Mail from USA to Canada
February 17, 2015 5:31 AM   Subscribe

My son moved to Vancouver Canada last spring. We live in NJ, USA. I have tried several times to send cards and they never arrive. We have double checked that the address is right. They had enough postage. Cards I have sent to friends in the Toronto area have arrived, but weeks later. Anyone else have this issue and what could be causing it? I just asked my son to send me a postcard to see if this problem goes both ways.
posted by mermayd to Law & Government (21 answers total)
By any chance are you not putting "Canada" under the province/postal code?

Mermayd Son
1095 West Pender Street
Vancouver BC V6E 2M6

Just an idea.
posted by royalsong at 5:50 AM on February 17, 2015

Are you marking the envelopes "AIRMAIL/PAR AVION"? See U.S. Postal Service International Mail Manual § 244, "Mail Preparation":
First-Class Mail International postcards, letters, and large envelopes (flats) must be marked “AIRMAIL/PAR AVION” or have PS Label 19-A, Par Avion Airmail, or PS Label 19-B, Par Avion Airmail, affixed to the address side of the mailpiece.
posted by grouse at 6:02 AM on February 17, 2015

I send cards to relatives in western Ontario often and I've never had to mark them "AIRMAIL/PAR AVION". They still got there, though...
posted by jillithd at 6:35 AM on February 17, 2015

Does anyone else send mail to your son? How do they address their mail. I've had issues at various apartments with mail not getting through because of how my mail box was labeled - the problem could be something as simple as addressing you mail to "Jim" instead of "James".
posted by fermezporte at 6:36 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I send christmas cards out every year to dozens of friends and relatives in Canada and they arrive no problem every time. I don't mark "airmail" or anything. I just make sure I use the right address with "CANADA" at the bottom. Perhaps someone is stealing his mail.
posted by Poldo at 6:50 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I suspect that your mail is not getting into the First-Class Mail International stream somehow. I get mail from the U.S. here in Canada all the time that wasn't marked AIRMAIL, but something is not happening right in your case. If your son has not noticed any other missing mail it seems unlikely that someone is just stealing cards from his mom.

Next time you have to go to a post office counter, I would bring a letter to send your son and mention that you have been having this trouble. The postal clerk may have a helpful suggestion and may be able to put the mail directly into the right stream.
posted by grouse at 7:05 AM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

I would contact your local postmaster.
posted by radioamy at 7:23 AM on February 17, 2015

Try mailing him a used book, which should cost under $4.00 in postage. You'll need to fill out a customs form online or at the PO and declare a value, so make it an older book and declare a value of $1. Check into tracking the package, too.
posted by soelo at 7:34 AM on February 17, 2015

Does your son live in an apartment or unit of a house? Could he double check the address formatting with his landlord or property manager? I lived in 3 different apartments in Vancouver and each time I was told my mailing address was like so:

Unit Number - Street Number & Street Name
(e.g. 123 - 555 Robson Street, where 123 was the apartment number)

I don't know if that's a common way to format addresses but when I send mail to friends in other provinces, I often write "555 Example Street - Apt. # 392". I've no idea if it's just a Vancouver thing but if he lives in an apartment, I would ask about formatting.
posted by gursky at 8:13 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Canada Post has a postal code finder that will give you the correctly formatted postal address and code. I doubt the problem has anything to do with the international mail. It is far more likely a problem with the address itself or the system at the building in question.
posted by ssg at 8:23 AM on February 17, 2015

Yes, he lives in an apartment. Thanks everyone, you have given me lots of good ideas. I am fairly sure I put Canada in the address, but never even heard of the air mail thing. I will ask him if there is a problem with any other mail.
posted by mermayd at 8:59 AM on February 17, 2015

I went to school in Vancouver for a while; for some reason, mail getting from the states to that area is super unreliable. So much that the school I went to (which had a ton of US students too) set up an office near Bellingham, and trucked mail over by hand every few days (letters only, no packages).

There's something about mail and that border that cause this kind of stuff to get delayed an insane amount, and often unreliably. My girlfriend at the time sent me postcards and letters a ton, they would arrive completely out of their sent order. Bananas, man.

If he gets a ton of mail, it might be best for him to get a PO box down in Blaine, or nearby. It really depends on how often he's coming down to the states.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:03 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Being sure to add Canada may help since there is Vancouver, Washington in the USA.
posted by Cranberry at 10:39 AM on February 17, 2015

I live in Vancouver and also have this problem. I've had so many letters/packages never arrive that I gave up and got a PO Box across the border in Blaine, WA.
posted by makonan at 10:49 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

(e.g. 123 - 555 Robson Street, where 123 was the apartment number)

This! BC addresses often get written this way, which is apparently confusing. I got to know a lovely old lady down the street when I lived in Victoria, because we'd get each others' mail all the time--I was #123 at 555 Whatever Street, she was #555 at 123.

555 Whatever Street #123 is unambiguous.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:08 AM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

> I live in Vancouver and also have this problem. I've had so many letters/packages never arrive that I gave up and got a PO Box across the border in Blaine, WA.

^^^^^ Yeah, pretty much this.

My brother and his family also live in Vancouver, BC, and also have a PO box in Blaine, WA, which is the only one to which we (his US relatives) send mail. We had numerous issues before with packages and cards not reaching him, but haven't had a single issue since he began receiving these items in WA.
posted by mosk at 1:39 PM on February 17, 2015

Canada Post is super persnickety about apartment numbers. I've had mail not show up at all because it didn't have my apartment number (there are four apartments in the building); or because the sender wrote 200 instead of 201 (there is only one apartment per floor!).

BTW, Canada Post does prefer Unit Number - Street Number Street Name. So if the President lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue #128, then his address would be 128-1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
posted by musofire at 8:52 PM on February 17, 2015

Well, he emailed me that he finally got the card yesterday, sent over two weeks ago. I will mention the PO Box in Blaine to him as an option, don't think he gets a lot of mail. Good to hear it is not just me, others have this mail problem in Vancouver.
posted by mermayd at 3:42 AM on February 18, 2015

For what it's worth, it takes about a week for me to mail something from Toronto to Vancouver, and that's within Canada. Two weeks from the East Coast of the US doesn't surprise me, really. Mail up hereabouts is pretty slow, unfortunately, and you put a border crossing in the mix and that's going to slow it down some more.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:54 PM on February 18, 2015

Recently relocated to Vancouver from NY, and I receive mail frequently from my parents in MA. I don't think I've missed any mail since we moved, but it's been a big adjustment to how much longer it takes. And remember, we don't get Saturday delivery here in Canuckistan! Mail is a lot slower and much more expensive.

Also do keep in mind that if you send any packages, you should mark them "unsolicited gift" because otherwise your recipient may have to pay hefty import fees. This is part of the reason the Washington State PO Box is such a popular choice.
posted by gateau at 10:22 AM on February 20, 2015

Gifts are only duty-free up to CAD 60 ("Receiving Gifts in the Mail, Canada Border Services Agency).
posted by grouse at 10:46 AM on February 20, 2015

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