How Long Does USPS Hold Packages in 2024?

When anticipating a package, one of the most common queries for recipients revolves around the holding policies of the United States Postal Service (USPS). “How long does USPS hold packages?” This question is crucial for anyone who might not be available to receive their mail immediately.

Understanding USPS’s holding policies not only sets the right expectations but also ensures that you can plan accordingly to receive or pick up your packages without stress. In the world of mail and parcel delivery, where timing and security are paramount, knowledge of these policies is an invaluable asset.

USPS, a cornerstone of American communication, handles an enormous volume of mail and packages daily. Their policies for holding packages are designed to accommodate the diverse needs of millions of recipients. Whether you’re away on vacation, missed a delivery, or specifically requested a hold, USPS offers a range of holding options to safeguard your items until you’re ready to receive them.

In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the specifics of USPS’s package holding policies, demystifying the process and providing you with all the information you need to manage your deliveries effectively.

How Long Does USPS Hold Packages in 2024?

How Long Does USPS Hold Packages?

The United States Postal Service (USPS) has established various holding policies to manage undeliverable mail and packages. These policies are designed to accommodate different scenarios, ensuring that recipients have ample opportunity to receive or collect their mail.

Here’s an expanded breakdown of these scenarios:

Missed Delivery Attempts

  • Situation: If USPS attempts to deliver a package but you’re not present to receive it, they will typically leave a notice of attempted delivery (known as PS Form 3849) at your address.
  • Duration: The package is held at your local Post Office for 15 days following the initial delivery attempt.
  • Options Available: During this holding period, you have the option to either pick up the package directly from the Post Office or request a redelivery to your address. If choosing redelivery, you can specify a preferred date using the USPS website or by contacting your local Post Office.

Hold for Pickup Service

  • Situation: For senders who want their recipients to collect a package directly from the Post Office, the “Hold for Pickup” service is utilized. This service ensures the package is securely held until the recipient can collect it.
  • Duration: Packages under this service are held for up to 15 days at the designated local Post Office.
  • Recipient Action: As a recipient, you will need to provide valid identification to collect the package. It’s advisable to check the specific office hours of your Post Office.

Vacation Holds (Hold Mail Service)

  • Situation: When you anticipate being away from home and unable to receive mail, USPS’s Hold Mail service offers a convenient solution. This service ensures that all your mail is securely held at your local Post Office.
  • Duration: You can request this service for a period ranging from a minimum of 3 days to a maximum of 30 days. For extended absences, consider the Premium Forwarding Service.
  • Premium Forwarding Service: This specialized service forwards your mail to a temporary address weekly. It’s an excellent option for those away for more than 30 days but still wishing to receive their mail regularly. There is a fee for this service, and it requires prior arrangement with USPS.

Additional Considerations

  • Unclaimed Mail: If a package or mail is not claimed within the specified holding period, USPS will typically return it to the sender with a notation indicating the reason for return.
  • Special Circumstances: In some cases, extensions to the holding period can be requested. It’s advisable to communicate directly with your local Post Office for such requests.
  • Online Management: USPS offers online tools for managing redeliveries and Hold Mail services, providing convenience and flexibility.

Read Also: How to ship a Guitar Internationally Through usps?

What Happens if USPS Holds My Mail Without Permission?

When USPS holds your mail without explicit permission, it’s typically due to a delivery issue or a logistical error. This situation might arise if there’s a problem with your mailbox, access to your home, or if your mail was accidentally included in another person’s hold request.

Understandably, this can be confusing and frustrating.

In such cases, your mail is safely stored at your local Post Office. The USPS aims to protect your mail and ensure its security, so holding it is a measure to prevent potential loss or damage. If you haven’t requested a hold but receive a notification or notice that your mail is being held, immediate action is necessary to resolve the issue.

The first step is to contact your local Post Office or the USPS customer service line. They can provide specific information about why your mail is being held and help rectify any misunderstandings or errors. You should be prepared to provide identification and potentially proof of address to sort out the issue.

In some instances, the hold might be a result of an operational oversight or a mix-up in the mail carrier’s route. USPS personnel can investigate and clarify the reason for the unexpected hold. Once the reason for the hold is understood, USPS staff can guide you on the next steps, which usually involve either scheduling a redelivery or picking up the mail from the Post Office.

