Shipping options for Chinese visa and authentication

Revised: 2018-02-22

I. Sending documents to us

Many customers use USPS Priority Mail, Priority Mail Express (inexpensive and reliable), while others use FedEx and UPS (better tracking). There are also customers who use USPS first class letter mail.

USPS certified or registered mails are reliable but very slow. Priority Mail with signature confirmation (2-3 days) often takes longer than Priority Mail without signature confirmation (2-3 days). Please keep these in mind when time is critical. You may use our Travel Planner to calculate the total time it takes to get your passport back.

When you use USPS priority or express mail, please use the free envelopes provided by the post office if possible. They offer better protection than the "Cushion Mailers" sold at post office.

If the distance is longer than 300 miles, plese do not use the Ground service of UPS or FedEx, as we receive a lot of broken envelopes!

II. Shipping documents back to you

For shipping documents back to you, we recommend FedEx due to its near "real time" tracking, especially if you tend to worry about where the document is. As soon as the package is scanned, you get email notification from FedEx, even before our update. For USPS, the tracking may be delayed until the next day.

Option 1: (preferred) pay a shipping fee (1) and we will take care the rest. We offer several FedEx and USPS services. We recently see more cases of delays in USPS, even Priority Mail Express, so we recommend FedEx, especially if you are close to your travel date.

Option 2: send us a prepaid return envelope (FedEx, UPS or US Postal Service) for shipping your documents back (handling fee $2-8, see prepaid envelope preparation guide for details on fees, restrictions, and sign the release form).

  • FedEx tracking is in general more reliable and more timely than USPS tracking.
  • If you need to compute/compare prices, please note that our zip code for return shipping is 77030 or 20850.

Type Days Fee (1) Tracking (3)(4) Insurance Sat
FedEx Express Saver 3 $15 Yes (good) $100 No No
FedEx 2Day 2 $23 Yes (good) $100 No No
FedEx Overnight(2) 1 $33 Yes (good) $100 No No
FedEx Overnight Saturday Delivery(2) 1 $53 Yes (good) $100 Yes No
USPS Priority Mail 2-3 $8.5 Yes (delay) $50 Yes No
USPS Priority Mail
with signature
2-3 $12 Yes (delay) $50 Yes No
USPS Priority Mail Express(2) 1-2(5) $27 Yes (delay) $100 Yes No

(1) The shipping fees are based on shipping up to 10 passports per package for USPS Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express, 1 lb (16 oz) for FedEx 2Day and FedEx Express Saver, and 0.5 lb (8 oz) for FedEx Overnight. They apply only to 48 US continental states. For all other areas, or even within the 48 states, if the actual shipping cost is excessively higher than listed, you will pay the actual cost of shipping and we may not ship your documents back before payment is received.

FedEx Overnight is Standard Overnight which usually delivers by 3 pm. FedEx Priority Overnight and Saturday Delivery cost about $5 and $20 more, respectively.

(2) Both FedEx and US Postal Service say that their overnight services are available for most cities. For certain cities, they may not be able to deliver the next day, even if you paid the rate for next day delivery. Although both services are very reliable and usually delivery on time, we have seen delays using both services. So always plan ahead and allow some extra time.

(3) For USPS priority mail, the 2-3 days delivery time is for most areas. During holidays, it can take a week or more (just like regular mail).

(4) Tracking information for FedEx is usually available 2-3 hours after pickup (about 7:30pm). For USPS Priority Mail Express, the tracking information is often not available until next morning. If you tend to worry about your package, please select FedEx.

(5) USPS Priority Mail Express usually arrives the next day, but may take an extra day to some smaller cities away from a major city.

(6) Puerto Rico: The cost of shipping for US postal service is the same, but is much higher for FedEx.

USPS Priority Mail

Priority Mail offers 2-3 day service to most domestic destinations. It delivers on Saturdays but not on holidays. It comes with tracking and $50 insurance. Please note, post office will accept inquries only one week after shipment, so do not choose this method of shipping if you are close to your travel date.

USPS Priority Mail Express

Priority Mail Express, also known as Express Mail before August 2013, offers overnight service to many destinations, but may take 2 business days to some small towns away from big cities, regardless of distance. Priority Mail Express is delivered to many locations Monday to Saturday. Priority Mail Express provides tracking and insurance up to $100 at no additional cost.

FedEx Overnight, 2Day and Express Saver

FedEx services provide online tracking, but usually do not deliver on weekends or holidays.

The pricing for FedEx is complex and depends on distance, and it has additional fees for residential delivery, weekend delivery. Our fees are set for typical distances.

III. International shipping

(Document only, no passport/visa) Shipping to overseas is expensive and the time varies. It also includes a lot of extra work for us. We offer the following options to Hong Kong and mainland China (16 oz or less):

  • FedEx International Priority $65 (3-5 days, extra if over 0.5 lb)
  • USPS Priority Mail Express International (EMS) $65 (3-5 days)
  • From our experience, FedEx usually arrive 3-4 days and EMS 4-5 days. The difference may be due to the fact that FedEx only delivers to large cities. While delays do happen from time to time for both carriers, we noticed an increased incidents of EMS delayed deliveries, often of 7-10 days since November 2014, and often FedEx is delivered in China while EMS just clears the US Customs. For these reasons, regardless of your choice, we will try to use FedEx first, and use USPS only when FedEx service is not available, or too expensive and you would not pay the additional cost.

Please note that the above fees are for your reference only and will be adjusted according to the current charges by the carriers. Higher rates may apply to remote locations. In addition, there will be an international mail handling fee of $10.

IV. Responsibility

While mailing services are generally very reliable (US passports used to be sent to everyone through regular letter mail), but delays or even lost mails do happen from time to time. We will not be responsible for documents lost or delayed during the mailing process. However, we will provide you with tracking information.

V. Questions and Answers

Q: How do you mail back my documents?

A: Your document safety is our No. 1 concern. We drop your mail in the Post Office or FedEx collection boxes located in well attended locations, like inside the Post Office building or FedEx shipping center.

Q: Why don't you provide options for certified mail or registered mail?

A: Those types of mails are required to be presented to the post master, and we do not have the man power waiting in the line. Also, those mails are frequently not entered into USPS tracking system, causing troubles to customer and our agency alike.

Q: Why don't you recommend prepaid return envelope for USPS mails?

A: We use computer generated shipping labels. The addresses are validated by FedEx or USPS systems. Customer supplied prepaid return envelopes sometimes are not scanned into the tracking system when the mail leaves Houston, especially for USPS. Finally, this normally does not save momey compared to options we provide.

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Shipping Tips

Always allow extra days for shipping.

USPS certified, registered, or signature confirmation are slow, usually takes 3-5 days.

Mail travels slower during holidays, and priority mail can take more than a week around Christmas.

Cushion Mailers get damaged frequently. Priority or Priority Mail Express envelopes, available free at post office or FedEx, offer better protection.

UPS Ground and FedEx Ground are not recommended for long distance -- envelopes frequently arrived damaged.