USPS in Possession of item? Here’s What to Do

So you mailed off an important package or envelope last week, but according to the tracking, the USPS seems to be in possession of the item with no further updates. Uh oh. Now what? Don’t panic just yet. There are a few possible reasons for the delay and several steps you can take to investigate the holdup. The good news is that the USPS has procedures in place specifically for locating delayed, misdirected, or misplaced mail. While it can be frustrating to have something stuck in the system with no explanation, stay calm and remember that the vast majority of mail pieces are delivered without issue. With a little patience and some proactive follow-up on your end, there’s a good chance your item is still making its way to the intended recipient. Here are the top things you can do if the USPS seems to be in possession of your mail.

What Does “USPS in Possession of Item” Mean?

When you see this status, it means your package or letter has been scanned by the USPS and is currently in their possession. Basically, they have your item and it’s in their network, likely at a regional processing facility. The good news is your item is accounted for, but the uncertainty of not knowing exactly where it is or when it may be delivered can be frustrating.

To get more details on your item’s whereabouts and expected delivery, here are some steps you can take:

  1. Check the tracking details. Go to the USPS website or use their mobile app to enter your tracking number. This should give you the latest scan information, current location of your item, and an expected delivery date. Sometimes there are delays or exceptions that will provide more context about potential delivery impacts.
  2. Give it at least one extra business day. The “in possession of item” scan means it’s in the USPS system, but delivery dates are estimates. Weather conditions, transportation issues, or staffing shortages can delay delivery by a day. As long as another scan occurs within 48 hours, there’s typically no need to worry.
  3. Contact USPS customer service. If no update is provided within 2 business days of the initial scan, or you need more information, call USPS or chat with them on their website. Be prepared to provide details about your item including contents, value, and tracking number. They should be able to trace it, determine if further action is needed, and provide next steps to redirect or recover your package.

The key is not to panic if you see this status. While the majority of items with an “in possession of item” scan go on to be delivered within a couple of days, taking action and following up with USPS if needed will help ensure your item makes its way to you safely and as quickly as possible. Staying patient and proactively informed is your best approach.

Reasons Why Your Package Status May Show “In Possession of USPS”

If your item’s tracking status shows “In Possession of USPS”, don’t panic. There are a few reasons why it may be displayed.

Backlogged Facility

During busy seasons, postal facilities can get backed up with high volumes of mail and packages. Your item may be waiting to get processed due to temporary delays. Usually, the status will update within 2-3 days once the backlog clears and your package gets sorted.

Incorrect Scan

Sometimes machines or employees scan packages incorrectly, causing the tracking system to display an incorrect status. It’s likely your item is still moving through the mail stream and the status will refresh with the next scan. If it’s been over a week with no update, you may want to contact USPS to investigate.

Missent Package

Occasionally, packages get missent to the wrong location by mistake. Once the error is caught, your item will be rerouted to the proper destination. This can add 1-2 days to the delivery time. USPS will not usually contact you about missent packages unless delivery is significantly delayed.

Returned to Sender

In rare cases, your item may have been undeliverable as addressed and returned to the sender. USPS will typically notify you if an item was returned to sender. You should double check that the shipping address was entered correctly. If so, the sender will need to re-ship the item with the proper address.

With millions of items moving through their system daily, it’s normal for USPS tracking to temporarily display “In Possession of USPS”. Usually, it’s nothing to fret about and your package is still on the way. But if it’s been over a week with no change in status, it doesn’t hurt to call USPS to investigate. They’re happy to help get you answers and ensure your item is delivered.

How Long Should a Package Stay in Possession of USPS?

The amount of time a package should remain in the possession of USPS before contacting them depends on the shipping method and destination. As a general rule of thumb:

Domestic Shipping

For domestic standard shipping within the contiguous US, most packages are delivered within 3 to 7 business days. If your package has not been delivered after 7 business days, it is a good idea to contact your local post office to inquire about its whereabouts. Provide them with your tracking number, sender and recipient information. There is a small chance it could just be delayed, but it’s best to check to ensure it was not misdirected or that a notice was not left at the delivery address.

Priority Mail and Express Shipping

For Priority Mail and Express shipping, the delivery window is typically 1 to 3 business days. Given the expedited nature of these services, you will want to contact USPS promptly if your package has not arrived within this timeframe. The sooner you alert them to a potential issue, the quicker they can investigate and resolve the matter. Waiting longer than 3 to 4 business days risks the possibility of the package becoming lost or delayed further in their system.

