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Don’t forget about changing your address before moving to Costa Rica. You don’t want to have all your friends and family back home wonder what happened to you!
Once you’ve gone through the steps of selling your house, there are a thousand other things you need to get done. In another blog, I’ve given you some guidelines already, so this time I only want to show how important changing your address is.
Moving can be stressful when you’re relocating to Costa Rica, with different customs and another language. There are utilities to cancel and reinstate, and you’ll need to choose a moving company. And then there’s the packing and doing it right because you don´t want customs here to overcharge you on the import taxes. With all the chaos of setting up new digs, you might think that changing your address is an insignificant item on your checklist.
Let me give you 10 helpful tips to make changing your address a little easier.
1. Verify your New Address
No one can blow this one, right? Don’t be too sure. We don’t have regular street addresses in Costa Rica, so it isn’t as simple as you might think. You have the following options:
- Get a Costa Rican P.O. Box (API – Apartado Postal Inteligente) with the local post office as soon as you move here.
- Use the Tico address that all locals use.
- Get a Miami PO Box through one of the mailing companies.
Start by verifying your new address with the realtor who sold or rented you the property. Double-check the spelling of the directions as some people make the mistake of writing phonetically from Spanish to English, so it ends up all wrong. Unless you have an English-spoken postman, I sincerely doubt that will happen.
2. Choose Temporary or Permanent
A temporary COA (Change of address) is perfect for a winter away from home. Assuming you live in the United States, you’ll want to change your address with the U.S. Postal Service, but before you do, you’ll have to decide whether to file a temporary or permanent change of home address.
A permanent COA allows your mail to be forwarded to your new permanent address for a specified period of time. It covers first-class mail and periodicals but generally doesn’t forward standard mail, such as circulars and catalogs. If you plan on spending winter in your home in the Central valley or on the beach, a temporary COA might be for you.
3. Let the Post Office Know
When you move, it’s important to let the U.S. Postal Service (or the country you live in now) know. You can do that in one of three ways:
- Submit your address change via the Internet.
- Complete a change of address by phone — 1-800-ASK-USPS.
- Fill out Form 3575, the official mail forwarding change of home address order. You can get the form from your post office or print it from the USPS Web site.
4. Make Sure Entire Household Is Covered
You’ll want to clarify whether part or all of your family is moving. When you change your address, it’s important to include the names of everyone moving with you. If you only include your name, your spouse’s mail won’t be forwarded. Depending on your personal situation, it could get a little more complicated.
If some household members with the same last name are moving with you, but others are staying, fill out a separate change of address form for each person moving using the “individual” option. However, it’s a little easier if your entire family is moving to the same address in Costa Rica and each member has the same last name. Just fill out one form using the “family” option, and everyone will get his or her mail.
5. Know Your Timeframe
Mail forwarding extends for different lengths of time depending on the type of mail. First-class and priority mail are forwarded for 12 months at no charge, as long as the sender did not place a non-forwarding endorsement, such as “do not forward,” on the mail piece.
6. Make a List
The organization is key. Mail forwarding ensures that you continue to receive your mail and gives you time to notify everyone of your new address. This includes everyone you do business with or care to keep in touch with. To be thorough, it’s best to make a list. If you move permanently to retire here or when you are snowbirding, your list will look different.
But these are the most important organizations you want to tell about changing your mailing address:
- Bank and credit card companies.
- Doctors and dentists.
- Utilities such as gas, telephone, and electric.
- Magazines and newspapers.
- Clubs and associations.
- Your employer and government offices.
- Family and friends.
You can either send everyone an email or send each organization a card. I suggest you print a nice photo of your favorite beach in Costa Rica and take it to a photocopier. Use heavyweight postcard paper that you can buy on Amazon. Then print labels on your own printer by using Word.
After you move, you might still find that you missed a few people. Keep the yellow address change stickers the post office uses when forwarding mail to identify those people you still need to notify.
7. Simplify the Process
To keep receiving mail after the post office stops forwarding it, notify everyone who sends you mail two weeks before you move.
When notifying anyone that you are changing your address, change your phone number to the one you will be using in Costa Rica, so you can communicate by Whatsapp.
8. Remember Governmental offices
If you don’t receive mail from government agencies regularly, they might be easy to overlook when sending out a change of mailing address notification.
You’ll want to notify your Tax office, like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), of your address change. This is particularly important if you are expecting a tax refund. You can do this by downloading Form 8822 and mailing it to the address shown. You can also simply write your new address on your tax return the next time you file. If you file jointly, the IRS will need the information and signatures of both you and your spouse.
Don’t miss out on receiving your disability, retirement, or survivor benefits. Visit the Social Security Administration Website to provide your new address.
Be sure to change your driver’s license address, as it is often used for identification. You’ll also want to change the address on your vehicle registration when you take your car to Costa Rica.
Check with the state’s election office to update your voter registration records. These changes can most likely be done by mail or online.
9. Consider Letting Someone Do It for You
If you don’t have the time or the desire to change the address notification process when you move here, some services do it for you.
An online address change service will save you time and alleviate some of your relocation stress by notifying all of your organizations, billing companies, and memberships of your change of residence. Before signing up for any online address change service, investigate them thoroughly.
10. Don’t Forget the Less Obvious
When you think of changing your address, your mail is the first thing that comes to mind. There are also a few less obvious places where you’ll need to update your address:
- If you use an address stamp for your mail return, you’ll want to update it. Printed return address labels should also be reprinted.
- Don’t lose your dogs; put your new address on the collars.
- If you have your own home-based business, you won’t want to miss a sale. Have your stationery, business cards, bank checks, website, and professional directories updated as soon as you move.
Moving can be stressful and time-consuming, but if you use our article step by step, you will not miss out on anything. Welcome to paradise!
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Used in featured image: Image by Drazen Zigic on Freepik