How to Prepare and Mail Certified Letters

by Kimberlee Leonard; Updated March 15, 2018

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has delivery methods that allow senders to confirm the receipt of a letter. A certified letter is often confused with a registered letter. While both are very similar, each has a different purpose. Prepare and mail certified letters directly at the local USPS branch.

Certified Mail Instructions

Before starting certified mail forms, prepare the letter and envelope as you would any other letter. You can include the proper postage for the size and weight of the letter or have the postage added at the post office.

Choose certified mail when you want a receipt, tracking number and proof of delivery. Obtain Form 3800 at the local USPS branch. This form is easily recognized by its green borders with white internal blocks for entering information. The address listed on the form is the recipient's name and address. Complete this information.

You don't have to attach Form 3800 to the letter yourself, but if you want to do it instead of having the postal representative do it: Situate Form 3800's green block so the left-hand words "Certified Mail" align to the top of the letter. Above the "Certified Mail" block is a line of numbers that matches the numbers below the block. These numbers constitute the tracking number. Fold the top line over to the back of the letter so the tracking number is on the back. Space the form at least 3.5 inches from the top right corner, leaving that area for the postage and post date. Affix the form to this area using the sticky backing on the form.

Take the letter with the affixed form to the USPS representative. Pay the $3.45 certified mail fee; if you didn't add the postage to the envelope yourself, you can pay for required postage at this point. The representative will confirm the address and tear Form 3800 at the perforation between the two tracking numbers below the barcode. He or she will run the form through a printer and stamp it with a postmark. Keep this form stapled to the receipt for recordkeeping and tracking. The representative will place the letter in the mail.

Registered Mail

Registered mail accomplishes the same tracking and proof services and allows you to add as much as $50,000 in insurance for domestic mail. Fees for registered mail begin at $11.90.

Both certified and registered mail allow the use of a return receipt, or USPS Form 3811. The recipient signs a card that is then returned to the sender with signature and date of delivery.

Form 3811 has two sides. The front of the form has the recipient's name and address. It also has a line for the signature of the addressee or an agent, such as a family member or secretary. The back has a block for the sender's information. Upon delivery, this card will be removed from the letter and returned to the sender with the signature and delivery date.

Take Form 3811 to the post office along with the letter and certified or registered forms. The USPS representative will attach the form to the envelope, and you can pay the applicable fee, up to $2.50 for a mailed receipt.

Track the Letter

Both Form 3800 and your USPS receipt will note the tracking number. You can go to the USPS website to track the letter while in transit or to confirm if it was received. The website will also have a scanned copy of the signed Form 3811 if you don't receive your copy in the mail.

Tips

  • It is possible to obtain and prepare the forms via online printing services or through a rural carrier. However, the parcel must be mailed by a USPS employee.

About the Author

With more than 15 years of professional writing experience, Kimberlee finds it fun to take technical mumbo-jumbo and make it fun! Her first career was in financial services and insurance.

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