If your mail was held due to a delivery problem, like an inaccessible mailbox, it’s important to rectify this issue. Ensuring clear access and a secure, compliant mailbox can prevent future occurrences of unsolicited mail holds. Keeping your contact information updated with USPS also helps in preventing such situations.

How to Pick Up a USPS Package That is on Hold?

To pick up a USPS package that is on hold, you first need to know which Post Office is holding your package. This information is typically provided in the delivery notice left by USPS or can be obtained by contacting your local Post Office. Ensure you have this information before heading to the Post Office.

When visiting the Post Office to collect your held package, bring a valid government-issued photo ID. This ID should match the name and address on the package. The USPS staff will verify your identity before handing over the package to ensure it’s going to the right person.

It’s advisable to check the operating hours of the Post Office beforehand. Post Offices have specific working hours, and some might have different hours for package pick-up services. Knowing the hours can save you a wasted trip.

If you received a notice (PS Form 3849) from USPS indicating that your package is on hold, bring this notice with you. The notice often includes information that can expedite the process of locating and retrieving your package. In case you lost the notice, be ready to provide the tracking number or other details about the package.

If you’re unable to pick up the package yourself, you may be able to authorize someone else to pick it up for you. This typically requires a written authorization or specific instructions left with USPS. Check with your local Post Office for their specific policies regarding third-party package pickup.

How to Know Where a USPS Package is Being Held?

To determine where your USPS package is being held, start by checking the tracking information available on the USPS website or through the USPS mobile app. The tracking details will often indicate the specific location where your package is being held, usually a local Post Office.

If the tracking information is unclear or doesn’t specify the holding location, look for any notice left by USPS at your delivery address.

The notice, usually a PS Form 3849, often states the exact Post Office location where you can retrieve your package. This form is left when a delivery attempt is made but the package cannot be delivered.

In the absence of clear tracking information or a delivery notice, contact USPS directly. You can do this via their customer service phone line or by visiting your nearest Post Office. Be sure to have your tracking number handy for quick reference.

Sometimes the package might be held due to a special service like “Hold for Pickup” or if it requires a signature upon delivery. In such cases, the package will be at the Post Office associated with your delivery address. Knowing the services used for your shipment can help you deduce the holding location.

Another method is to use USPS’s online tools like the USPS Locator. By entering relevant information such as your ZIP code, you can find the nearest Post Office locations. This tool can be particularly helpful if you’ve recently moved or are unfamiliar with the local USPS facilities.

How To Know When USPS Holds Your Package?

You can know when USPS holds your package by monitoring the tracking updates provided by USPS. When a package is on hold, the tracking status on the USPS website or app will typically update to reflect this, often stating “Held at Post Office, At Customer Request” or a similar message.

If a delivery attempt was unsuccessful, USPS will leave a notice at your delivery address. This notice, generally PS Form 3849, informs you that the package couldn’t be delivered and is on hold. It also provides instructions on how to retrieve your package or request redelivery.

Signing up for USPS Informed Delivery is another proactive way to stay updated. This free service provides email notifications about the status of your packages, including when they are held. Informed Delivery offers a convenient way to track multiple packages and receive regular updates.

Regularly check your mailbox for any physical notices from USPS. Apart from the digital updates, USPS often communicates through physical notices for deliveries requiring attention, such as held packages. These notices are critical in understanding the status of your delivery.

In situations where you’re expecting a package but haven’t received any updates, reaching out to USPS customer service can clarify the situation. They can provide detailed information regarding the status of your package, including if it’s being held and the reason why.

Read Also: Is USPS open on Sunday For Pickup and delivery?

Special Considerations and Extensions

  • Extensions and Exceptions: In some cases, extensions on the holding period can be requested. It’s best to discuss this directly with your local Post Office.
  • Unclaimed Packages: If a package is not claimed within the holding period, USPS typically returns it to the sender with a “Return to Sender” note.

