements and for advice on the best service to use based on your mailing needs.