How to Prepare and Mail Certified Letters

by Contributor; Updated September 26, 2017

Sending a letter by certified mail through the U.S. Postal Service provides proof of mailing, online proof of delivery and — if requested — hard-copy proof of delivery. If you have no need to insure the contents of a letter but you require proof of delivery, including a signature of the person who accepts delivery, certified mail is the service you require.

Step 1

Place the letter or document that you intend to send into a suitable mailer. You may use a regular letter-size envelope, a manila envelope, or even a box if the size of your article warrants it. Add the address to which it should be delivered and your return address.

Step 2

Obtain PS Form 3800, Certified Mail Receipt, and PS Form 3811, Domestic Return Receipt, free at any post office, or order them for free from the USPS website.

Step 3

Enter in the lines on the right side of the PS 3800 the name and address of the business or person to which you are mailing the article.

Step 4

Complete PS Form 3811. Enter your name and address in the blank box on the front side of the form. If you want the receipt to go to someone other than yourself, enter that name and address instead.

Step 5

Write the name and address of the intended recipient in the section titled "Article Addressed To" on the back of the PS Form 3811. Put a check in the box that says "Certified" in the section titled "Service Type." Peel off the adhesive number-strip from the edge of the PS Form 3800 and stick it to the bottom of the PS Form 3811 in the section titled "Article Number."

Step 6

Tear off the right side of the PS Form 3800. Keep this part as your proof of mailing. The barcoded/numbered label from the PS Form 3800 is attached to the address side of your mailpiece. Peel off its adhesive backing and affix it to the top of your envelope or package, to the right of the return address. Peel off the adhesive strip from the green PS Form 3811 and affix it to the envelope. If you are mailing it in a regular business size envelope, attach the return receipt to the back side of the envelope. If you are using a large manila envelope or box, attach the return receipt to the front of the article if there is room.

Step 7

Take your package to the post office. Present your package and your proof-of-mailing portion of the PS Form 3800. A Postal Service employee will calculate and affix the proper postage, date-stamp your proof of mailing portion of the PS 3800 and return it to you for your records.


  • The PS Form 3811 is optional and costs an additional amount on top of the certified mail fee. The USPS recommends that you use the domestic return receipt form for your greatest protection.

    If you do not purchase a return receipt, you may visit and enter your certified number in "Track and Confirm." The website will show you the date and time that your article was delivered.


  • If your Certified mailpiece is not deliverable on the first attempt, the USPS will send a second notice after five days. If the article is not picked up after 15 days from the first attempt, it will be returned to you marked, "Unclaimed."

Photo Credits

  • Melissa Kirk/Demand Media