Can USPS open my mail?


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Go To Great Panes, Kathryn Maloney ©2014
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Ever wonder if the US postal service has the right to open your letters or your packages?

There are three times your packages run the risk of being opened while in transit through USPS:

1. International shipments–Customs has the right to inspect packages in the destination country. This doesn’t seem to happen too often for most online transactions where the seller has included the proper documentation with the package though some countries are stricter about it than others. Packages mailed into the US are subject to inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

2. USPS can open the following classes of mail to inspect them–basically to be sure you have shipped your goods via the right class of mail since these services receive discounted rates:

  • Periodicals items.
  • Standard Mail items.
  • Package Services (including Media Mail, Library Mail and Bound Printed Matter) items.
  • Standard Post
  • Parcel Select®
  • Incidental First-Class Mail attachments or enclosures mailed under DMM 703.9.
  • GXG items that contain non-documents.
  • Priority Mail International items except the Flat Rate envelope and small Flat Rate box.
  • M-bags.
  • Items sent via “Free Matter for the Blind or Other Physically Handicapped Person” under 39 U.S.C. §§ 3403–06 and IMM 270.
  • All other Domestic / International mail not specifically stated below.

USPS cannot open these classes, they are “closed against postal inspection”–see # 3 for exceptions to that:

  • First-Class Mail® items.
  • Priority Mail® items.
  • Priority Mail Express™ items.
  • Global Express Guaranteed® (GXG®) items that contain only documents.
  • Priority Mail Express International™ items.
  • Priority Mail International™ Flat Rate envelope and small Flat Rate box.
  • First-Class Package International Service items
  • First-Class Mail International items.
  • International Priority Airmail™ (IPA®) items, excluding IPA M-bags.
  • International Surface Air Lift® (ISAL®) items, excluding ISAL M-bags.
  • Certain Global Direct™ (GD) mail.
  • International transit mail.

3. The US Postal Inspectors are like the police force for USPS. They can open any of the mail services, though if it’s one of the services in the “USPS cannot” list above, they get a search warrant to open letters/packages that they believe violate federal law.

Where can you see this info yourself from an official source?

On the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website here:

https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/114

https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/115

the USPS website here:

http://faq.usps.com/adaptivedesktop/faq.jsp?ef=USPSFAQ

and here on the US Postal Inspectors website, see #4:
https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/contactUs/faq.aspx


Visit our Etsy shop: GoTo
Go To Great Panes, Kathryn Maloney ©2014
This post is copyrighted–you do not have permission to repost this content elsewhere but you are welcome to link to it if you’d like to share the information.

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