International Shipping

For international shipments, delivery can take 7 to 30 business days or longer depending on the destination country and specific shipping method. As a precaution, you should contact USPS if you have not received an update on your package’s location within 10 business days for Express Mail International or 15 business days for Priority Mail International. The more details you can provide about the shipment in your inquiry, the better they will be able to track its current status or last known whereabouts.

The key is not to delay contacting USPS if you suspect your package may be lost or delayed in their possession. The sooner you alert them to a potential issue with your shipment, the quicker they can work to resolve the matter and limit any inconvenience. Keep your tracking number handy and be prepared to provide shipment details to assist them in locating your package.

What to Do if Your Package Is Stuck at “In Possession of USPS”

If your tracking information shows your package status as “In Possession of USPS” for an extended period of time with no further updates, it typically means your item has encountered some kind of delay within the US Postal Service mail processing system. Don’t worry, there are a few things you can do to try and locate your stuck package.

Double check the tracking details

It’s possible the tracking information hasn’t updated properly. Double check the tracking number and try entering it on the USPS website to get the latest status. Also, be sure you’re checking the USPS tracking site and not a third-party tracker, as USPS will have the most up-to-date information about your item’s location.

Contact your local post office

Call or visit your local post office, provide them with your tracking number, and inquire about the status of your package. They may be able to look into the internal tracking data to determine the location of your item and reason for the delay. Politely ask if there are any steps they can take to get your package moving again.

File a missing mail search request

If your package has been stuck for more than a couple of days with no updates, you can submit a request to have USPS conduct an internal search for your missing item. You can initiate a missing mail search on the USPS website by providing details about your package like the contents, tracking and insurance numbers, and the expected delivery address. USPS will conduct a search and update you on the status of your request.

Be patient but persistent

While the USPS aims to deliver mail in a timely manner, occasional delays are unavoidable due to the massive volume of mail they process. Be patient for a couple of days to allow the normal delays and backlogs to clear. However, if after 4 or 5 days your package remains stuck in the “In Possession of USPS” status with no further information, it’s best to take action by contacting USPS and filing a missing mail search request. With politeness and persistence, you can increase the chances of locating your lost item.

FAQs About USPS Possessing an Item

So the USPS is in possession of an item you were expecting to receive. Don’t panic, this is usually just a temporary issue that can be resolved. Here are some of the most frequent questions and answers about the USPS possessing an item:

What does “in possession of item” mean?

This means the USPS has your package in their possession but there is something preventing them from delivering it or releasing it to you. Often it’s just a small hiccup like incorrect address information or payment issues.

The USPS will usually attempt to resolve the issue on their own. However, if after 1-2 business days your tracking information still shows this status, it’s best to contact your local post office or the USPS help desk. They can investigate and provide guidance on any next steps needed to release your item.

Do I need to pick up the item?

Not necessarily. Many issues can be resolved remotely without you needing to pick up the item in person. Only go to your local post office to retrieve the item if you are instructed to do so. Showing up unannounced will likely delay the resolution process.

How long will this delay my delivery?

The timeframes can vary depending on the specific reason for the delay and how quickly any issues are resolved. As a rule of thumb, allow 1-3 business days for the USPS to review and process the item before contacting them for an update. Most standard issues are cleared up within 2-5 business days total. However, more complex problems may take 7-10 business days or longer in some cases.

Will I incur any fees?

Possibly, depending on the cause of the delay. Things like insufficient postage, unpaid customs fees, or COD amounts due will require payment before the item can be released. The USPS will contact you regarding any fees owed and payment options. Other issues like incorrect addresses are usually resolved at no cost to you.

The most important thing is not to panic and remain patient while the USPS works to resolve any issues holding your item. In most cases, the delay is temporary and with some quick follow through on any requested next steps, your package will be on its way to you again shortly. Let me know if you have any other questions!


So there you have it, a few steps to take to track down that missing package and get it delivered to the right place. The USPS system isn’t perfect, and occasionally items do get misdirected or stuck in processing centers. But by providing as much detail as possible about your item, checking tracking updates regularly, and contacting your local post office directly if needed, you stand the best chance of locating your package. It may take some patience and persistence, but staying on top of the situation will help get your item out of “USPS possession” and into your hands where it belongs. Keep at it, don’t get discouraged, and before you know it your mailbox will be filled once again.

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