What Is Certified Mail USPS? (+ Other Common FAQs)

There are many different shipping services available when you’re shipping with USPS, each one tailored to suit a different set of needs, such as Registered Mail or Certified Mail.

However, if you’ve never heard of certified mail, you may wonder what it’s used for and how to use it. If you’d like to find out, continue reading this article to learn more on this topic!

What Is Certified Mail at USPS?

Certified mail is a shipping service that provides the sender with a mailing receipt and electronic verification that a shipment was delivered or a delivery attempt was made. Certified mail provides a record of delivery, including the recipient’s signature, that will be held at the post office for two years.

If you’d like to know the difference between certified mail and registered mail, what certified mail is used for, if certified mail requires a signature, and more, keep reading for more facts and tips!

What Is the Difference Between Certified Mail and Registered Mail?

Certified Mail requires a delivery signature before the package or letter can be officially delivered and provides the sender with proof of delivery as well as a copy of the recipient’s signature.

As well, Certified Mail can be sent as First Class or Priority Mail with a special tracking number that serves as a receipt and official record of mailing.

Generally, Certified Mail is less expensive than Registered Mail, is shipped with other types of mail (not separately), and is not automatically insured (although it can be insured for an additional cost).

Registered Mail also provides the sender with a copy of the recipient’s signature upon delivery, however, this method provides far more detailed records of the mail’s location and includes package insurance.

As well, Certified Mail and Registered Mail are often used to ship different things.

For example, Registered Mail is commonly used to ship items with a value of $25,000 or more and is typically used to ship luxury objects, while certified mail is more often used to ship something of representational or liquid value.

What Is Certified Mail Used For?

There are dozens of reasons for someone to use Certified Mail, though it is most commonly used for official documents from government agencies or law firms.

Examples of things sent via Certified Mail are items such as important contracts, tax audit notifications, court papers, jury duty summons, or money in the settlement of an invoice.

Certified Mail is particularly useful when the sender needs legally recognized proof of delivery, as this method (especially when used in tandem with restricted delivery) guarantees that the addressee receives the mail in their hands.

The signature aspect of Certified Mail also works as a receipt of sorts because it lets the sender know that the mail has been received by the addressee, and the signature is kept on file at the post office for 2 years, which can be accessed to prove the addressee received the mail.

Does Certified Mail Require a Signature?

Does Certified Mail Require A Signature? USPS

Certified mail requires a signature due to the importance and/or value of the item being shipped.

The delivery signature also acts as a receipt for the sender, as it provides verification that the package reached its destination and that the correct person is now in possession of what they shipped.

There are different types of categories for the signature that certified mail requires, including the following:

  • Signature Confirmation
  • Adult Signature Confirmation
  • Restricted Delivery
  • Adult Restricted Delivery

Signature Confirmation Certified Mail allows for anyone (regardless of age or if they’re the intended recipient of the package) to sign for the package.

Adult Signature Confirmation Certified Mail means that anyone over the age of 21 in the residence may sign for the package, regardless of whether or not they are the intended recipient.

Restricted Delivery Certified Mail means that only a specific person may sign for and receive the package.

Finally, Adult Restricted Delivery means that only a specified person who is 21 years of age or older may sign for and receive a package.

How To Send Certified Mail

If you’re trying to send certified mail, you’ll need to go to your local post office. While you could print out the label online here, you’ll have to spend some time at the post office filling out more paperwork, so you might as well have someone nearby to help.

Once you get to your local post office, ask the person at the counter for Certified Mail Form 3800, which has a white and green sticker containing a barcode.

The sticker has a perforated edge, which you should keep since it’s your proof of postage.

Once you’ve filled in all of your information on the sticker (including your recipient’s name and address), you need to pop the sticker onto the top-right edge of your envelope or package with the address area to the left of the sticker.

Now that you’ve placed the sticker, you need to decide on the type of return receipt you’d like from the below options:

  • Mailed physical receipt
  • Emailed e-receipt
  • PDF receipt (electronic image) that’s easy to print for your personal records

What Happens If No One Signs For Certified Mail?

If the person you’re sending Certified Mail to is not home or doesn’t answer the door initially, the postal worker will leave a delivery reminder slip, informing the recipient that they need to drop by the post office to pick up a package.

The post office will wait 5-7 days for the intended recipient to show, and if they don’t come to pick up their mail in that window, a second delivery attempt will be made.

If the recipient is still unavailable at the second delivery attempt, the process repeats itself, and a third delivery attempt will be made if the mail isn’t picked up.

However, after the third delivery attempt, the post office will hold the mail for the designated 5-7 days before being returned to the sender with proof of the three failed delivery attempts.

To know more, you can also see our related posts on where is my USPS mail, USPS priority mail vs. first-class, and if USPS requires a signature.

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Marques Thomas

Marques Thomas graduated with a MBA in 2011. Since then, Marques has worked in the retail and consumer service industry as a manager, advisor, and marketer. Marques is also the head writer and founder of QuerySprout.com.

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