How APO, FPO, and DPO Military Mail Service Works

Updated: November 1, 2023
APO, FPO, and DPO Military Mail Service
In this Article

    Military mail is an essential link with members of deployed members of the US armed forces. It is administered by the Military Postal Service Agency (MPSA), an extension of the United States Postal Service providing Department of Defense personnel, their family members, and other authorized users global mail services.

    You can send letters and packages to the service member’s unit for delivery to the recipient. However, there are some rules and restrictions you’ll need to know.

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    APO/FPO/DPO Basics

    If you’re sending letters or packages, the first thing you’ll encounter is a series of abbreviations used by postal administrators. You should become familiar with these to navigate the system efficiently.

    • AA – Armed Forces of the Americas
    • AE – Armed Forces of Europe)
    • AP – Armed Forces of the Pacific
    • APO – Army/Air Force Post Office. The Military Post Office for Army and Air Force personnel
    • FPO – Fleet Post Office. The Military Post Office for Navy and Marine personnel
    • DPO – Diplomatic Post Office. The preferred designation for mail addressed to Department of State overseas post offices.
    • MOM – Military Ordinary Mail. Mail originating from the Department of Defense.
    • MPO – Military Post Office. Provides postal services for military personnel.
    • PAL – Parcel Air Lift. An expedited service for Package Services is available for an additional fee.

    Military mail is processed similarly to domestic mail. Regardless of location, all military locations are assigned a ZIP Code referred to as an APO/FPO/DPO number.

    APO/FPO/DPO addresses are not international addresses. Although service members may reside in a foreign country, all mail goes through the United States Postal Service at the same rate you would pay for delivery to a US address.

    Addresses served by the military postal system have a standardized address format, and it’s important to understand exactly how all correspondence should be addressed.

    How APO/FPO/DPO Addresses Work

    Military mail postage costs the same as domestic postage. That means a first-class mail stamp can deliver a letter to a US military service member anywhere in the world.

    All military locations are assigned a ZIP Code number referred to as an APO/FPO/DPO number. Although the USPS treats mail as domestic mail, the service is bound by international mail rules and regulations, which designate what can be mailed safely internationally.

    These international regulations differ significantly from domestic rules.

    USPS places APO/FPO mail on international commercial passenger service and international cargo service aircraft from Florida, New York, or California. When the plane lands overseas, the mail is tendered to the military.

    The Military Postal Service transports mail to the MPO for distribution to the service member’s unit for delivery to the service member.

    How to Address APO/FPO/DPO Mail

    There are strict guidelines on how you can address military mail.

    For example, if they have been assigned, include the unit and box numbers for APO/FPO/DPO shipping addresses. Do not include city or country names to prevent mail from entering foreign mail networks.

    To correctly address military mail, please include:

    1. Name of the recipient (rank/grade/rating is optional)
    2. Include the:
    • PSC (Postal Service Center),
    • CMR (Community Mail Room),
    • UMR (Unit Mail Room),
    • RPO (Regional Post Office),
    • APO (Army Post Office) or
    • OMDC (Official Mail Distribution Center) number.
    1. Use the ship’s name and hull number for FPO addresses aboard a United States Navy or United States Coast Guard vessel.
    2. The recipient’s Military Post Office Box number. Adding specific military formations (for example, “1/20 24th Infantry”) is unnecessary.
    3. When mailing to a DPO address, do not include the street address of the embassy or the recipient’s job title.
    4. Include the APO and “state” designator (AA, AP, AE). Do not use the state that the distribution hub is in (FL, CA, NY). This may cause delays in package processing and delivery.
    5. The correct ZIP Code, preferably ZIP+4.
    6. Do not include the country or the base camp’s city, as it might be routed through the host country’s mail system.
    7. All packages must have completed Customs Forms attached if being sent to a foreign country.

    Overseas military addresses must conform to domestic addressing standards. For additional information, visit the Addressing Military & Diplomatic Mail.

