International snail letter "Not deliverable as addressed"...

I ma nd the date stamp on the rejection sticker is March 2, only three days ago. The full text of the sticker reads as follows:

NIXIE 913 4C 1 0103/02/16


BC <Our 9-digit ZIP code><Our unit number> 2304-07151-26-39

The 03/02/16 date stamp is clearly in the American format MM/DD/YY, making it most unlikely that this letter ever left the country. A first class letter wouldn’t even reach Singapore in that time, let alone arrive there and be bounced back to us.

How is this possible? We have double checked the address and verified that it’s correct, except that it’s missing the last line reading REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE; in other words we wrote out only three lines as follows:

Firstname Middlename Lastname
<House number> <Street Name>
SINGAPORE <Postal code>

I have read somewhere that that fourth line reading REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE is important, but is it so important that the letter won’t go out at all? I thought, if anything, it would just mean a slight delay in delivery. Additionally, since I had to pay the postage and didn’t know how much it was, I handed the letter in person to a post office clerk and stated that it was going to Singapore. Usually they let will you know if there’s something wrong with an address, but that didn’t happen on this occasion.

My working theory is that, without the fourth line indicating a foreign country, the OCR based sorting equipment “assumed” this was a domestic letter and failed to recognize the city, state, or ZIP, and so was rejected. Even so, however, I thought someone would go through the rejected letters and add the necessary information, after which the letter would go on its way. Would this be the reason?

We would have used a more up to date form of communication, but this involved a legal document and we wanted to maintain its confidentiality.

I find it highly unlikely that the letter was rejected because it just said “Singapore” and not “Republic of Singapore” so I have no clue what happened. However if its an important legal document I recommend you use Fedex or DHL and not US Post, especially since getting a signature to show its been accepted is usually important for legal documents.

Oh and FAX’s are also recognised as legal documents, so you can always fax it (and keep the transmission report as proof it was received).

Did you write “AIRMAIL” on the letter? I always write and underline that in red as well as underlining the country.

I suspect it’s not that it just said “Singapore,” but that there wasn’t a separate line naming the country as is required, so (as the OP hypothesized) the computer thought it was a domestic letter sent to a nonexistent post office. It would have been nice if someone had corrected it, but I don’t know if they’re required to fix incorrectly-addressed mail.

The IPU says this*: “Singapore , Singapore Official name: Singapore ISO Code 3166/Alpha-2: SG Date of entry into the UPU: 08-01-1966 Contribution units: 1 …”*

This is the preferred format:

Mr. M. Rajendran
Blk 35 Mandalay Road

13-37 Mandalay Towers


Ms. Tan Bee Soo
16 Sandilands Road

Write the return address on the back of the envelope.
Don’t put text or images within the designated ‘clear zone’ at the bottom of the front and back of the envelope.
Use a white or cream-colored envelope. If your envelope is colored at all, the color should be extremely light (e.g. a light pastel).

As a person who has sent and received a lot of things to and from Singapore , through the years, I’m here to tell you it IS indeed the Singapore/Republic of Singapore thing! Believe it or not!

I’ve stood at the post office and been told, “Nope, can’t find it! Singapore isn’t listed as a country, it must be a city. Go find out the country and come back!” I stood there absolutely mystified and kept repeating, “Bbbbut…it IS the country! I swear!”

Turns out, getting the name of the country right, is kinda very, VERY important. If a person or machine looks under ‘S’ for the listed country, it is always going to kick out as, ‘Not Found’.

Turns out, it’s under ‘R’, for ‘Republic of…’! It’s mostly services on this side of the pond that don’t realise. In Asia they all pretty much know when they see Singapore, that is under Republic of Singapore.

It’s a small thing. But kind of an important one. Live and learn!

I find it hard to believe their system can’t do a partial match on country names and pull up Singapore. I’ve literally never ever heard anyone refer to Singapore as Republic of Singapore and I’m living nearby in Thailand so Singapore comes up a lot in conversation. I’m guessing if he had just had the extra line like so:

Singapore <postcode>

And the “AIRMAIL” added, then it would have gone through.

Pedantically, the country name has been placed before the postal code. Thus the OCR system is expected to workout that in this particular case the name is of a country and not a US city or state. Given the propensity for the US to use names from all over the world as city names, it is going to make addresses ambiguous. Had history been a little kinder, the letter could reasonably been intended for here. Further, The Republic of Singapore is a city-state. There are other locations within the republic than the main City of Singapore.

Missed the edit window, but how about a reasonable guess as to where this should go?

John Doe
1 First St
Luxemburg 54217

As I said, had it made it over the pond, someone would have likely figured it out. But if it gets kicked out before, or if it’s automated, it won’t even get that far.

You don’t have to believe me, but I have a lot of experience with this exact issue.

Yes, the country should appear as the last line of the address if not being sent domestically. The name of the city and the postal code appears on the previous line. Writing Singapore as the city and giving a random postal code that does not exist in the US will cause it to be undeliverable, because the primary way that the mail is sorted is by postal code. In most cases it’s completely superfluous to write the state and city on a piece of mail that has a ZIP code. The postal service encountered a piece of mail that appeared to be addressed domestically as there was no separate line with a country, yet the postal code was invalid.

It doesn’t help that the name of the city is the same as the short name of the country. But as noted, there could be cities named Singapore in the US, and without the extra line to indicate the country, it looks like a domestic address. With that assumption, it can’t figure out where to send it to since the postal code is invalid.