A Few Tips to Help You Track a USPS International Shipment

A Few Tips to Help You Track a USPS International Shipment Most national postal services, including the USPS (United States Postal Service), allow their customers to track international shipments by giving each shipment a unique identifier called a tracking number. For the most part, people easily track their packages because the tracking system works smoothly, but it doesn’t mean that no problems ever happen. Let’s figure out together what you should do if you have trouble tracking a USPS international shipment.

Say, you’ve bought something online, either from a major retailer or from a small online business. The seller has provided you with a tracking number, but when you enter it on the USPS website, it gives you no information about the current status of the shipment. You try a third-party tracking service instead, but no luck here either. What to do in such a situation?

First of all, take a closer look at the tracking number. There are a few different tracking number formats used by the USPS depending on the type of shipment. Domestic parcels usually have a 22-character tracking number that contains no letters.

However, international tracking numbers must conform to the S10 standard adopted by the Universal Postal Union (UPU) and adopted by its member states, including the United States. An S10 tracking number consists of 13 characters: a service code (two letters), a serial number (eight digits), a check digit, and an ISO country code (two letters, US for the United States).

So, the first thing you need to do if you have trouble tracking a USPS international package is make sure you were given a 13-character tracking number that conforms to the UPU S10 standard. Pay special attention to the first letter of the tracking number, which can be C, E, L or R. The letter L indicates that your shipment is a First-Class Mail International postcard, letter, or flat. Such shipments are not eligible for tracking, even though they have an identifier, which is used for other purposes.

If the tracking number seems to be in order, i.e. it contains all the required characters and does not start with an L, the reason you’re having trouble may be that the sender hasn’t brought your package to the post office yet. Most retailers prefer to print shipping labels themselves and thus reserve tracking numbers beforehand, but they don’t take each package to the post office individually because it would be a logistical nightmare.

As a result, some retailers provide customers with a tracking number as soon as they print a shipping label but before they actually bring their package to the post office. This tracking number is legitimate, but a package can’t be tracked until its bar code is scanned by a USPS employee. If you try to track a shipment that hasn’t been mailed yet, you will receive the tracking status “Electronic Shipment Info Received”.

You may also find yourself in a situation where you’d been able to track your shipment but at some point its tracking status “got stuck”. This is usually an indication that the package has left the United States and is in transit. While your package is transported within the US from one sorting facility to another, it is scanned at each facility, resulting in prompt status updates. Once it leaves the country though, its status won’t change until it arrives at the country of destination (or a transit country, depending on the route).

There’s hardly anything you can do in this situation but wait patiently. But how long do you need to wait? Each USPS shipment has estimated delivery time that depends on the type of service and the country of destination. It may vary from a few days to a few weeks.

Once this time is up, you can try to track the shipment using the tracking service of the national postal carrier of the destination country or a third-party tracking service, such as one provided by PostageMaker. These services are more likely to give you up-to-date information on your shipment than the USPS website since the package is not in the USPS jurisdiction anymore once it arrives in the country of destination.

If the estimated time of arrival has come and gone but there is still no sign of your shipment, it may have been lost. In such a case, you need to contact both the sender and your local post office to report the shipment as lost. If it was insured, you will most likely get a refund.