    This is a sample of a correctly formatted APO Address:

    GEN George Washington 

    PSC 5555, Box 12345

    APO AE 09204-1234

    This is a sample of a correctly formatted FPO Address:

    CAPT John Paul Jones 

    USS Cochrane (DDG-21)

    FPO AP 96543-1234

    This is a sample of a correctly formatted DPO Address:

    Benjamin Franklin

    Unit 9876, Box 0000

    DPO, AE, 09498-0048

    Customs Forms for Military Mail Packages

    Recipient countries may restrict what can be imported, so packages addressed to military destinations must include completed PS From 2976 or PS Form 2976-A.

    Learn how to fill out US Customs Forms here.

    Military Mail Restrictions

    There are certain restrictions when sending military mail packages:

    • All packages must be 70 lbs. or less
    • Packages cannot exceed 130 in. combined length and girth.
    • You cannot send any item restricted by the United States Postal Service.
    • You cannot send perishable foods.
    • You cannot send any items restricted by the unit’s host country. Go here to see a full list of restricted items.
    • Remove any batteries from battery-powered items. Wrap them securely and place them with the item.
    • There are a small number of military destinations with further restrictions. Learn more here.

    In addition to the usual shipping restrictions that prohibit sending guns, alcohol, drugs, and other selected items, there are a few others you can’t send to APO/FPO/DPO addresses, including:

    • GPS hardware and software
    • Mobile phones
    • Family Radio Service (FRS) radios
    • Cordless phones
    • FM transmitters
    • Bulk quantities of religious materials contrary to the Islamic faith (items for the personal use of the addressee are allowed).
    • Major appliances and oversized products
    • Obscene articles
    • Pork byproducts

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    Shipping Options for APO/FPO/DPO Deliveries

    Only USPS is the only service that delivers the packages to overseas military addresses. Although other shipping services, such as FedEx and UPS, send packages to countries where military forces are concentrated, USPS is the only entity that can deliver them to APO, FPO, and DPO addresses due to governmental security concerns.

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    Shipping Costs to APO/FPO/DPO Addresses

    You only have to provide standard domestic postage on mail going to an APO/FPO/DPO address. If you pay $0.47 for a stamp to mail something within the continental United States, it only costs $0.47 to mail it overseas as long as you have an APO/FPO/DPO address and associated ZIP code.

    To see how much it costs to send a package, use the USPS Retail Postage Price Calculator.

    Estimating Delivery Lead Times for Military Mail

    • Express Mail is the fastest option, with 3-7 days delivery.
    • Military mail is usually delivered between 7-10 days, depending on country of destination. 
    • Priority Mail parcels take 10-15 days. 
    • Parcel Post takes 20-24 days. 

    Delivery tracking information is available for APO/FPO/DPO packages using the customs declaration form number.

    UPSP’s Tips for Sending APO/FPO/DPO Mail

    USPS can help you send Military Mail in several ways.

    • Get free military shipping kits, addressing tips, and country-by-country guidance on what you can and can’t send.
    • Help filling out customs forms (including more detailed package descriptions required by countries that follow European Union (EU) customs rules)
    • Scheduling free package pickup when your shipment is ready to go
    • Order free Priority Mail® APO/FPO Large Flat Rate Boxes online from The Postal Store®, and your mail carrier will deliver them to right to your door at no charge.
    • Learn How to Prepare International Shipments, including size and weight requirements, calculating postage, and dropping off your shipment. 
    • It’s a good idea to include a second piece of paper with the address inside the box, in case something damages the label on the outside. Be sure to include both the destination and return addresses on the spare copy.
    • Keep temperature in mind. Remember that outdoor conditions can affect the contents of your package. Desert temperatures typically exceed 100 degrees, which can damage delicate goods like electronics.

    Use Click-N-Ship for APO/FPO/DPO mail. Click-N-Ship® service allows you to create Priority Mail International® and Priority Mail Express International® postage and address labels. Click-N-Ship will guide you through the customs forms process.  

    Written by Veteran.com Team