Actionable Steps for USPS Package Holds

  1. Check the Notice Left by USPS: If you miss a delivery, carefully read the notice left by the postal carrier. It provides essential information about your package and how to retrieve it.
  2. Requesting Redelivery: You can request redelivery of your package either online, by phone, or by returning the notice left by the carrier to your mailbox with your preferences noted.
  3. Picking Up Your Package: To pick up your package from the Post Office, ensure you have proper identification. Knowing the office hours will help plan your visit.
  4. Managing Extended Absences: For longer absences, consider using the Hold Mail service or Premium Forwarding Service for continuous access to your mail.

How Long will USPS Hold Packages For A PO Box?

Understanding how long the United States Postal Service (USPS) will hold packages for a PO Box is vital for individuals and businesses relying on this service for their mail delivery.

PO Boxes are a popular choice for secure and reliable mail collection, especially for those who may not have a permanent address or are frequently away.

The holding period for packages at a PO Box can vary based on several factors, including the type of mail, the size of the PO Box, and specific USPS policies.

Duration of Package Holding for PO Boxes

Standard Holding Period:

Generally, USPS will hold mail, including packages, in a PO Box for up to 15 days. This duration is standard across most mail types and aligns with USPS’s holding policy for regular mail delivery.

Package Size and PO Box Dimensions:

The size of your PO Box can impact how long a package is held. If a package is too large to fit in your PO Box, USPS will typically leave a notice in the box (often a slip) indicating that you have a package waiting.

Larger packages that don’t fit in the PO Box are usually held at the Post Office’s counter. You can pick them up during normal business hours for up to 15 days.

Overflow Mail Holding:

In cases where your PO Box becomes full, or you receive an overflow of mail, USPS may hold the excess at the Post Office counter. A notification is usually left in your PO Box in such instances.

The duration for holding overflow mail also follows the standard 15-day policy, after which unclaimed mail may be returned to the sender.

Special Circumstances and Extended Holds:

There may be special circumstances where an extension on the holding period is necessary. If you anticipate being unable to check your PO Box for an extended time, it’s advisable to contact your local Post Office in advance to make arrangements.

For extended travel or absence, USPS offers services like Hold Mail, which can also apply to PO Box mail.

Unclaimed Packages and Mail:

If packages or mail are not collected from the PO Box or the Post Office counter within the holding period, USPS may return the items to the sender.

It’s crucial to regularly check your PO Box and promptly collect any held packages to avoid returns, especially for important or time-sensitive mail.

Read Also: What Does “USPS in Possession of Item” Mean?

Detailed FAQs on USPS Package Handling

1. How Long Does USPS Hold a Package Before Returning to Sender?

  • Duration: Typically, USPS holds a package for 15 days after an initial delivery attempt.
  • Return to Sender: If the package is not claimed within this period, it is returned to the sender with a notation explaining why it wasn’t delivered.

2. How Long Does USPS Hold International Packages?

  • Standard Holding Period: International packages are subject to the same 15-day holding policy as domestic packages after a delivery attempt.
  • Customs and Clearance: The holding period may be affected by customs clearance processes. If additional customs fees are due, this might extend the time USPS holds the package.

3. How Long Will USPS Leave a Package in a Parcel Locker?

  • Parcel Locker Duration: Packages placed in USPS parcel lockers are typically held for 3 days.
  • After 3 Days: If not collected within 3 days, the package is returned to the local Post Office and held for an additional 12 days.

4. How Do I Get My Package from USPS Parcel Locker?

  • Notification: You will receive a notification (usually in your mailbox) with a key or a code for the parcel locker.
  • Accessing the Locker: Use the provided key or code to open the locker and retrieve your package.
  • Timeframe: Collect your package as soon as possible, ideally within 3 days of notification.

5. What Happens If You Don’t Pick Up a Package from a Parcel Locker?

  • Return to Post Office: If a package is not picked up from the parcel locker within 3 days, it is taken back to the local Post Office.
  • Additional Holding Period: The Post Office will then hold the package for up to 12 more days, allowing you to collect it directly from there.
  • Final Return to Sender: If not claimed within this extended period, USPS will return the package to the sender.


USPS’s package holding policies are a testament to their commitment to accommodating the varying needs of their customers. By understanding how long USPS holds packages in different scenarios, you can better manage your deliveries, ensuring that you receive your packages securely and at your convenience.

Remember, communication with your local Post Office is key in case of any special requests or circumstances regarding your package delivery.